Emirates Team New Zealand noses in front
The dramatic city landscape of Qingdao provided the backdrop for the opening day of racing at the Extreme Sailing Series Qingdao. Fushan Bay is home to the Extreme 40 fleet for the next five days surrounded by high-rise buildings of this huge industrial city, which is China's fourth largest manufacturing port, also known as the 'City of Sails'.
Qingdao hosted the Olympic sailing events of the 2008 Beijing Games and it was a stopover port for both the last Volvo Ocean Race and the Clipper Race, but the people of Qingdao haven’t seen anything like the Extreme 40 catamarans before and although these first two days are deemed non-public, hundreds gathered along the huge pedestrian breakwater to see first-hand the boats in race mode.
Six races were staged today on the outside of the breakwater in a good easterly breeze of 10-15 knots on the ‘open water’ courses, still close enough for the spectators to follow each race unfold. The gloves were off from the beginning and it was clear the 11 teams resulting in two minor crashes which saw Groupe Edmond de Rothschild collide with Alinghi and Red Bull Extreme Sailing barrel into the back of team Niceforyou’s port hull.
In the end it was Dean Barker’s Emirates Team New Zealand which had the best day, topping the leaderboard on 49 points. “We started off a little bit slowly and then we steadily improved, our worst result was a 7th," said Barker. "It was testing today as we haven’t had the ideal preparation and I’ve been a little bit crook with food poisoning but it was good to get out there. The racing is really tight, but it is the reason we are here, we want to test ourselves as much as we can against the best multihull sailors in the world, and this is the place to be.”
The Kiwi team is gathering momentum from their impressive start in Oman, which saw them find their form over the final two days to finish fourth overall. And today’s 1st, 2nd, two 4th places, 5th and 7th place demonstrated that they remain steadily on the upward curve.
The Wave, Muscat (Torvar Mirsky), Red Bull Extreme Sailing (Roman Hagara) and Artemis Racing (Santiago Lange) ended the first day on equal points (47). Lange is a six-time Olympian, bronze Tornado medalist in 2004 and a competitor in Qingdao in 2008, was delighted with his first Extreme 40 experience: “I love it! I think we have had great wind conditions for Qingdao and I enjoyed it a lot. We have only practiced the day before and yesterday for a couple of hours so I felt that I was not going to perform 100% . It’s the first time we sailed together and it was a challenge as I have some issues with the language especially in the heat of the battle!”
Roman Hagara was also enthusiastic with his team’s performance - third overall in the standings equalling their overall podium result in Oman, the first time the Red Bull Extreme Sailing team made the Extreme Sailing Series podium: “Overall today was pretty good for us," said Hagara. "We had some ups and downs but everybody was making mistakes and so were we but that is racing.”
The Swiss-team Alinghi skippered by Tanguy Cariou, helmed by Frenchman Yann Guichard, had a good and a bad day… Two first places in race 3 and 5, but three results in the bottom half left them in 5th place overall after the first day. Max Sirena’s Luna Rossa improved in the second half finding some consistency to leave them in 6th place, a good 8 points ahead of Act 1 victors, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, two second-places being their best race results of the day.
Chinese sailor, William Wu, on board Roland Gaebler’s Team Extreme had his first Extreme 40 race experience. Having had little time to train together, Gaebler’s team will be looking to improve on their current 10th place standing as the regatta unfolds.
Tonight the 11 teams will be attending the ‘Official Opening Ceremony’ at the Shangri-La Hotel attended by Qingdao’s city dignitaries and the Qingdao organising committee.
Current overall standings after Day 1 (13.4.11)
Position / Team / Skipper & crew / Points
1st Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Dean Barker / Glenn Ashby / Jeremy Lomas / Richard Meacham 49 points
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Torvar Mirsky / Kyle Langford / Nick Hutton / Khamis Al Anbouri 47 points
3rd Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Will Howden / Craig Monk 47 points
4th Artemis Racing (SWE), Santiago Lange / Rodney Adern / Morgan Trubovich / Andy Fethers 47 points
5th Alinghi (SUI), Tanguy Cariou / Yann Guichard / Nils Frei / Yves Detrey 44 points
6th Luna Rossa (ITA), Max Sirena / Paul Campbell-James / Alister Richardson / Manuel Modena 42 points
7th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec / Christophe Espagnon / Thierry Fouchier / Hervé Cunningham 34 points
8th Niceforyou (ITA), Alberto Barovier / Mark Bulkeley / Daniele de Luca Simone de Mari 28 points
9th Oman Air (OMA), Sidney Gavignet / Kinley Fowler / David Carr / Nasser Al Mashari 24 points
10th Team Extreme (EUR), Roland Gaebler / Bruno Dubois / Sebbe Godefroid / William Wu 24 points
11th Team GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams / Brad Webb / Gilberto Nobili / Jono Macbeth 10 points