Extreme Sailing Series 2012 team line-up
With the sixth year of the Extreme Sailing Series kicking off in five weeks time in Muscat, Oman, the team line-up was announced today at Dusseldorf Boat Show where Marinepool, official clothing partner to the Series, unveiled their new range of merchandise.
The 2012 series is to be contested by sailors from all over the globe including skippers Ian Williams, Roman Hagara, Pierre Pennec, Ernesto Bertarelli and Morgan Larson along with a host of strong commercial brands. Eight pro teams, meeting the objective of organisers OC ThirdPole for 2012, will be on the starting grid in Muscat on 28 February. These teams will also face competition event by event from several wildcard entries over the course of the year, including Artemis Racing, and local ‘home’ teams, resulting in the starting grid being filled by 8 to 10 boats at all the events this season.
While the economic situation inevitably makes it harder to raise sponsorship funds for new and existing teams, the interest in the stadium sailing circuit has never been stronger with many new teams already working actively to kick off their campaigns for 2013 – a mark of the maturity of the event as a high quality commercial sports property.
Seven of the teams on the start line in Muscat are returning teams: Alinghi, Oman Air, The Wave Muscat, Red Bull Sailing Team, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, ZouLou and GAC Pindar.
“It is a very positive indication of the sporting integrity and commercial value of the circuit to see so many of the highly competitive and high-profile teams sign-up again for 2012,” said Mark Turner, Executive Chairman of OC ThirdPole, the organising company and creators of the Extreme Sailing Series. “Going into our sixth year, the level of competition will step up yet another gear, and we can expect the racing to once again be incredibly tight with Act winners only known in the closing minutes at each venue. As organisers, our mission will be to also continue to increase the commercial return for all the stakeholders, and whilst ensuring the very best racing, develop further the fan entertainment package and media value which already stepped up markedly in 2011.”
A new name for 2012 is ZouLou, headed up by Frenchman Erik Maris. However this will not be Maris’ first Extreme 40 experience, as he competed in the same boat as Luna in 2009, and this time will be ably supported by an experienced multihull crew with the added caché of French sailing superstar Loick Peyron, recently returned from setting a new Jules Verne Trophy record, as helmsman for at least the first two events in Muscat and Qingdao.
The French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, runners-up in both 2011 and 2010, will return for a fourth season of competition, again led by skipper and helmsman Pierre Pennec: “We finished last season second overall and we missed victory by a whisker,” said Pennec. “We are coming back to the circuit more motivated than ever and with the objective of winning the championship. This is not going to be easy considering the line-up announced for 2012 and to be able to do it we must keep improving. This season will also mark the arrival of a new talented crew member on board Groupe Edmond de Rothschild."
Two teams will be representing Oman – The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air. At the helm of The Wave, Muscat is Olympic Tornado sailor Leigh McMillan while newcomer American Morgan Larson, with three America’s Cup campaigns under his belt, will take the helm of Oman Air from Sidney Gavignet and Ben Ainslie. “This year I have had the chance to put my own team together which is a great opportunity,” said McMillan who took over the helm of The Wave, Muscat from Torvar Mirsky last year, to finish in fourth place overall with Omani sailor Khamis Al Anbouri on bow. “It is exciting to be sailing with a new team, and I think we definitely have the potential to get some good results. Our aim is to try and win the Series this year. We are looking forward to some great racing this year, and in some really exciting new venues – it’s going to be a fantastic year.”
Alinghi return for a third season after their win in 2008 and finishing fifth last year. But this time there will be a new man at the helm, with Team Principle Ernesto Bertarelli on board as both skipper and helmsman in his first full season of Extreme 40 competition. Although he is best known for winning and then successfully defending the America's Cup, personally Bertarelli is a multihull helmsman of some 20 years experience including six victories in the Bol d'Or.
The Austrian duo of Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher, the successful Olympic Tornado partnership that brought home two Olympic gold medals to Austria, will once again be leading Red Bull Sailing Team: “We are looking forward to the new season,” said skipper Roman Hagara. “It was a short break and we have just been training in the gym. Our shore crew will work hard on the set up of our Extreme 40 in the next weeks to get ready for the first Act in Oman.” The team finished sixth overall in 2011 and will be happy to repeat their opening performance of 2011 that saw them take the third spot on the Muscat podium.
British skipper, Ian Williams, three-time ISAF World Match Racing Champion (2007, 2008 and 2011) will lead his team for a second season on GAC Pindar. Williams came to the Extreme 40 circuit fresh last year, swapping one hull for two, and was on a fast and sharp learning curve from capsizing in China to leading in Almeria up until the penultimate day. With Williams aiming to campaign with a more regular crew line-up this season, the British team will be out to prove they can cut it with the ‘big boys’ this season.
In addition to the strong line-up above, an eighth entry will be announced separately by the team sponsor early February, and a number of wildcard entries will also be accepted in 2012 as per the Notice of Race, which allowed for up to eight teams for the season plus a maximum of four wildcards at each event. These will incbe local ‘home team’ entries, meaning that each Act will have a minimum of 8 to 10 top teams competing to win.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 team line-up
Team / nationality / skipper /nationality
Alinghi SUI / Ernesto Bertarelli SUI
GAC Pindar GBR / Ian Williams GBR
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild FRA / Pierre Pennec FRA
Oman Air OMA / Morgan Larson USA
Red Bull Sailing Team AUT / Roman Hagara AUT
The Wave, Muscat OMA / Leigh McMillan GBR
ZouLou FRA / Erik Maris FRA
8th team TBA early Feb