Red Bull Extreme Sailing noses ahead
The biggest support went out to China Team in their Extreme 40 debut and with two men-overboard incidents, the action was full-on. But it was the Austrian Red Bull Sailing Team skippered by Roman Hagara with his Olympic gold medal-winning partner, Hans Peter Steinacher as tactician, who used their knowledge of the Olympic waters to edge ahead and top the leaderboard by the end of play on day 1.
Six open-water races were staged today, which saw four different race winners. Racing took place just outside of the breakwater, close enough for the public to follow the action, during a light breeze day, which required shrewd tactics from the sailors, as Roman Hagara explained: “It was difficult because of the light winds and their was a lot of tide so it was fairly unpredictable out there. If you were in a good position on the start line then you would do well. By the end of the day the wind had picked up and we could get the hull out of the water.”
The battle at the top of the leaderboard was supremely close between Red Bull Sailing Team, The Wave, Muscat and GAC Pindar. The British crew led by triple Match Racing World Champion Ian Williams on GAC Pindar made an early bid for the leaderboard, claiming the first race win of the event, but Leigh McMillan’s The Wave, Muscat was waiting to pounce, claiming victory in the following two races.
McMillan went on to win an impressive third race in race five of the day, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Hagara’s Austrian team: “It was a really good day for us – we are happy with the result,” he said. “Red Bull had an outstanding day and even when we were winning races they were right behind us so it was very difficult for us to get away from them."
China Team displayed moments of real potential, including a fourth place in the second race of the day, which considering the crew only stepped on to race for the first time today shows the calibre of these professionals. However, two separate incidents show how quickly even the pros can get caught out as skipper New Zealand match racer Phil Robertson explained: “We loved it! There are a lot of positives we can take out of today and we are very happy with how we ended up – although a couple of us went swimming which wasn’t ideal. We were having our best race and were coming into the last mark when we lost Nick (Catley) our bowman over board. That was a shocker! Second time round…it was me and that was before the race even started,” admitted a rather sheepish Robertson. “I was trying to fix some rudder issues and I fell off the back with a minute to go. So it was a disappointing end but we are happy."
Oman Air struggled to repeat their impressive form from Muscat, which saw them claim victory on their home waters six weeks ago: “We were under no illusion that Qingdao would be easy just because we won the first event,” stated skipper Morgan Larson. "We have to go back to our original goals and if we can end on the podium then that is fantastic but we are certainly aiming for top half of the fleet.” A late comeback in the final race and a race win leaves the team in fifth place, four points shy of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, which also had a mixed day on the water.
With plenty of races still to come, the teams will be assessing their performance on the water today and planning how to attack or defend as the Extreme Sailing Series in Qingdao transfers to stadium race mode from tomorrow. In a similar scenario in Muscat, both Hagara and Williams excelled in the early phase only to fade away to the dominance of Oman Air and the series favourite, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild.
The event was officially inaugurated tonight at the grand opening ceremony, hosted by the Qingdao Yachting Association. The show began with a stunning light show and music, with local performers enacting traditional Chinese dances. Each crew member bearing their national flag was presented to the crowds, as they presented a gift to their hosts. The ceremony took place at Octagonal Square within the Olympic village, with over 2,000 local guests gathering to witness the spectacle. The show culminated with a spectacular fireworks show.
Tomorrow is the first of three public days with even more locals expected to descend on the Olympic village to watch the stadium racing that will be staged inside the breakwater of Fushan Bay. Racing starts at 1300 local time.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Qingdao standings after Day 1, six races
Position / Team / Points
1st Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Graeme Spence, Pierre Le Clainche 47 points
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Hashim Al Rashdi, Rachel Williamson 44 points
3rd GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams, Mark Ivey, Mark Bulkeley, Adam Piggot, Andrew Walsh 37 points
4th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec, Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Hervé Cunningham, Bernard Labro, Romain Petit 32 points
5th Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Will Howden, Charlie Ogletree, Nasser Al Mashari, Max Bulger 28 points
6th Alinghi (SUI), Pierre-Yves Jorand, Tanguy Cariou, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey, Charles Favre 26 points
7th ZouLou (FRA) Loick Peyron, Philippe Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Bruno Jeanjean, Patrick Aucour 24 points
8th China Team (CHN) Phil Robertson, Garth Ellingham, Kit Cheng, Nick Catley, Xiaqun Song 18 points
9th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Christian Kamp, Jonas Hviid 14 points