'Handsome' Hagara still leads
To the satisfaction of Austrian skipper, Roman Hagara, Red Bull Sailing Team managed to hold onto their lead, but the remainder of the fleet reshuffled the leaderboard at the end of play on day 2. Hagara is not a man to easily show his emotions but he looked visibly pleased when he stepped on to the stage after racing. His widest smile came when the Chinese commentator asked him ‘Why he was so handsome?’! Hagara is a bit of a local hero here in a city that is proud of its Olympic culture, having a double-Olympic gold medallist in their midst is a huge draw.
Racing started in 12 knots of breeze, within the confines of the natural stadium of Fushan Bay, the fleet had to contend with big gusts up to 17 knots funneling through the city skyline making the bear-away turn at the final mark a tense moment. With the 50m run to the finish boxed in either side by concrete, the Extreme 40 crews had to get it right as they hauled out the massive gennaker, bows digging in before sprinting to the finish. Getting it wrong, or fouling another boat coming into the turning mark, would have ended with a visit to the pit-lane for repairs!
It was all about the nailing the reaching start line today which proved problematic with six of the nine teams being punished for being too eager off the line, putting them at an immediate disadvantage as they fought to claw back places. The Wave, Muscat notched up three false starts – and added another to their tally in the opening race when they mistakenly thought they were over the line. The team managed to hold onto their second place position overall, much to skipper Leigh McMillan’s surprise. “I’ve got no idea how we are where we are! I think we got lucky and had a few gains in a few races… I think we got away with it today. To be in second position is massive shock. I thought the rest of the fleet were long gone, so its good to still be in the mix.”
Red Bull Sailing Team hold onto the top spot at the end of day two despite the efforts of the rest of the fleet – in particular those of Oman Air and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild who managed to make significant in-roads on the Austrian team’s points lead. Although the French team’s mainsail trimmer, Hervé Cunningham, was far from impressed: “We are pretty happy about the leaderboard and we did improve from yesterday. Yesterday was a really bad day for us and today was better but far from being a good day. The result is good but we made so many mistakes on board and we’ve really got to step up and get the level higher if we want to get a good result here. Roman is one step ahead and his team is one of the best boats on the water for the season, and we’re not going to achieve anything if we keep sailing like this. Two times we missed the start (over the start line) and it’s not acceptable at this level because you are out of the pack. So we have to stay focused, improve tomorrow and Friday, and if we do that we could be in a good position."
Record breaking round the world sailor Loick Peyron helm on ZouLou had their best day since making their Extreme 40 debut in Muscat, consistently sailing at the top end of the fleet with their first race win in race two and three further top three finishes. Their efforts were enough to climb a place on the leaderboard, finishing the day in sixth.
The local contingent China Team continued to draw in the crowds with 2008 Olympic sailor Yngling Summer Song on board. After frustratingly having to retire from race six to repair a broken gennaker furling line, the team made a sterling effort to come back in race seven to claim their first podium position. Kiwi skipper Phil Robertson was pleased with the team’s performance but looking for improvements: “We were within the top three around the first mark in pretty much every race so the starts were great but from then it didn´t go as well. The conditions were perfect. It´s very difficult and frustrating at times but we are really enjoying the short and fast races.”
Summer Song added: “We hadn´t realised that we had a problem on the boat, but we managed to fix the furling system and had a good result on the next race when we finished second. I feel really excited as I could help more today than yesterday, helping the crew with the sail changes and around the marks. I hope we carry on working together and better tomorrow.”
The newest team on the circuit and the Series’ first ever Danish representatives SAP Extreme Sailing Team began to find their feet in the stronger winds, winning their first race in the colours of their newly announced sponsor. Ramus Kostner, one of the team’s two Danish skippers: “In the fourth race we had a really good start on the other guys and we were straight to the first mark in the lead and then just opened up the gap a little bit more. So for the whole race we could just enjoy looking at the fleet from the lead and that was a great feeling!” SAP Extreme Sailing Team climbs a place on the leaderboard to eighth.
As the Extreme 40s go into the penultimate day tomorrow, the teams can expect plenty of more close racing on the short stadium courses as they fight to secure their positions on the leaderboard before the final day. Current event leader Roman Hagara was under no illusions that his position is safe. “We had a more average day than yesterday but other teams had problems on the race course too especially with these reaching starts as it was difficult to judge time and distance on the line. We had one OCS and we finished last, but we weren´t the only ones. All of the teams are really strong contenders. We could see it already in Oman. Everything is very close together and you have to count in every team. It´s very tricky racing here so we will have to wait until the last day.”
Extreme Sailing Series Qingdao standings after 14 races
Position / Team / Points
1st Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Matthew Adams / Graeme Spence, Pierre Le Clainche 90 points
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan / Ed Smyth / Pete Greenhalgh / Hashim Al Rashdi / Rachel Williamson 83 points
3rd Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson / Will Howden / Charlie Ogletree / Nasser Al Mashari / Max Bulger 79 points
4th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec / Jean-Christophe Mourniac / Hervé Cunningham / Bernard Labro / Romain Petit 78 points
5th GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams / Mark Ivey / Mark Bulkeley / Adam Piggot / Andrew Walsh 75 points
6th ZouLou (FRA) Loick Peyron / Philippe Mourniac / Jean-Sébastien Ponce / Bruno Jeanjean / Patrick Aucour 72 points
7th Alinghi (SUI), Pierre-Yves Jorand / Tanguy Cariou / Nils Frei / Yves Detrey / Charles Favre 68 points
8th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen / Rasmus Kostner / Pete Cumming / Christian Kamp / Jonas Hviid 50 points
9th China Team (CHN) Phil Robertson / Garth Ellingham / Kit Cheng / Nick Catley / Xiaqun Song 34 points