Preparing for Istanbul
Historic, modern and traditional – Istanbul, the European Capital of Sport 2012, is several cities in one and the venue for the third event in the Extreme Sailing Series starting in just two weeks time.
The teams will race over 7-10 June, with one day of open water racing followed by three days of stadium racing at the juncture where the Marmara Sea meets the Bosphorus - providing a natural amphitheatre for spectators to watch the racing.
The teams last met six weeks ago in Qingdao, and have since gone their separate ways while the boats have been shipped from China to Istanbul. Many of the sailors have used this time to hone their skills in other sailing disciplines: ZouLou helmsman Loick Peyron won the America’s Cup World Series Venice with Energy Team. Alinghi won the opening event of their Décision-35 season at the Grand Prix les Ambassadeurs in Geneva, while Ian William’s GAC Pindar are at Match Race Germany tihs week and still have time to cram in the Korea Match Cup in the week leading up to Istanbul.
There will be some new faces on the start line hoping to shake things up in Istanbul, including an all-new line-up for Alinghi. Offshore sailing legend Alain Gautier, who boasts an impressive 23 Atlantic crossings, three circumnavigations and a Vendee Globe win will make his Extreme Sailing Series debut as he takes over from regular helm Ernesto Bertarelli.
Gautier commented: “I feel very happy to have the chance to discover the Extreme Sailing Series as this is very new to me, especially since my first event with the whole fleet is at Istanbul, which is a great city and it's flattering that Alinghi thought of me to take the helm for this event. We know we will face crews which have raced several seasons in the Series so racing will be tough, but we will be in Istanbul with no pressure. I will race with a great team who are determined to get the best possible result.”
Gautier is joined by six-time world champion Jean-Christophe Mourniac on tactics, while America’s Cup sailor Christophe Lassegue returns to the Extreme 40 for the first time since sailing with Groupe Edmond de Rothschild in 2009. Former world number one-ranked match racer and America’s Cup sailor François Verdier will be on the bow, while Morgane Gautier will make it two women on the start line for the third event in a row, alongside The Wave, Muscat’s Rachel Williamson. World Match Racing champion for two years, Morgane was previously part of the Extreme Sailing Series umpire team, and her knowledge of the race course will surely be a valuable asset to the crew.
Nick Rogers, the double Olympic 40 silver medallist from both Athens and Beijing will make an interesting addition to GAC Pindar in place of Mark Ivey in his Extreme 40 debut. Also new to the roster is Mikkel Røssberg, an experienced match racer and America’s Cup sailor who will join the Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team, while French Olympian Christophe Espagnon returns to Groupe Edmond de Rothschild for Istanbul only.
On board ZouLou, Frenchman Erik Maris will take the reigns back from sailing legend Loick Peyron, who skippered the all French-team for the first two events. No stranger to Extreme 40 sailing having skippered his team Luna to fourth place in the 2009 Series, Maris was eager, but ever realistic, about stepping back on board an Extreme 40. “I believe the general level of the teams has risen since we last entered the circuit, but the fun and the excitement remain as high as ever. The Extreme Sailing Series is the most innovative sailing competition of the last decade. Once you have tasted it, everything else in racing seems a bit boring. My personal objective, being the only amateur in the fleet, is to not be too much of a burden for the team, have fun, get some good results and then we will see.”
The action on the water will be complemented by the first event of NeilPryde Racing Series featuring the new, ISAF universal one-design windsurfing class, the RS:One with US$3000 for the taking by the winners.
Crew line-ups - team, Nationality, Skipper, Crew
Alinghi (SUI) Alain Gautier, Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Christophe Lassegue, Morgane Gautier, François Verdier
GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams, Nick Rogers, Mark Bulkeley, Adam Piggot, Andrew Walsh
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec, Christophe Espagnon, Hervé Cunningham, Bernard Labro, Romain Petit
Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Will Howden, Charlie Ogletree, Nasser Al Mashari, Max Bulger
Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spence
SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Jonas Hviid
The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Hashim Al Rashdi, Rachel Williamson
ZouLou (FRA) Erik Maris, Philippe Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Bruno Jeanjean, Patrick Aucour
Extreme Sailing Series 2012, Series standings after 2 Acts
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 19 points
2nd Oman Air (OMA) 16 points
3rd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 16 points
4th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) 16 points
5th GAC Pindar (GBR) 13 points
6th ZouLou (FRA) 10 points
7th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 7 points
8th Alinghi (SUI), 7 points