Red Bull Extreme Sailing takes an early lead
Roman Hagara and his Austrian Red Bull Sailing Team continued the impressive form they showed at Qingdao on the opening day of the Extreme Sailing Series in Istanbul today, finishing the day in pole position. The iconic Turkish city kept the sailors on their toes, with the wind ranging from 2 knots to 13 knots as the eight strong fleet began their battle for supremacy.
Light winds dominated the opening races in Istanbul, dying away to just 2 knots by the end of race three. The teams waited patiently in the scorching sunshine for more breeze and their perseverance paid dividends as the breeze kicked in picking up to 13 knots and a further three races were staged.
Roman Hagara’s crew that includes two Austrians, an Englishman, Frenchman and an Australian (get to know Red Bull Sailing Team here) which makes for interesting communication challenges, look like they are getting used to podium positions after finishing China in second place, today they finished four out of six races in a top-three position, enough to give them a five point cushion over The Wave, Muscat at the top of the leaderboard. “The wind picked up and in the end it was really good racing – I mean the best racing we had so far. It was really good communication onboard. Things are coming together on the boat, the crew is making jokes and everybody is laughing. All the team is happy and there were a lot of smiles today,” commented Hagara.
The Wave, Muscat's Leigh McMillan commented: "It was pretty light generally, but there were conflicting kind of breezes taking place in the middle, so very shifty. We had a pretty solid day, we are lying second overall, but it is good just to get out of the box without any disasters. That’s kind of generally how we approach these types of events. If we are having a bad one, just try to pick off a few boats, and if things are going well we just try to convert it. These events always come down to the last day, so as long as we are in contention going into the last day then we are happy."
The all-French team on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and the all-British team on GAC Pindar challenged at the front of the fleet a couple of times with the latter managing to secure a win in race three. But both teams they found themselves buried in the middle of the fleet all too frequently, and finished the day in third and fourth respectively. GAC Pindar’s trimmer Mark Bulkeley summed up the team’s day. “It was a day of two halves for us. We went well in the light wind races and struggled when the breeze built. I think we have to think about our set up for the windier races and how we transition between the two conditions.”
Muscat winner Morgan Larson and his team on Oman Air looked like the odds were in their favour as racing began, as Larson led his team to two consecutive race wins. But the team’s dominance on the leaderboard was short-lived and they finish the day in fifth.
"We came out of the blocks pretty good in the lighter air," said Larson. "Managed to get a couple of wins and then we started faulting a little bit and the breeze switched and we actually had some great sailing in the last four races. Tough racing – good teams out here – I’m still learning, so we just have to take it from here."
In contrast, the new team on the circuit, SAP Extreme Sailing Team, co-skippered by America’s Cup compatriots Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Kostner, looked to be finding their feet among the fleet today, sailing consistently to leave them just one point behind Oman Air in sixth place.
Kostner commented: "I think that in the light conditions we still struggle a bit, but the pause in the middle of the day was good for us and we came back strong and we feel that we are hanging on pretty well so we are happy with the overall results and with out new boat. It´s good to have our new boat and to be able to keep it from now on, but first we need to get used to it. The boat definitely has good potential."
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day came from Alinghi, under the guidance of offshore sailing legend and Vendée Globe winner Alain Gautier in his Extreme 40 debut. Historically new skippers to the Series don’t find it easy to match the pace of the more seasoned Extreme 40 sailors, and it looked like this would be the case for Gautier who struggled to get out of the blocks in the first two races. However by race three they had turned things around and went on to secure three podium finishes by the end of racing, leaving them very much in the mix just one point behind SAP Extreme Sailing Team at the end of day one. “The level of the fleet around us is very high, it´s tough and we are learning at each race. In this kind of racing you have to be patient and to avoid contact,” commented Gautier. “We need to progress slowly but surely. We know we can race well and the key is to try to stay closet to the leader.”
Tomorrow the Extreme Sailing Series opens to the public of Istanbul as the racing moves closer to shore in ‘stadium’ mode and tighter race courses. The live video streaming including running commentary goes live online from 1400 CET.
Results after six races
Position / Team / Points
1st Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Matthew Adams / Graeme Spence, Pierre Le Clainche 40 points
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan / Ed Smyth / Pete Greenhalgh / Hashim Al Rashdi / Rachel Williamson 35 points
3rd Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec / Christophe Espagnon / Hervé Cunningham / Bernard Labro / Romain Petit 28 points
4th GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams / Nick Rogers/ Mark Bulkeley / Adam Piggot / Andrew Walsh 26 points
5th Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson / Will Howden / Charlie Ogletree / Nasser Al Mashari / Max Bulger 25 points
6th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen / Rasmus Kostner / Pete Cumming / Mikkel Rossberg / Jonas Hviid 24 points
7th Alinghi (SUI), Alain Gautier / Jean-Christophe Mourniac / Christophe Lassegue / Morgane Gautie / François Verdier 23 points
8th ZouLou (FRA) Erik Maris / Philippe Mourniac / Jean-Sébastien Ponce / Bruno Jeanjean / Patrick Aucour 15 points