Alinghi on a charge
The final showdown of the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series kicked off today inside Rio de Janeiro harbour. With no wind out on the open water course the nine Extreme 40s immediately went into 'stadium' mode competing off Flamengo Beach with the magnificent backdrop of Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer on statue.
While Oman Sail's two teams are defending the top two spots on the overall 2012 Extreme Sailing Series leaderboard, Alinghi, with America's Cup and Lake Geneva specialist Pierre-Yves Jorand standing in for Ernesto Bertarelli on the helm, was star of the show today ending the day leading but level on points with the impeccible The Wave, Muscat, while Danes Jes Gram Hansen and Rasmus Koster's SAP Extreme Sailing Team put in a late charge, winning today's final two races.
Six races were sailed in 12 knots of breeze with gusts of up to 18, under a brilliant Brazilian sun. A reaching start saw the teams power off the line for a short sprint to the first mark providing the spectators on the cable cars at the top of Sugar Loaf mountain with a spectacle.
Pierre-Yves Jorand commented on their performance. “We had a good day the first day and were lucky enough to make some big gains in races two and three at the top mark which worked in our favour. We tried to take it easier and sail a smart way – not complicate things, take an easy approach and at the end it paid off”.
It wasn’t all plain sailing today and there was a damage delay after almost every race – the worst of which came after a collision in race five at the first mark between Oman Air and Red Bull Sailing Team with the Austrians careering into the back of the Omani team.
Down but not out, both teams made quick fixes on the water and were able to complete the final race of the day, but it was not the start either team were hoping for with the Series podium beckoning for both teams.
Tonight will be a long night of crucial repairs for the shore teams as a despondent Larson explain: “It’s the third transom repair for Oman Air this year (Alinghi clipped it in training one time, The Wave, Muscat’s in Nice), but this is probably the worst. These guys (shore crew) are experienced at this and by 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning they will have it done. Tomorrow is another day – chin up, keep going. We are still in the hunt.” Both teams will be given a time penalty at the start of tomorrow’s first race for failing to avoid the collision.
The teams are understandably looking ahead to Sunday night when the 2012 Series champion will be crowned. Current Series The Wave, Muscat is looking strong - she only has to finish six or better in this nine boat fleet to secure the title and surprisingly none of their biggest rivals have managed a top three position after day one. But as we have seen many times before, the leaderboard could take on a very different shape tomorrow, which McMillan is all too aware of: “Today was a solid start. We didn’t get off the line well but had good recovery which has been our saving grace this season. So we are in a good position but the main rivals will be back and we will be looking out for them tomorrow.”
SAP Extreme Sailing Team finished the day on a high with two consecutive race wins, including a spectacular win in race five which saw them finish 400m ahead of the rest of the fleet on the 4,000 metre course. Co-Skipper Jes Gram-Hansen said after racing: “We had a tough start to the day and found ourselves sailing into trouble on the downwind leg. Every race is a new race, and in the end we pulled it together and are really happy with the wins and hope to stay in contention for the podium. It was about getting clean air today and we were luck to get a break, all the teams struggled at times in the tough conditions.”
Brazilian national Olympic legend Torben Grael made his Extreme 40 debut today as the man in charge of wildcard entry Team Brasil and showed his medal winning pedigree leading his team to a second place finish in race four – no mean feat against a fleet that has been locked in irons against each other over the last 11 months of global touring. Erik Maris and his French team ZouLou had their strongest day of the Series, finishing the day in third place, joining Alinghi in a podium position for the first time this year.
Tomorrow will see racing start at 1700 CET (1400 local time) with live video streaming including real-time 3-D visualisations and leaderboards from SAP for the first time and expert commentary from Richard Simmonds from 1700 UTC.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 8, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil standings after Day 1, 6 races (06.12.12)
Position / Team / Points
1. Alinghi (SUI), Pierre-Yves Jorand, Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Bruno Barbarin, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 38 points
2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Hannah Mills, Hashim Al Rashdi 38 points
3. ZouLou (FRA), Erik Maris, Philip Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Patrick Aucour, Bruno Jeanjean 35 points
4. Oman Air (OMA), Morgan Larson, Will Howden, Charlie Ogletree, Andy Maloney, Nasser Al Mashari 31 points
5. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT), Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spence 31 points
6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN), Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Jonas Hviid 30 points
7. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Hervé Cunningham, Romain Petit, Bernard Labro 29 points
8. Team Brasil (BRA), Torben Grael, Alex Welter, Diogo Cayolla, André Mirsky, Marco Grael 19 points
9. GAC Pindar (GBR), Andrew Walsh, Anna Tunnicliffe, Mark Bulkeley, Adam Piggot, Richard Peacock 19 points