Preparing for Qingdao
China’s Olympic Sailing City Qingdao is preparing to welcome the eight international Extreme 40 teams for the third round of the international non-stop tour of the globe.
Occasional America's Cup challenger, China Team, is heading to Qingdao as the invitational home team for the next event on the circuit, taking place over 2-5 May. The team will compete against the seven established Series teams on their home waters at China’s Olympic ‘Sailing City’.
China Team competed in Qingdao in 2012 and this year return with an almost entirely new line-up, including four Chinese sailors, all fresh from competing at the America’s Cup World Series in Naples, Italy.
Yingkit Cheng (mainsail trimmer), one of China’s top 49er sailors, is the only team member to return to the Extreme 40 fleet after debuting with the team in 2012 and has since had the chance to fine-tune his multihull skills with the team’s AC45.
Cheng commented: “I’m so excited to return to this exciting class and sail in my home country with such a strong fleet this year. For me, it is a wonderful opportunity to reunite with my sailing friends from all over the world and compete, and hopefully win some races, against them.” Some of China’s most talented and elite sailors, and regular China Team crew, Yiran Zhang (bowman) Xue Liu (headsail trimmer) and Zijin Wen (co-skipper/tactician) will be making their Extreme 40 debut as part of China Team’s ongoing endeavor to raise the profile of yachting in China and develop their national talent. The increase in the number of Chinese sailors competing as regular crew members with China Team is a clear indication of the successes achieved so far.
China Team is led by skipper/helmsman Mitch Booth, co-creator of the Extreme Sailing Series and the Extreme 40, and also the holder of two Olympic Tornado medals (bronze in Barcelona 1992 and silver in Atlanta, 1996), an impressive 11 World Championships titles, as well as America’s Cup and previous Extreme 40.
The Aussie legend admits its will be a challenge coming back to the fleet after a three-year hiatus: “I’m really looking forward to returning to the Extreme Sailing Series in Qingdao. This class is obviously close to my heart. It is always tough coming into a fleet that has already got a few events under their belts but together with China Team, we are excited to compete in the team’s home nation.”
Qingdao holds some vivid memories for many of the sailors, including Booth, whom represented their nations on these waters at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Peter Burling, the silver medal winning skipper of Team Korea, was just 17 years old when he represented New Zealand in the 470 class, while Britain’s Leigh McMillan, skipper of The Wave, Muscat, Red Bull Sailing Team’s Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher, all went head to head in the Tornado catamaran.
In terms of the leaderboard, Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi team currently holds the advantage heading to Qingdao, courtesy of a third and first place in the first two events of 2013. Morgan Larson is tasked with protecting Alinghi’s lead, replacing Bertarelli as skipper for the Chinese stopover, after he gave a master class in Extreme 40 racing in Singapore. But, as ever, Larson is mindful of his opposition: “With Qingdao quickly approaching there is no time to rest on our success in Singapore. We are obviously proud of what we accomplished. Saying that, we are under no illusion that we will be able to repeat our success in Qingdao. We expect a variety of conditions and we know the very competitive field will be aiming for podium results. With Red Bull and The Wave, Muscat hot on our heels it should be a good battle next week in Qingdao!”
Defending Series champion Leigh McMillan won in Qingdao in 2012, and after finishing fifth in Singapore – the first time his team The Wave, Muscat have finished off the podium since Almeria in 2011 – McMillan is fired up for the Chinese battle: “Singapore was a bit of a disappointment for us not to finish on the podium, but a good lesson at the same time. We have reflected on it and we are now looking forward to racing again in Qingdao and hoping to put that right, and finish up on the podium so we can get our title defence back on track. The Wave, Muscat won in Qingdao last year but once you get into stadium racing it’s all about having a good day on the right day and, hopefully, we can get back to our normal form and be able to fight at the front.”
Some of the new teams for 2013 have really began to shine, none more so than Jérôme Clerc and his team of D35 Champions on Realteam, who finished in fourth in Singapore, giving Clerc a confidence boost ahead of Qingdao. “Our team is very pleased with our second regatta in the Extreme Sailing Series. We have made real progress since the first race in Oman in many areas: our organisation on the ground, our manouvers and speed of our boat. We are looking forward to racing in China and continue to progress in what will be an extremely tough race track!”
The majority of teams have chosen to keep largely the same line-ups, opting for consistency. Only Shaun Mason (GBR) will replace Brad Farrand on GAC Pindar as the youth America’s Cup team continues its training programme.
The spectators are expected to be out in force to support their local boat led. The event will also welcome as guest sailors London 2012 Laser Radial gold medallist Lijia Xu and Guo Chuan, Volvo Ocean Race sailor and the first person from China to sail non-stop around the world.
Qingdao crew lists
Skipper/Helm: Morgan Larson (USA) / Tactician: Stuart Pollard (AUS) / Mainsail Trimmer: Pierre-Yves Jorand (SUI) / Headsail Trimmer: Nils Frei (SUI) / Bowman: Yves Detrey (SUI)
Current Series ranking: 1st position
China Team (CHN)
Skipper/Helm: Mitch Booth (AUS) / Co-skipper/Tactician: Wen Zijin (CHN) / Mainsail trimmer: Yingkit Cheng (CHN) / Headsail trimmer: Liu Xue (CHN) / Bowman: Zhang Yiran (CHN)
Current Series ranking: 6th position*
GAC Pindar (NZL)
Skipper/Helm: William Tiller (NZL) / Tactician: Shaun Mason (GBR) / Mainsail Trimmer: Stewart Dodson (NZL) / Headsail Trimmer: Harry Thurston (NZL) / Bowman: Matt Steven (NZL)
Current Series ranking: 8th position
Skipper/Helm: Jérome Clerc (SUI) / Tactician: Bruno Barbarin (FRA) / Mainsail Trimmer: Arnaud Psarofaghis (SUI) / Headsail Trimmer: Cédric Schmidt (SUI) / Bowman: Bryan Mettraux (SUI)
Current Series ranking: 7th position
Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT)
Skipper/Helm: Roman Hagara (AUT) / Tactician: Hans Peter Steinacher (AUT) / Mainsail Trimmer: Matthew Adams (GBR) / Headsail Trimmer: Pierre Le Clainche (FRA) / Bowman: Graeme Spencer (AUS)
Current Series ranking: 2nd position
SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN)
Co-Skipper/Helm: Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) / Co-Skipper/Tactician: Rasmus Køstner (DEN) / Mainsail trimmer: Peter Cumming (GBR) / Headsail Trimmer: Mikkel Røssberg (DEN) / Bowman: Nicolai Sehested (DEN)
Current Series ranking: 4th position
Team Korea (KOR)
Skipper/Helm: Peter Burling (NZL) / Tactician: TBC / Mainsail Trimmer: Mark Bulkeley (GBR) / Headsail Trimmer: Sungwok Kim (KOR) / Bowman: TBC
Current Series ranking: 5th position
The Wave, Muscat (OMA)
Skipper/Helm: Leigh McMillan (GBR) / Tactician: Ed Smyth (NZL) / Mainsail Trimmer: Pete Greenhalgh (GBR) / Headsail Trimmer: Musab Al Hadi (OMA) / Bowman: Hashim Al Rashdi (OMA)
Current Series ranking: 3rd position
*China Team will compete as the invitational team at Act 3. A home nation invitational team will compete at every Act in 2013 with their results combining to make one overriding Series entry.