Strong start for Larson-steered Alinghi
China’s International Sailing Centre came alive on the opening day of the Extreme Sailing Series in Qingdao, where Land Rover’s three-year sponsorship as Series Main Partner of the original stadium sailing series was officially signed before the unveiling and naming ceremony of the Land Rover-branded Extreme 40.
On the open water racecourse, the Swiss teams Alinghi and Realteam dominated in testing light winds, edging ahead on the leaderboard at the end of day one as the teams prepare to move into stadium mode over the next three days.
Morgan Larson has taken the tiller from regular helm Ernesto Bertarelli on Alinghi in Qingdao and after winning three of today’s five races and as the fastest boat on the water (average speed of 8.03 knots) according to the SAP analytics, the Swiss team is deservedly the top of the leaderboard.
Larson commented: “I think we just picked up from where we left off in Singapore and it felt pretty good. It would have been easy to have made a couple of errors and then fall apart but it felt like everyone had a good grasp on their jobs and the communication was solid.”
Testing and shifty light winds, which eventually resulted in the final race being abandoned, demanded maximum concentration from the sailors as they worked hard to minimise mistakes and manouvre their Extreme 40s around the open water race courses, set just outside Qingdao’s International Sailing Centre’s breakwater but still close enough for the gathering crowds to watch the action.
Jerome Clerc’s 2012 D35 championship winning team Realteam, who just three weeks ago in Singapore finished in fourth place in what was only their second ever Extreme Sailing Series event, gave a master class in light wind sailing today, and a win in the final race of the day secured them second place overall.
“We had a good day, we had a few poor starts which proved difficult for us to get ahead but overall, we’re really happy with today,” said Clerc. Already setting goals for tomorrow as he stepped back onto the dock, Clerc continued: “We are going to look to make amends on the start line and get ahead of the pack early. That will be key on the stadium race course”.
The Leigh McMillan skippered The Wave, Muscat wrapped up the podium positions at the end of day one, and the British Olympian, who won here in 2012, is looking to put his Series title defense back on track with a podium finish come close of play in Qingdao on Sunday evening.
This event sees a welcome return to the circuit of China Team’s skipper Mitch Booth, creator of the Extreme Sailing Series. Booth and his team of young Chinese sailors who are competing as the invitational team in Qingdao, showed moments of huge potential, sailing to a clear victory in the second race of the day, as Booth reflected, “I think we got a bit lucky to be honest in that race (race two) but in the other races we were mixing it in the middle and that’s a bit of a surprise for us doing that on the first day. If we can keep doing that all week we’ll be more than happy! It’s a great boost for the team and a great start to the event. For me, it’s just like going back riding the old bike again, it’s nice to be back onboard.”
SAP Extreme Sailing Team showed more of the same impressive form from Singapore and were able to post consistent enough results to finish the day in fourth place, jut one point shy of The Wave, Muscat. Tied on points just one point behind them are GAC Pindar and Team Korea, while Red Bull Sailing Team struggled on the Olympic waters their skipper Roman Hagara and tactician Hans Peter Steinacher know so well finishing the day in eighth place. With plenty of races still to come, the teams will be assessing their performance on the water today and planning their moves as the event goes into stadium mode from Friday.
Back on dry land this evening, Mark Cameron, Land Rover Global Brand Experience Director and Patrice Clerc, President of the Board at Series organisers OC Sport were joined by the first Chinese sailor to complete a circumnavigation, Guo Chuan, to officially name the Land Rover Extreme 40 with the traditional spraying of champagne. The boat will be used as a unique platform for Land Rover’s key guests to experience the thrill of sailing on an Extreme 40 catamaran with a view to entering a team in the Series in the future.
The event was officially inaugurated at a spectacular opening ceremony hosted by the Qingdao Yachting Association, where even the rain couldn’t dampen the spirits with local performers enacting traditional Chinese dances before each team was presented to the crowds. China’s Olympic Gold medal winner and ISAF World Sailor of the Year Lijia Xu, who also sailed on board China Team today, was among the special guests.
For the next three days the fleet moves into stadium mode with thousands of locals expected to descend on the Olympic village to watch the stadium racing staged inside the breakwater of Fushan Bay. For the first time, the racing will be available to watch live online in China from 1400-1700 local time (0600-0900 UTC).
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 47 points.
2nd Realteam (SUI) Jerome Clerc, Bryan Mettraux, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Cédric Schmidt, Thiery Wassem 36 points.
3rd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hilal Al Zadjali 33 points.
4th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 32 points.
5th Team Korea (KOR) Peter Burling, Matt Vincent, Mark Bulkeley, Tom Johnson, Sungwok Kim 31 points.
6th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Shaun Mason, Stewart Dodson, Harry Thurston, Matt Steven 31 points.
7th China Team (CHN) Mitch Booth, Wen Zijin, Yingkit Cheng, Liu Xue, Zhang Yiran 28 points.
8th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Simon Cook, Graeme Spence 22 points.