The Wave, Muscat eases away
The Douro River provided the playground for the first day of Stadium Racing at the Extreme Sailing Series Porto today, where some teams thrived and others suffered within the confines of the tight race course, which is just 70 metres wide at its narrowest point.
In contrast to yesterday's open water racing, today in the stadium everything was magnified and decisions had to be made in split seconds and manouvoures executed smoothly, which Leigh McMillan did with precision, slowly extending his lead over the fleet. As he explained: “Our game plan was to try and start well, communicate well and it’s all about decision making. Making the right decision at the right time and taking the opportunities when they’re there. You have to be looking at the water as it’s changing all the time along with the tide and the wind so the game plan in terms of strategy changes every race."
In contrast to McMillan’s free thinking tactics, Morgan Larson was a man with a plan today, and after struggling to get out of the blocks a little yesterday, the Swiss team had to apply the pressure today coming out with a solid plan that paid dividends including three consecutive race wins. An OCS in the final race of the day was the only glitch in the Swiss teams day, as Larson, who takes the helm from regular skipper Ernesto Bertarelli in Portugal, explained. “There was a little bit of relief when the current was coming in on the right hand side of the course so we favoured that more today. I think on this narrow course having the starboard tack advantage at times was pretty important, it didn’t always pay off but we were consistent which was the main thing for us.” Alinghi finished the day 11 points behind The Wave, Muscat in second place.
It wasn’t all plain sailing today and in the opening race of the day, where the teams were contending with 15 knots of breeze and a strong current, Team Tilt and Red Bull Sailing Team collided on the start line, leaving the Austrian’s with a night of repairs ahead. Roman Hagara, Red Bull Sailing Team’s double Olympic champion skipper explained: “Our bow was damaged from a collision with Team Tilt when they were given an OCS at the start of the first race. They tried to veer away and got too close to our boat. The boys have gone to repair the boat this evening, but hopefully there’s not too much damage to the bow!” Team Tilt was given a 30 seconds starting penalty in the following race.
Realteam, under the guidance of temporary helm Pierre Pennec, was one of the strongest teams in yesterdays racing, but seemed to struggle with today’s transition to the smaller race course. The team managed to escape any serious damage after careering into the committee boat in the first race of the day but couldn’t manage to post the consistent results needed to hold onto the second place they held coming into today, finishing the day third and 10 points behind Alinghi.
Pennec commented: “The sailing today really is the concept of the Extreme Sailing Series: very short races and on top of that here we had very shifty wind and strong currents in a very narrow racecourse. It is very challenging for the crew, but we still have two more days to do as best as we can. We are going to try to go out early tomorrow to do a bit of training, rehearse the manoeuvres and work on the communication and I will do my best to sail as best as I can.”
A win in the final race of the day for SAP Extreme Sailing Team helped boost their campaign for their third consecutive podium position, elevating the team to fourth place as co-skipper Jes Gram Hansen explained: “We had a great day of racing, it was really tricky and it was all about trying to get a nice clean run up the right hand side of the race course. I think we put in a good performance today, we still need to learn in a few areas especially as The Wave, Muscat and Alinghi are setting the benchmark, but we’re hanging in there and fourth is good for us right now.”
And the local boat ROFF Cascais Sailing Team found themselves frustrated dockside this evening after loosing their bowman over board for the second day in a row and struggling to get to grips within the confines of the Stadium race course. The Portuguese contingent are 17 points behind seventh placed Team Tilt, which sit just two points adrift of the Kiwi’s on GAC Pindar.
Results after 17 races
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 145 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Ben Lezin, Pierre Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 134 points.
3rd Realteam (SUI) Pierre Pennec, Bryan Mettraux, Nils Palmieri, Cédric Schmidt, Thierry Wassem 124 points.
4th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 118 points.
5th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Simon Cooke, Graeme Spence 111 points.
6th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Brad Farrand, Stewart Dodson, Harry Thurston, Shaun Mason 90 points.
7th Team Tilt (SUI) Lucien Cujean, Jocelyn Keller, Jeremy Bachelin, Thomas Mermod, Lionel Vaucher 88 points.
8th ROFF Cascais Sailing Team (POR) António Mello, Bernardo Freitas, João Mello, Ricardo Schedel, João Matos Rosa 71 points.