21 races, but Alinghi and The Wave are still tied
As the public descended on Cardiff Bay in their thousands to watch the eight teams in action at the Extreme Sailing Series Cardiff presented by Land Rover, the intensity on the Extreme 40 playground couldn’t have been fiercer as longstanding rivals this season - Alinghi and The Wave, Muscat - head into tomorrow’s final showdown tied on points.
Victory is far from a forgone conclusion for either, with the Danes on SAP Extreme Sailing Team firing on all cylinders with the Swiss and Omani teams locked in their sights just two points adrift. And it would be unwise to rule out the Austrian double Olympic gold medallists on Red Bull Sailing Team who have turned up their winning form in Cardiff, wrapping up proceedings on the penultimate day with a race win giving them a big psychological boost ahead of tomorrow’s racing.
Pragmatic as ever, Alinghi's cool, calm and collected Californian helmsman, Morgan Larson, who was the favourite to win coming into Cardiff, having won here last year, is taking nothing for granted: “Obviously there’s a rivalry with us and The Wave, Muscat because we’re both at the front of the fleet, but the way those guys on SAP Extreme Sailing Team are sailing, is the way they’re going to win the regatta. Tomorrow is going to be a little bit different again, and we’re ready to give them a challenge!”
Leigh McMillan, the defending Series Champion who is known for his ability to thrive under pressure, mirrored Larson’s thoughts. “We’ve got our eye on Alinghi and them on us, so it’s going to come right down to the wire once again. SAP Extreme Sailing Team has sailed really well and they obviously thrive in these kind of conditions. Our priority is that if we don’t manage to topple Alinghi, we will have to be one place behind them! So we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the other contenders tomorrow.”
The tight Cardiff Bay racecourse continued to test the teams with big gusts sweeping across the course from the surrounding buildings and very little room to manouvre. Keeping clear of the congestion and sailing in clean air was key to avoid getting stuck in irons and eight short, sharp and punishing races were sailed, with some lasting less then 10 minutes. There with plenty of tight mark roundings as the fleet fought for every inch, sometimes pushing it just a little too hard as ChinaSpirit found out when they lost their mainsail trimmer William Wu overboard in the fourth race of the day, somewhat to the surprise of skipper Phil Robertson. “I didn’t see a lot, I just saw a splash, but it was a pretty good and quick recovery by the team to finish the race!”
Red Bull Sailing Team, the veterans of the Series, look to have shaken off the jet lag from the commute back and forth from San Francisco for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, and a win in the final race of the day for the double Olympic gold medallists leaves them just outside of the podium, seven points behind SAP and in the strongest position they have been in since Singapore in April. “The important thing is to be in front of these guys. The points are coming, but it was a tough day for us today,” commented skipper, Roman Hagara. “We had some good starts, but we moved up and down the leaderboard throughout the day, but overall today was not our best day. We’re happy with our points, but we will have to look forward to tomorrow, the final day.”
In a fleet that includes Olympic heroes, America’s Cup winners and world champions, it is no mean feat for a new team to step in and mix it up with the big players. But today, the three new teams competing in Cardiff proved they could do just that. ChinaSpirit came out with gusto, charging their way around the racetrack with confidence and pulling off some punchy mark roundings, seemingly creating space where there was none.
Back on dry land, skipper Phil Robertson was buzzing after the day’s action: “We had some really close incidents around the marks! We were a little inconsistent today, which is disappointing, especially as a big goal of ours is to be as consistent as we can be, and in the end we let that slip. That aside we did have some awesome results today and I think in the last race we did really well. So we’re happy with that and with one more day tomorrow, hopefully we can piece it all together!”
GAC Pindar, under the guidance of a new skipper Brad Farrand with a new line up behind him including four-times World Match Racing Champion Ian Williams secured their best results so far including a second place in the day’s third race. And the local contingent on Team Wales Land Rover, who had the support of an ever growing Welsh crowd, made a stark improvement today under the expert coaching skills of Extreme 40 veteran and British Olympian Will Howden.
Skipper and Rio 2016 Olympic hopeful Dave Evans explained: “Our confidence was up a bit today, we chatted with our coach yesterday and we could have talked for hours on things we could have improved on but we came up with some basic things that I think we got the hang of today. The wind came up and the sun came out – we are here to just go out there try to sail well and have a good time.”
The final battle of the Bay will play out tomorrow from 1400 local time hosted by the Cardiff Harbour Festival including the all-important double-pointer streamed live from 1600-1700 BST.
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 166 points.
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 166 points.
3rd SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 164 points.
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Simon Cooke, Graeme Spence 157 points.
5th Realteam (SUI) Jerome Clerc, Bruno Barbarin, Tanguy Cariou, Cédric Schmidt, Thierry Wassem 130 points.
6th ChinaSpirit (CHN) Phil Robertson, Garth Ellingham, William Wu, James Williamson, Nick Catley 115 points.
7th GAC Pindar (NZL) Brad Farrand, Ian Williams, Thomas Hedegaard, Thomas Bentham, Tom Blampied 98 points.
8th Team Wales Land Rover (GBR) Dave Evans, Chris Grube, Bleddyn Mon, Tudur Owen, Trystan Seal 89 points.