Final event underway
The opening day of the final event of the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series presented by Land Rover in Florianópolis delivered the “best racing of the year” according to both Morgan Larson and Jes Gram-Hansen, helmsmen on Alinghi and SAP Extreme Sailing Team respectively.
Racing began in style and the South Brazilian city welcomed the eight Extreme 40 teams with brilliant Brazilian sunshine and fine conditions – 14 knots of wind that steadily built to 20. Eight short, sharp, fast paced races were sailed, with four different race winners and Oman’s The Wave, Muscat blasted round the tight courses, reaching speeds of 24 knots and relishing the conditions that put Leigh McMillan’s crew at the top of the leaderboard at the end of day one.
The grudge match between long-standing series rivals The Wave, Muscat and Alinghi is already evident, and the teams are unsurprisingly looking ahead to Sunday night when the 2013 Series champion will be crowned.
The two teams locked horns around the race course, neither willing to give an inch. Larson and his finely tuned Swiss crew matched McMillan’s two race wins, and according to the SAP sailing analytics were the fastest boat on the course. However slick manoeuvres by the Omani team gave them the edge, finishing the day just five points ahead.
“We were focusing on The Wave, Muscat when we could and when the opportunity was there we tried to get in their way a little bit," commented Larson after racing. "They made it hard, and once again they’re sailing well. I think we pushed them a bit, but they’re solid! Five points isn’t a lot but we need it to be five points the other way. It just means that tomorrow we may need to take a different approach and close that gap!”
It wasn’t all plain sailing today particularly for Red Bull Sailing Team, which didn’t get its campaign for the podium off to the start in the way they might have hoped. A broken halyard forced them to miss the second race costing them valuable points. A quick repair however, and the team came back fighting, winning race three.
Roman Hagara, Red Bull Sailing Team skipper commented: “It was about the good starts in these conditions, and the right hand side of the course seemed to be playing well. With good starts and a lot of manoeuvres it actually worked out quite well for us, apart from the one race where we broke the main halyard, but that’s just something that can happen. We’re very confident (going into tomorrow’s racing). We had some good racing in the big wind conditions in Nice, and we had some good practice today so it will be good for us.”
However at the end of day one, the Austrian double Olympic gold medallists are tied in points with their biggest Series podium rivals, SAP Extreme Sailing Team, but three race wins for the Danish co-skippers Rasmus Kostner and Jes Gram-Hansen versus one for the Austrian team, the Danes hold the advantage on the leaderboard.
Back on the dock, SAP’s Gram-Hansen enthused about the day’s racing: “It was an absolutely fantastic day of sailing, definitely one of the best we’ve had so far this year. We had really good conditions today, good breeze with constant shifts which led to opportunities for everybody – I think was probably the best day of racing so far this year!”
In what is only their third event on the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series, ChinaSpirit had its best day to date, consistently securing results in the top half of the fleet and showing a marked improvement from the previous event in Nice (read more about ChinaSpirit here). Kiwi skipper Phil Robertson, one of the youngest in the fleet, was thrilled with the team’s performance: “We were super consistent today and were mostly sitting around fourth position which is ideal – we really wanted to be clocking up some good results on day one. We were fast and we just tried to keep it as consistent as we could, so we just kept doing what we were doing tomorrow! We can’t wait for the big wind – we will take it head on!”
The local contingent on Team Brazil Mapfre lined up against the more experienced fleet that have been locked in irons against each other over the last nine months of global touring for the first time today, and are already drawing the support of the locals who enjoyed their first glimpse of Extreme 40 racing from the shoreline.
Tomorrow is a national holiday in Brazil when the event officially opens to the public, and with the breeze set to build to 30 knots overnight, it is set tobe quite a for a show.
For Leigh McMillan, tomorrow is about playing it safe, and clocking up those valuable points. “We very much had our own game plan today and there was a few times we could take the opportunity to engage with Alinghi, we took those opportunities and they did the same with us. I think they were in the same frame of mind as us, they raced their own race like we did and when the opportunity was there it got quite exciting with a few touch and go moments!”
Will Tiller, skipper of 7th placed GAC Pindar, commented: “We managed to get off the line at a reasonable pace in most races, but sometimes we were a little unlucky at the top mark. I think in three races we were first at the top mark but we were kind of taking out by the rest of the fleet so I think we just need to really fight when we’re in a situation like that. It you can get a quick tack and come out fast, it can really make a difference. It was good to finish the last race with a third position, we just didn’t have the boat speed of the top two in that race but we just need to think of the other boats more and plan ahead when we approach the marks. It was awesome racing today, I don’t think you can ask for much better! We had flat waters, awesome hull flying breeze! It wasn’t too stressful, it was quite tactical out there today.”
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 69 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 64 points.
3rd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Simon Cooke, Kinley Fowler 56 points.
4th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 56 points.
5th ChinaSpirit (CHN) Phil Robertson, Garth Ellingham, Brad Hooker, Louis Viat, Nick Catley 54 points.
6th Realteam (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Nils Palmieri, Cedric Schmidt, Thierry Wassem 49 points.
7th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Matt Steven, Stewart Dodson, Tom Bentham, Shaun Mason 37 points.
8th Team Brazil Mapfre (BRA) Clínio de Freitas, André Mirsky, Daniel Santiago, André Chang, Bruno di Bernardi 28 points.