Two new venues and an influx of Cup teams
OC Sport, alongside Series Main Partner Land Rover, unveiled the schedule and team line-up for the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series at London Boat Show. Now into its eighth year, the series will visit eight venues on three continents, over the course of 11 months with two new venues added. The team line-up rolled out yesterday comprised nine from seven nations, although more are still believed to be in the pipeline.
For the first time, Singapore will host the curtain raiser to the series, with the first start gun on 20 February. In Singapore the fleet will race within the confines of the ultimate city centre stadium on Marina Bay.
From Asia, the series moves on to the Middle East and Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman over 19-22 March, before the fleet visits China’s ‘Olympic Sailing City’ Qingdao in May.
A brand new venue for 2014 is Saint Petersburg, Russia where the Extreme Sailing Series will be over 26-29 June.
The annual UK leg will take the fleet back to the heart of the Welsh capital Cardiff to race on one of the smallest stadiums on circuit over the UK August bank holiday weekend of 22-25 August.
Following its cancellation in 2013, Istanbul is the sixth leg of the series, where from 11 September, the team will race on the Bosphorus, separating Asia and Europe.
The penultimate event in early October is expected to be in the south of France at a venue still to be confirmed .
The final 2014 Extreme Sailing Series event will also be a new one as the fleet head to the southern hemisphere for the first time, and Sydney where racing is to be held out of Rushcutter's Bay.
Absent for 2014 is Brazil, where the tour is set to return in 2015, following on from the Extreme Sailing Series grand finale in Florianopolis last year.
Nine teams, seven Nations, 45 sailors
2014 will see one of the most competitive line-ups in the eight years of the Extreme Sailing Series, featuring America’s Cup winners, heroes of multiple Olympic Games, World Champions and round the world sailors. All teams from 2013 will return in 2014, alongside some new faces.
One of three British skippers signed up for 2014 is the world’s greatest Olympic sailor, Sir Ben Ainslie, who played a key role in Oracle Team USA’s come-from-behind victory in the 34th America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay. He returns to the Extreme Sailing Series after a brief stint at the helm of Oman Air, competing in three events in 2011.
This year Ainslie will field his own team, JP Morgan BAR. “I remember that it is crazy racing," he said. "Anyone who has seen the Series – or taken part in it – will tell you that the style of the courses, the speed of the boats and the number of boats on any side of the course at one time, means there is a lot of action and a lot of potential for crashes and incidents. So it makes for exciting racing and you really have to be on your toes.”
Despite Ainslie being one of the most in demand sailors of his generation, he will take nothing for granted on the stadium racecourse. “There are some strong teams that have been going at it for some time. You look at Leigh (McMillan) – he and his team have been the stand-out performers for the past two seasons. Then there’s the likes of Alinghi. So you look at the talent out there and the history they have in this Series and it feels like we’re the new kids on the block.”
Reigning champion Leigh McMillan will be back at the helm of The Wave, Muscat. This season the British former Olympic Tornado sailor will be looking to make it a hat-trick: “I love the racing. It’s intense, never the same, always changing. So, I am thrilled and excited to be back in 2014 and the treble would be something I would be very proud to achieve,” he commented. “We are expecting 2014 to be quite different this year. The fleet is going to be bigger and more competitive. It’s an exciting prospect, it raises the tempo and we are in a great position to compete and to be competitive. It’s a thrill, a rush, it’s just the best place to be and in 2014 there is no better place to be than in the Extreme 40s.”
As usual Oman Sail will field a second team, Oman Air, to be helmed by British Volvo Ocean Race veteran Rob Greenhalgh. Greenhalgh was wWinner of the inaugural Series in 2007 aboard Basilica.
Another strong contender will be Franck Cammas, skipper of Groupama Team France, winner of the last Volvo Ocean Race, who is currently campaigning for Rio 2016 in the Nacra 17 class, while having also recently joined forces with Michel Desjoyeaux and Olivier de Kersauson to form a French challenge for the 35th America's Cup.
The Extreme Sailing Series represents a rarity to Cammas – an event he has yet to win, despite two previous attempts, finishing fourth in 2009 and fifth in 2010. “It is very exciting for us to come back," said Cammas. "We want to focus more on the circuit, so we can do better. It is special racing for sure. Always the best crew is the winner, so that’s important.” On board with Cammas will be two other French Nacra 17 sailors – his own crew Sophie de Turckheim and Mathieu Vandame, the 2012 F18 catamaran World Champion. They will be joined by two of his original Extreme 40 crew, Devan Le Bihan and Tanguy Cariou.
2013 Extreme Sailing Series runners up Alinghi from Switzerland will be back skippered by Ernesto Bertarelli opting for the same crew including American Morgan Larson calling the tactics in a bid to go one better in 2014. According to Pierre Yves Jorand Bertarelli hopes to make more of the events this year, but the ones he can't make, Larson will return to the helm.
Bertarelli commented: “Finishing second last season, with the same number of points as the winner is a great motivation for the team to fight hard again in 2014! The Series’ combination of one-design boats, short racecourses and an improving selection of venues gives everyone – teams and sponsors – an exciting experience. 2014 is Alinghi’s fifth year and I look forward to the start of the sailing season”.
A second Swiss team will be returning in the form of from Realteam, with Jérôme Clerc once again as skipper.
The familiar double Olympic gold medal-winning duo of Austrians Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher who finished third in 2013, will return for their fifth year on the Red Bull Sailing Team, while the Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team are back for their third consecutive year, with co-skippers Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner determined to do better having narrowly missed the podium in 2013.
GAC Pindar is one of the longest standing teams in the Extreme Sailing Series, but will field a brand new crew in 2014 as a crew represeting the Hamilton Island Sailing Series, the Australian Challenger of Record for the 35th America’s Cup prepares to make its debut on the series. The crew is led by Gotta Love It 7 18ft skiff champion Seve Jarvin, who at 27 will be the youngest skipper in the fleet.
With Singapore coming up in just over six weeks, a local boat, Team Aberdeen Singapore, has already been confirmed to compete, so thea full starting grid of 10 elite level teams will line up on the world famous Marina Bay.
Executive Chairman of OC Sport, Mark Turner, commented: “2014 is the eighth year of this the original Stadium Racing circuit, and significantly our fourth as a world tour. We’ve added two commercially important markets for our stakeholders, and retained six existing venues as well as all the teams from 2013 – we continue on an upward curve with this event which is delivering elite level top class sporting action, as well as strong commercial return on investment for all its stakeholders. That combination remains number one priority for us with this event.”
Mark Cameron, Jaguar Land Rover Global Brand Experience Director commented: “The new season brings eight exciting global locations, all important markets for Land Rover, and this includes two completely new cities, Saint Petersburg and Sydney. Each Host Venue will provide a unique mix of excitement, challenge, accessibility and the very highest quality of competition sailing. Land Rover is immensely proud to be a Series Main Partner for the Extreme Sailing Series. The determination, courage and ability to intelligently respond to fast changing conditions are what is required to be at the top of the sport and these are all virtues shared and recognised by Land Rover and our customers."
Extreme Sailing Series 2014 Host Venues:
Singapore, 20-23 February
Muscat, Oman 19-22 March
Qingdao, China 1-4 May
Saint Petersburg, Russia 26-29 June
Cardiff, UK 22-25 August
Istanbul, Turkey 11-14 September
Mediterranean 2-5 October
Sydney, Australia 11-14 December
Extreme Sailing Series 2014 Teams and skippers:
Alinghi (SUI) – Ernesto Bertarelli (SUI)
GAC Pindar (AUS) – Seve Jarvin (AUS)
Groupama Team France (FRA) – Franck Cammas (FRA)
JP Morgan BAR (GBR) – Ben Ainslie (GBR)
Oman Air (OMA) – Rob Greenhalgh (GBR)
Realteam (SUI) – Jérome Clerc (SUI)
Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) – Roman Hagara (AUT)
SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) – Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) /Rasmus Kostner (DEN)
The Wave, Muscat (OMA) – Leigh McMillan (GBR)