Alinghi eases ahead
Crews on the 11 boats were forced to use all of their tactical prowess to manoeuvre their Extreme 40s around the course, and after a short one lap shoot-out for the final race, Alinghi took the lead, setting the scene for the business end of the event and the penultimate day's racing tomorrow.
The Swiss team’s tactician, Beijing Laser Radial Gold medallist Anna Tunnicliffe, summed up: “Today the starts were quite important, occasionally you could come back from a bad start, but coming off the start line in the top three was huge. Our game plan is to keep it simple and not get involved in any awkward situations. The conditions are so tricky out there, you just have to take each race as it comes, analysing it and generally just stick to our plan.”
Alinghi handled the light wind stadium with equal skill as yesterday’s open water racing, where the reaching starts tended to determine the finishes, and mistakes were punished hard. Nine of the 11-boat fleet were given OCSes through the day, as crews pushed the start line hard, with only Alinghi and Emirates Team New Zealand keeping their noses clean.
The Kiwi team’s skipper Dean Barker analysed their performance back on dock: “I think you always come off the water knowing a lot of the areas you can improve, but I generally think it’s working out how you can improve your averages across the day. You come off the water feeling pretty battered and bruised to be honest. It’s brutal sailing here – you try your best to be consistent but all you need is to have a tough race, or a tough break somewhere and it catches up. Overall we’re pretty pleased with how we’ve been doing 90% of the time, it’s just getting a little bit more consistent.” After two race wins today, the Kiwi team finish the day third overall.
The defending champions – of both the overall Series and in Muscat – on The Wave, Muscat had their pre-start routine near-perfected from the first of today’s six races, starting the day with a win and rarely finishing out of the top three. The team, which started the day in fifth, sailed a smarter course and less distance than the rest of the fleet according to the SAP analytics, and have rolled up the leaderboard to second place, three points behind their 2013 rivals Alinghi.
The Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team led the fleet overnight, but unfortunately where some teams rise others will inevitably fall, and the Danish finished the day fourth – but well within touching distance of the top three, just five points behind Emirates Team New Zealand. Franck Cammas’ Groupama Sailing Team is a further 11 points behind the Danish.
JP Morgan BAR, a team that includes three Olympic champions, claimed three-second place finishes today, upgrading themselves from eighth to sixth place, as the British squad starts to get to grips with the stadium racecourse. The team’s headsail trimmer Pippa Wilson, the Yngling gold medallist from Beijing, was positive after racing: “It was a good day for us today. We had some really good starts, and then some really bad ones, but overall a really good and positive day for us. We worked well together as a team and it was really nice for us to be at the front of the fleet.”
Before racing, Red Bull Sailing Team’s double Olympic champion skipper Roman Hagara, spoke about the level of competition on the water, which he described as the “toughest racing you can do”. Hagara’s team on 60 points in seventh place, just one point ahead of Oman Air, in turn one point ahead of Realteam.
The Swiss light wind specialists upped their game today, taking a win in the fifth race of the day, elevating them from 10th to ninth place. “It was great today, we sailed well. I think we like this style of racing in the stadium with lighter winds. We had some good starts and good pace at times. We tried to sail a simple game, finding wind on the right hand side of the course. Overall I’m really happy with today”, commented skipper Jérôme Clerc.
Gazprom Team Russia also took its best result of the event with a second place, as did the Team Australia crew on GAC Pindar, who were continually improving throughout the day. “It’s a really big learning curve for us at the moment, we’re enjoying it. It’s like we’re on this vertical learning spike, which is great,” commented the Aussie skipper Seve Jarvin. “We just want to keep improving, and today we just seemed to get better and better. We learnt a lot and there’s a lot of stuff we found out about these boats just from today’s racing which helped us a lot. So hopefully tomorrow we can just keep getting better!”
The penultimate day’s racing in Muscat begins at 1400 local time, and the racing will be broadcast to sports fans around the world live from 1130 UTC and to fans in Oman live on national broadcaster, Oman TV.
1st Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 88 points.
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 85 points.
3rd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Glenn Ashby, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 82 points.
4th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Peter Wibroe, Nicolai Sehested 77 points.
5th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Sophie de Turckheim, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 66 points.
6th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Pippa Wilson, Matt Cornwell 63 points.
7th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Nick Blackman, Stewart Dodson 60 points.
8th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, Will Howden, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 59 points.
9th Realteam (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wassem, Nils Palmieri 58 points.
10th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Paul Campbell-James, Alister Richardson, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 57 points.
11th GAC Pindar (AUS) Seve Jarvin, Troy Tindill, Ed Smyth, Sam Newton, David Gilmour 33 points.
Photos below by Mark Lloyd/Extreme Sailing Series