Alinghi on top
Racing began in China’s Olympic sailing city today at the Land Rover Extreme Sailing Series racing in Qingdao, China for the ‘Double Star Mingren’ Cup. During eight races there were five different winners in a day that saw the fleet struggle for consistency and the leaderboard reshuffle after every race.
On the open water racecourse, Alinghi dominated in light winds and strong tide to edge ahead on the leaderboard at the end of day one. But it was the local boat, Team Extreme Qingdao, which will be headline grabbing tonight after an outstanding debut performance sees the team holding third place at the end of day one – the best ever performance by a home nation invitational team.
Unfortunately for Oman Air, its day was over before it had a chance to begin, after a collision with GAC Pindar during the start line tussle of the first race left the team with severe damage to its port hull, forcing it back to the pit lane. Rob Greenhalgh, skipper of Oman Air – who has Oracle Team USA's Kyle Langford with him this week – explained what happened: “Just after the start of the first race, GAC Pindar tacked onto port and misjudged the dip on us and T-boned us pretty hard – we have a pretty big hole in the side of the boat. These things happen unfortunately. The shore guys will work hard tonight and get the boat ready for racing tomorrow. We will lick our wounds and be back. It’s a disappointment – we were pumped to race.”
The team will be given a redress and will likely be awarded average points from their races over the next two days by the international jury.
The local boat Team Extreme Qingdao, is being led by co-skippers Mitch Booth and Zhang Yiran this week, and today the duo had the golden touch. The team – which has only come together for this event – posted a string of consistent results, keeping a cool head under the pressure, and even taught the more seasoned teams a few tricks, winning the fourth race of the day.
Team Extreme Qingdao finished the day in third place and Booth commented: “It was a great day for us. We started really well, and our objective was to try and keep clear of everybody else, and not get into the traffic or into any situations that would put pressure on the guys. I think that strategy worked pretty well. We started well, had some clean lanes and overall, it was a great day of racing.” The local boat is just three points behind the defending champions – of both the Qingdao event and the Series – The Wave, Muscat.
The Swiss light wind lake specialists on Realteam were also impressive, showing a return to the form they demonstrated at the beginning o the season in Singapore, to finish the day tied on points with Team Extreme Qingdao. Skipper Jérôme Clerc commented: “We are really happy with today. The crew did a great job and our performance was better than in Oman where we struggled at the beginning – and now we’re in the game from the start. I think the crew are on fire.”
After damaging their forestay in the first race of the day, and making a ‘quick fix’ on the water, Red Bull Sailing Team did well to continue putting points on the leaderboard, and a win in race six helped it on its way to sixth place overall. The team's double Olympic Tornado gold medal winning skipper, Roman Hagara, commented: “It’s a tough game, you have to be right on the spot at the start and if not, it’s really hard to fight in amongst the fleet. In the last two races we didn’t manage to get good starts, which hurt. It was really good to get our first race win today – it’s much easier to sail at the front of the fleet – it was the perfect race for us.”
The Austrian team is five points behind Emirates Team New Zealand, and one point ahead of the French Groupama Sailing Team, which posted a mixed set of results, including two second places but also three finishes in the bottom three. The Russian team is a further point behind Groupama sailing team in eighth place.
By anyone’s standards, two race wins in an Extreme 40 race is no mean feat, but even that wasn’t enough for SAP Extreme Sailing Team to make it into the top half of the fleet today, who more often than not, found itself trailing at the back of the pack and settling for ninth place overall. Co-Skipper Rasmus Køster explained what they need to change tomorrow: “We’re not too surprised to see that we are in ninth position. More or less anybody can win a race, but you need to be consistent. We didn’t achieve that today, we struggled at times to get off the line, but when we could, we posted some good results – it’s difficult as everybody is doing well out there. We’re not happy with ninth, but we are with the two race wins, so we will review the analytics and see what we can do tomorrow in stadium racing.”
J.P. Morgan BAR struggled on the Olympic waters that skipper Ben Ainslie and crew Paul Goodison and Pippa Wilson – all gold medallists from Beijing 2008 – know so well. They finishing the day in tenth place, as did GAC Pindar whose crew struggled to compose itself after its race one collision.
With plenty of races still to come, the teams will be assessing their performance on the water today and planning their moves as racing moves into the stadium sailing mode tomorrow.
Series Main Partner Land Rover also announced today the new Above and Beyond Award for competitors of the Series – a reward that recognises their sportsmanship, strength of mind and team spirit. The award has been established to reward the finest demonstration of going Above and Beyond – the ethos that lies at the heart of the Land Rover brand. At the end of the season an ultimate trophy will be presented to honour the most inspiring example of going Above and Beyond and the team will be rewarded with the use of a Land Rover in their home country in the following year. Read more, here.
With the breeze expected to build overnight, tomorrow is expected to be a full pressure day. Despite his early lead, American Morgan Larson and Alinghi will be taking nothing for granted: “It will be different tomorrow. With more wind there could be potential for more collisions and more action. So tomorrow we will aim to stay out of trouble and focus on not getting into any wrecks, but in this field you have to push a little harder at the same time.”
1st Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 64 points.
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 50 points.
3rd Team Extreme Qingdao (CHN) Mitch Booth, Zhang Yiran, Liu Xue, Nick Moloney, Freddie White 47 points.
4th Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Denis Girardet, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wassem 47 points.
5th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Peter Burling, Glenn Ashby, Blair Tuke, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 45 points.
6th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Nick Blackman, Stewart Dodson 40 points.
7th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Sophie de Turckheim, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 39 points.
8th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Paul Campbell-James, Alister Richardson, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 37 points.
9th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Peter Wibroe, Nicolai Sehested 33 points.
10th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Pippa Wilson, Matt Cornwell 29 points.
11th GAC Pindar (AUS) David Gilmour, Troy Tindill, Ed Smyth, Sam Newton, Alexandra South 17 points.
12th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, Kyle Langford, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 0 points.