The Wave, Muscat into the lead
The race conditions on the Neva River remained capricious in Saint Petersburg today for the 12-strong Extreme 40 fleet, against the backdrop of the Winter Palace and the gilded dome of St. Isaac’s Cathedral, where mastering the light breeze, overcoming the strong current and remaining consistent paid dividends.
The Wave, Muscat showed that despite the tough conditions it could be done, notching up a third place and a race win – but more importantly beating the clock – that saw others running out of time and losing out on points, including their long standing dueling partners, Alinghi.
The team wearing the colours of Oman now holds a slim three-point advantage at the top of the leaderboard, and Skipper Leigh McMillan, who is going for the hat trick this year, commented: “That was our big gain really, and it’s the only time we’ve really been able to get some points over Alinghi in the six races that we’ve had. They’re very quick and very difficult to beat. It’s still a long way to go, we’ve had a good team effort, we’re really happy with our sailing but we can’t predict what’s going to happen next.”
It looked like Mother Nature had got the better of the fleet and they played a patient waiting game to see if the breeze would fill in. Late in the day, Race Management did a good job to get two races in, before the breeze completely shut down forcing them to abandon the final race – much to the dismay of home nation team RussianFirst which was leading the race. Their skipper and four-times Olympian Georgy Shayduko was beaming after racing about the teams potential and racing on their home waters. “Now we know we can sail at the top of the fleet, I’m sure we will be able to do the same for the rest of the regatta. I’m very happy that the Extreme Sailing Series has come to Saint Petersburg and Russia, because the level of competition is really high and we see some very good sailing. I hope many people will come out to watch the racing over the weekend. It’s fantastic to have such a high level sport taking place here in Russia.”
The characteristically consistent Alinghi struggled to gain traction today, with a fifth in the first race before timing out in the second – along with the two home teams. The Swiss teams tactician Stuart Pollard, who replaces Olympic champion Anna Tunnicliffe in St Petersburg, explained the challenges on the water: “Today was a pretty tough day, the breeze was shifting around a lot and we had big holes, and unfortunately we found a couple of them. In days like this it’s always still about the pressure, even though there’s quite a large current running through the racecourse, it’s always the breeze that wins out, you’ve got to make sure you’re sailing in the pressure and that’s what makes the difference. Tomorrow we need to just stay in the wind, avoid the holes and that will make the difference.”
One man determined to give no quarter in Saint Petersburg is Jérôme Clerc with his talented crew on Realteam, and the Swiss lake champions clocked two fourth places, to hold onto third place, tied on points with Emirates Team New Zealand. Lurking just behind them are the British on J.P. Morgan BAR, and a win in the first race of the day helped upgrade the team’s overnight position from sixth to fifth place. The team’s four-times Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie commented: “It’s a tricky place to sail. But it’s beautiful and it’s very special to be racing on the Neva River – a pretty unique experience for all of us. The racing has been a real challenge but we are going okay so far. Hopefully we will keep moving forward and improving in the final two days.”
Four points further back in sixth place are the Danish match racing experts and co-skippers of SAP Extreme Sailing Team, Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner, who are four points ahead of one of the most diverse sailors on the circuit, Franck Cammas and Groupama sailing team.
A seventh and an eighth place for GAC Pindar – who has its third skipper of 2014 in Olympic gold medallist Nathan Wilmot helming in Saint Petersburg – was enough for the Aussies to gain a place on the leaderboard. They are now one point ahead of Oman Air, skippered by Rob Greenhalgh, which had a mixed bag of results today with a tenth and a second place.
Aas Greenhalgh elaborated: “The results are pretty mixed all over, we had a bad and a good race today, but with two races you can’t really look into it too much. It’s a great place here, it’s just a shame that the wind isn’t quite playing ball. You have to start well, look out for the puffs of wind and try and make the most of it.”
Gazprom Team Russia struggled to gain a foothold in the tough conditions, and were punished hard today, losing two places on the leaderboard, as were the Olympic champions on Red Bull Sailing Team, who have struggled to get to grips with the short-track stadium racecourse, currently in 11th place.
With two days remaining and with less then 20 points separating the top seven teams, the game has just begun.
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 46 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 43 points.
3rd Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Denis Girardet, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wassem 40 points.
4th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Peter Burling, Ray Davies, Blair Tuke, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 40 points.
5th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Phil Sparks, Matt Cornwell 35 points.
6th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Peter Wibroe, Nicolai Sehested 31 points.
7th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Romain Motteau, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 27 points.
8th GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Troy Tindill, Ed Smyth, Seve Jarvin, James Wierzbowski 22 points.
9th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, Kyle Langford, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 21 points.
10th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Paul Campbell-James, Matt Adams, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 17 points.
11th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Nick Blackman, Stewart Dodson 12 points.
12th RussianFirst (RUS) Georgy Shayduko, Sergey Dzhienbaev, Pavel Kalinchev, Leonid Kazinets, Pavel Karachov 5 points.