Massive ten race day
A massive ten races were sailed on penultimate day of the Extreme Sailing Series in Saint Petersburg presented by Land Rover, with superb sailing conditions that saw six different race winners result in a shake-up on the leaderboard.
Three race wins for Alinghi saw the Swiss clock up an astonishing 74 points, to regain control of the leaderboard, which helmsman Morgan Larson described as his “best day ever” in three years on the circuit.
There were a handful of bumps and shunts, with a few of the teams running aground in the shallows of the beach, but the real story of the day were the movers and shakers of the pack, that saw huge gains made by J.P. Morgan BAR, SAP Extreme Sailing Team, Oman Air and Gazprom Team Russia, and with eight teams now eying the podium, it’s all perfectly poised for a colossal final showdown tomorrow.
Blue skies and 10 knots of breeze made for thrilling – if not slightly exhausting – racing, and the Russian public turned out in their thousands to support their two home teams and watch the fleet of 12 high-performance catamarans battle on the confines of the Neva, while fans around Russia followed the racing live with national broadcaster, NTV+.
Despite a handful of results at the bottom of the fleet, Leigh McMillan and The Wave, Muscat, who struggled for momentum, were able to hold off the onslaught from the ever encroaching pack to finish the day in second, while a final hour race win for Emirates Team New Zealand secured the team’s third place position, to skipper and Olympic silver medallist Peter Burling’s relief.
“It was a tough day, it was really puffy and just enough wind so that when you got a puff you got enough speed. It felt like we were getting a bit hard done by in a few of the races early on, so it was great to come away with a win in that last race and a bit of luck came our way.”
Both the five time Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie and his British team on J.P. Morgan BAR, and the co-skippers on the Danish outfit SAP Extreme Sailing Team – who have been the average fastest boat downwind this week according to the SAP analytics – were able to clock a win-a-piece today, and are on the edge of the podium, in fourth and fifth places respectively with just two points in it.
Back on dock, Ainslie was optimistic about the final day’s racing. “It was a great day for sailing here and it was fantastic to see conditions like this. Race Director Phil Lawrence and the race management team did a really good job to get as many races in as they could now that the conditions are so good – it was good racing. Like everybody else we had a few ups and downs but in general it was a good day for us. Tomorrow we need to keep winning some races, I think we’ve improved a lot this season and we felt good about the way we were sailing today. So if we can keep doing that and improving as a team the results will come from there.”
A string of consistent results for Oman Air – who won yesterday’s SAP Speed King Challenge – upgraded the team’s overnight position from ninth, to sixth – the biggest climbers of the day, while the home team Gazprom Team Russia had their best day of the season so far, managing to put two race wins in the bag, was one of the fastest boats off the startline – second only to Alinghi.
With less then 20 points separating the home nation team from third placed Emirates Team New Zealand, the Russian team’s helmsman Paul Campbell-James has his sights firmly set on the podium. “It was a day of highs and lows. As soon as the breeze comes up we’ve got good pace, we were fully in the mix today whereas yesterday I didn’t really feel that we were. Hopefully tomorrow there’s a good forecast with a bit more pressure again and we’ll be fighting – the podium is still on, and that’s the goal for tomorrow.”
Red Bull Sailing Team, which struggled to gain traction on the Neva in the first two days, turned that on its head today, with a scattering of good results including two race wins to boost them two places up the leaderboard to ninth.
Skipper Roman Hagara explained what was different onboard: “It was a much better day today. Yesterday we had a debrief, went through everything and changed the system a little bit on the boat, and it got much better. It was really tough, the conditions are tricky with gusts and shifting and the current is also in the game. It’s important for us to catch up on points, we need to make less mistakes and that’s the goal.”
Realteam, who have been a picture of consistency this week, were unable to gain a footing today, and have slid down the leaderboard from third to eighth place. Groupama sailing team also lost a frustrating four places today, and are now seven points behind the Australian GAC Pindar, who under the guidance of Olympic champion Nathan Wilmot, were able to pick up a place on the leaderboard in tenth place.
The scene is set for a massive final showdown tomorrow, with a double-points final race shoot out still to come, which if todays racing is anything to go by, could see the tide turn again on the leaderboard.
1st Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 117 points.
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 105 points.
3rd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Peter Burling, Ray Davies, Blair Tuke, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 93 points.
4th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Phil Sparks, Matt Cornwell 85 points.
5th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Peter Wibroe, Nicolai Sehested 83 points.
6th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, Kyle Langford, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 76 points.
7th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Paul Campbell-James, Matt Adams, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 75 points.
8th Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Denis Girardet, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wassem 72 points.
9th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Nick Blackman, Stewart Dodson 69 points.
10th GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Troy Tindill, Ed Smyth, Seve Jarvin, James Wierzbowski 61 points.
11th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Romain Motteau, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 54 points.
12th RussianFirst (RUS) Georgy Shayduko, Sergey Dzhienbaev, Pavel Kalinchev, Leonid Kazinets, Pavel Karachov 19 points.