The Wave takes the lead
What a difference a day makes. If racing at yesterday’s Extreme Sailing Series presented by Land Rovero n Cardiff Bay was all about power, today was about tactics and finesse, with light breeze dancing across the bay. Just five points scoring races were added to the tally – but five all important leaderboard changing races – with the pressure piling on the teams to lay down a strong performance ahead of tomorrow’s final day.
One team with huge pressure on its shoulders in Cardiff is The Wave, Muscat, which needs to win here to keep in touch with the top of the overall Series leaderboard. Skipper Leigh McMillan more than rose to the challenge, adding 33 points to his team's score to overhaul Alinghi, to take the lead heading into tomorrow’s racing.
McMillan is well aware of what’s at stake: “It’s very important for us to win tomorrow. We’ve been on the back foot with Alinghi this season so far and it will be good to get one back on them, that’s for sure. We’re solid as a team, everyone’s working really hard together so we are looking forward to closing this one out.”
The forecast was for eight to 10 knots, but three races in it looked like a complete shut down with just light zephyrs of breeze across the track. The teams thought it was all over, before the breeze filled in quashing those fears, and their patience was rewarded with eight knots and two final races, allowing the fleet to brush away their frustrations and really stretch their legs.
The change in conditions called for a change in mindset, as SAP Extreme Sailing Team’s co-skipper Rasmus Kostner explained: “You just have to keep focused and be ready for a race to come in late, which I think we were. We knew what we were fighting for but we didn’t execute it too well. It will be full on tomorrow, we are ready to fight until the end and really want to step up our game from today.”
It temporarily looked like the wheels had fallen off on Alinghi with Morgan Larson's Swiss crew unable to touch the top half of the fleet in the opening three races. But the team used the delay in racing to their advantage, debriefing and regrouping, to finish the day on a high with a fourth and second place.
A visibly frustrated Larson commented after racing: “It went quite badly - we couldn’t really do much worse. I didn’t come out on form, my head wasn’t clear and I wasn’t making clear decisions and lost us a lot of points, which we didn’t need. So it was disappointing, but the crew stayed tough and everyone was focused and we finished with some keepers. Luckily there is another day.”
For the first three races, the top of leaderboard was changing with every finish; first McMillan overhauling Larson, then Ben Ainslie taking advantage of a penalty against Alinghi to temporarily overhaul the Swiss, before Alinghi’s late surge secured them second place.
J.P. Morgan BAR now lies seven points shy of Alinghi, but with a fairly comfortable – but by no means untouchable – 20 point cushion over fourth placed Realteam.
Swiss skipper Jerôme Clerc was modest about his team’s performance after racing: “We need to sail thinking about the team rather than focusing on the podium. We managed to stay consistent and climbed one place in the ranking to fourth position, which is good. We are sailing well but we still have potential to improve. We will need to stay focused tomorrow and avoid big mistakes if we want to be within the top three. We have been on the podium twice this year so it would be amazing to show the consistency of our team, which is far from being among the favourites of the circuit.”
The battle mid-leaderboard is also raging, with SAP Extreme Sailing Team only three points behind Realteam, Oman Air a further six points back and Red Bull Sailing Team three points behind them in seventh place – and with 20 points up for taking in tomorrow’s final double points race, the podium is not an insurmountable challenge for any of those teams. There is frustration in the Kiwi camp for Emirates Team New Zealand, which has finished on the podium for the last three events, but for who tomorrow will be a big ask, with a 26 point deficit to Red Bull Sailing Team.
GAC Pindar is a further four points back, but were the form team of the day clocking up more points then any other, in what was the team's best day of the season, to gain a place in the rankings.
“I think windward-leeward courses suited us today, we tried to stay clean and away from the main pack, get good starts and it seemed to work. The first three races we had really good starts, good positioning and got away. The aim was to keep our noses clean and get away in good shape,” commented Aussie Olympic champion skipper Nathan Wilmot after racing.
Tomorrow will call with a shift in mindset, with a front on the way, bringing with it 25 knots and thunderstorms to round out what has so far been a spectacular event as the headline act of the Cardiff Harbour Festival.
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 172 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 165 points.
3rd J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Campbell-James, Bleddyn Mon, Matt Cornwell 158 points.
4th Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wassem 138 points.
5th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Jonas Hviid-Nielsen, Brad Farrand, Nicolai Sehested 135 points.
6th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Ted Hackney, Kyle Langford, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 129 points.
7th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Shaun Mason, Stewart Dodson 126 points.
8th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Ray Davies, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 110 points.
9th GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Hugh Styles, Ed Smyth, Seve Jarvin, James Wierzbowski 106 points.
10th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Phil Robertson, Matt Adams, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 105 points.
11th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Romain Motteau, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 99 points.