PRADA Luna Rossa (Photo by ACEA 2013/ Gilles Martin-Raget)

Austrians Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher, double Olympic Gold medalists in the Tornado catamaran, have entered the upcoming America’s Cup World Series Naples, scheduled Apr. 16-21.

The duo will sail under the banner HS Racing and race under the US flag in partnership with ORACLE TEAM USA.

HS Racing is one of nine crews entered in the regatta, which will also feature America’s Cup World Series leader ORACLE TEAM USA, second-placed Luna Rossa Piranha, third-placed Artemis Racing White, J.P. Morgan BAR, Energy Team, Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Swordfish and China Team.

Roman Hagara (Photo © Red Bull Content Pool)

“It is a dream come true for us,” said Hagara, 46, whose aim, along with tactician Steinacher and their crew is a top placing at the final event of the 2012-13 AC World Series season.

HS Racing’s crew also includes trimmer Herve Cunningham of France, bowman Graeme Spence of Australia and floater David Swete of New Zealand.

“We trained on the AC45 back in February in San Francisco and felt very good from the start,” said Steinacher, 44. “The boat is extremely difficult to handle at strong winds and it develops unbelievable forces, but we are happy to take on the challenge.”

Hagara and Steinacher were Gold medalists at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympics. They are also the sports directors for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, scheduled Sept. 1-4 in San Francisco.

“It’s great to have Roman and Hans-Peter involved,” said ORACLE TEAM USA CEO Russell Coutts. “They aim to be serious competitors and this is a great platform to launch their America’s Cup aspirations.”

Emirates Team New Zealand© ACEA 2013/ Photo Gilles Martin-Raget

Familiar names are lining up for the final AC World Series event, with sailors such as Dean Barker of Emirates Team New Zealand, Francesco Bruni and Chris Draper of Luna Rossa, Yann Guichard of Energy Team and Tom Slingsby of ORACLE TEAM USA scheduled to compete. Sweden’s Artemis Racing will be helmed by 23-year-old Charlie Ekberg, Sweden’s top 49er sailor and skipper of Artemis Racing/Swedish Youth Challenge for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. The Naples event will also feature the return of Mitch Booth to the helm of China Team, while Ben Ainslie will skipper his J.P. Morgan BAR team.

Team Korea, previously an America’s Cup World Series participant and Louis Vuitton Cup entrant, has withdrawn from further competition in the 34th America’s Cup. In a letter to the Golden Gate Yacht Club, the team indicated it has plans to enter the 35th America’s Cup.

Last year’s AC World Series Naples drew crowds estimated at 500,000, who were there in part to catch the debut of Luna Rossa Challenge 2013. Draper led his Luna Rossa Piranha crew to a thrilling win in the final fleet race. The victory kicked off celebrations among the tens of thousands of Italian America’s Cup fans lining the Naples waterfront to catch a glimpse of their heroes.

The conditions were as varied as any venue on the AC World Series. The fleet race finale was held in light wind and turned into a drifter at the finish. That occurred just two days after big wind and waves saw the AC45s powered up and leaping from the wave tops.

- Naples (ITA) - 34th America's Cup - America's Cup World Series Naples 2012 - Final day (Photo © ACEA 2013/ Photo Gilles Martin-Raget)

Extreme Sailing Series 2012. Act 1.Oman Final day of racing close to the shore.The Wave Muscat.   (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Extreme Sailing Series 2012. Act 1.Oman Final day of racing close to the shore.The Wave Muscat. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Massive Omani celebrations at The Wave, Muscat as Oman Air and The Wave score a one-two, squeezing out the French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild who had finished every day but the last on top

Going into the first Act of the Extreme Sailing Series 2012, the all-French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild led by Pierre Pennec were favourites on paper and few would have predicted the final outcome that saw Morgan Larson’s team on Oman Air triumph in their debut here in Muscat, Oman. Four teams were in contention for the podium going into the final double-points race – the new Danish entry, Team Trifork, won the race, but Oman Air did enough to secure victory after an intense battle with the favourites. Leigh McMillan’s team on The Wave, Muscat muscled their way into the two-way fight and raced brilliantly on the final day to finish 2nd overall ahead of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild with Austria’s Roman Hagara (Red Bull) in fourth, having been just one point behind the French going into the final race.

Extreme Sailing Series 2012. Act 1.Oman Final day of racing close to the shore.The Wave Muscat. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Extreme Sailing Series 2012. Act 1.Oman Final day of racing close to the shore.The Wave Muscat. ( Photo by Lloyd Images)

“It’s an amazing feeling! It was a challenging week and obviously our learning curve was quite steep,” said Larson. “But this was really hard racing and any team could have won going into those last couple of races and we were just lucky they went well for us.” Morgan Larson’s team that includes four-time Olympian Charlie Ogletree and Max Bulger from the States, Britain’s Will Howden and Omani Nasser Al Mashari competing in his second Extreme 40 season, held on to a marginal lead from the opening race today but in the fourth race of the day the pressure mounted… Pushed over the line at the start, Oman Air had to restart and trailed the fleet, Larson’s team finished 7th leaving them on equal points with The Wave, Muscat and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild 2 points adrift. In the next race, won by Loick Peyron’s team on ZouLou, McMillan’s team finished ahead of their teammates and pulled ahead by 1 point. By the end of the penultimate race the two Oman Sail teams were back on equal points going into the final double-point decider and Pennec’s team had to win the final race with Oman Air and The Wave, Muscat finishing no better than 6th place. It was too tall an order for the French favourites who managed to get ahead of their rivals to finish the race in 2nd but Oman Air crossed the finish line in 3rd to clinch overall victory after 4 days and 29 races.

“Surely I feel disappointed about not having sailed well today,” said Pierre Pennec, skipper, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. “But this is the nature of the sport and even if this sounds strange, I feel very happy about this week’s competition. I really enjoyed being on the water and despite the fact that this is my fourth year in the Extreme Sailing Series, we have learned a lot in these last few days. My new crew sailed here for the first time and they have shown great human, mental and technical potential. I think it’s fantastic that the two top crews here in Muscat are the local teams. They are going to be seriously competitive this season.”

It proved to be a thrilling opening Act to the season and, after five years of Extreme Sailing Series competition, there is a feeling that 2012 is going to be one of the closest yet. “It’s up to us to catch up and be competitive in China because the goal is to win overall. Third is still a good result – it could be worse! It’s a warning for us,” said Hervé Cunningham, tactician Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. Next stop China – Act 2, Qingdao 17th-20th April.

Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 1, Muscat, Oman standings after Day 4, 29 races (2.3.12)
Position / Team / Points

1st Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson / Will Howden / Charlie Ogletree, Nasser Al Mashari, Max Bulger 165 points
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Hashim Al Rashdi, Rachel Williamson 159 points
3rd Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec / Jean-Christophe Mourniac / Hervé Cunningham / Bernard Labro / Adeline Chatenet 155 points
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Graeme Spence, Pierre Le Clainche 148 points
5th GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams / Mark Ivey / Mark Bulkeley, Adam Piggot / Andrew Walsh 138 points
6th ZouLou (FRA) Loick Peyron, Philippe Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Bruno Jeanjean, Antoine Joubert 111 points
7th Alinghi (SUI), Ernesto Bertarelli, Tanguy Cariou, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey, Pierre-Yves Jorand 109 points
8th Team Trifork (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Kostner, Pete Cumming, Simon Hiscocks, Jonas Hviid 95 points

Quotes from the sailors:

Morgan Larson, skipper, Oman Air: “It’s an amazing feeling! It was a challenging week and obviously our learning curve was quite steep. But this was really hard racing and any team could have won going into those last couple of races and we were just lucky they went well for us. I’m sure there was a bit of beginner’s luck to this one and we just dug in and focused hard but I know its going to be a challenging season and we’ll get tougher conditions thrown at us and for sure we’re going to have to eat a few of them and we’re just need to keep enjoying the sailing as I think that was the key to our success working together. We knew if we held our position things would be good but in these boats you never know what can happen so you just have to keep on pushing all the way to the finish.”

Leigh McMillan, skipper, The Wave, Muscat: “All day long – we had some really great races, posted a win and some second places, but we couldn’t get away as they all just putting in good results as well. It was really tight and we’re very happy to get second, it came down to a very close light wind race and we got sucked in to a fight mid-fleet and Oman Air got away. But we’re really happy they got their win and it’s great for Oman as a whole.”

Hervé Cunningham, tactician, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild: “Some days you have days like this when nothing comes your way. I’m not looking for excuses but on board today nothing comes our way, it’s not working, bad rhythm, you just wake up a feel like something is wrong and it just shows on the water. The result was not good – few OCS’, too many penalties and lack of confidence because the team is old but it is a new crew. Hats off to Oman Air and The Wave. I understand that we are favourites but inside the team it is a new crew so there is no miracle, we are not as good as we were last year and the other guys have done better than us. They managed to sail at a higher level than us so its up to us to catch up and be competitive in China because the goal is to win overall. Third is still a good result – it could be worse! It’s a warning for us – it’s not going to be easy this year.”

Pierre Pennec, skipper, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild: “Surely I feel disappointed about not having sailed well today, but this is the nature of the sport and even if this sounds strange, I feel very happy about this week’s competition. I really enjoyed being on the water and despite the fact that this is my fourth year in the Extreme Sailing Series, we have learned a lot in these last few days. My new crew sailed here for the first time and they have shown great human, mental and technical potential. I think it’s fantastic that the two top crews here in Muscat are the local teams. They are going to be seriously competitive this season.”

Ian Williams, skipper, GAC Pindar: “We’re a bit disappointed with the overall result of 5th as I think maybe we deserve better. We were way off the pace on day two and those were the 20 points we gave away to pretty much everybody and after that it was very tough to get back.”

Roman Hagara, skipper, Red Bull Sailing Team: “The team did a good job but we had a few problems with communications and boat handling. We always worked hard in the races and came up from the back for the last race was not the best for us in the end but that’s the sport.”

Ernesto Bertarelli, skipper, Alinghi: “It was fantastic, fantastic. For me it’s great, a different format but I learnt so much every day, every race, it’s what I’m here for. I’m here to experience something different, something the excitement of this format and I really enjoyed myself. It’s close, it’s not very different from a normal regatta, it’s just that everything happens so much faster. In a normal regatta you have close contact or tactical situation with a boat maybe every 10 minutes, here it is every 15 seconds!”

Celebrations in Muscat Oman  (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Celebrations in Muscat Oman (Photo by Lloyd Images

 

Rasmus Kostner, Team Trifork co-skipper and tactician (Photo © Extreme Sailing Series)

Rasmus Kostner, Team Trifork co-skipper and tactician (Photo © Extreme Sailing Series)

 Fighting talk on the dockside, find out what the sailors expectations are ahead of the first day of racing for 2012 A new team in the form of Team Trifork from Denmark can finally be unveiled today as the 8th team in the starting blocks for the first Act of the Extreme Sailing Series™ 2012 in Muscat, Oman. The team will be co-skippered by Jes Gram-Hansen on helm and Rasmus Kostner, tactician, who both come from a World Match Racing Tour and America’s Cup background, alongside the youngest member of the team, 26-year-old Jonas Hviid-Nielsen on bow combined with the Extreme 40 race experience of Pete Cummings (skipper of the winning Extreme 40 team in 2009) and Simon Hiscocks from the UK. It has been a long journey for the Danish team that began a year ago as Jes Gram-Hansen explained: “Rasmus and myself went into different sailing programmes like RC44 and Farr 40 after the 32nd America’s Cup in Valencia but all the time our dream was to create our own team. We analysed what kind of circuit would be the one to go with, and with the changes to the America’s Cup and the Extreme Sailing Series being more and more the series to be in, we decided to try and build a team for the Extreme Sailing Series. So we invested all our money into buying a boat a year ago and then we spent most of the year in Denmark taking out business people from companies to show them what we love and what we think would be a good way to be involved in the project. We have long-support from Trifork (a software company) which we have in been a good relationship over the years along with our clothing partner, Simon Spurr, to help get us here to the start line in Muscat.” The team’s expectations are as you would expect for the ‘newbies’ to the tour: “We have a lot of respect for the guys who have been on the tour and some of them have sailed multihulls for a long time,” continued Jens. “We’re here to learn and I’m sure we will make some mistakes but we’ve got two great English guys with us, Simon Hiscocks and Pete Cummings, so, hopefully, they will keep us out of trouble! Hopefully, we’ll improve over the season with a longer term goal of overall victory in a couple of years time.”

Jes Gram-Hansen, Team Trifork co-skipper and helm (Photo © Extreme Sailing Series)

Jes Gram-Hansen, Team Trifork co-skipper and helm (Photo © Extreme Sailing Series)

After various stints of team training up the Omani coast at Massanah, the racing starts for real tomorrow, Tuesday, 28th February, in Muscat. The live race coverage will start at 1130 GMT on Wednesday (29th Feb), streaming on Thursday (1st March) and Friday (2nd March). Glamour conditions expected and the sailors are talking it up on the dockside…

Roman Hagara, skipper, Red Bull Sailing Team: “We’re starting with a new team here with 2 new crew members – new bowman, Graham Spence from Australia and an amateur sailor from France, Pierre, sailing as our 5th sailor for this event – so we’re looking forward it. We did some good training in Massanah and we’re ready for the first Act. We’ve capsized here before on the Asia Tour (09/10) then last year we made it to the podium. Our goal here is to make to the podium again.”

 Morgan Larson, skipper, Oman Air: “We’re looking forward to having some fun with the new team and doing really well. We’ve gelled really well with Will, Charlie, Nasser and Max so I think we’ve got a really good team. The competition is the highest it’s been in a while I think but I think we’ve got some great sailors on board and we’re expecting to be up at the front every race!”

 Leigh McMillan, skipper, The Wave, Muscat: “I think we’re in pretty good shape and we’ve done some good training races but we haven’t raced in anger against any of these guys yet. We hope to get on the podium and start the season well. I think on paper Groupe Edmond de Rothschild maybe favourites but we hope that by the time we get to the end of the season we’ll be challenging for overall victory.”

 Loick Peyron, helmsman, ZouLou: “I’m happy to be back here after a couple of years… We are here with a new team, good friends, good sailors although we have not raced together and we have only trained for 3 days which is not nearly enough. But the game is so interesting and so exciting, and I think it will be more ‘open’ than last year. We will be quite safe – I am fast but not furious! Tanguy Cariou, Tactician, Alinghi: “We all know the stadium racing is a very different game and we will have some good races and some bad ones! We made two training sessions with Ernesto in Massanah. I would say it is a new boat for him, a new format but we are used to sailing together on the D35 on the lake. There are new faces, new people and not all the teams have had the same level of training – I’m pretty sure that in Qingdao and Istanbul the strong teams will emerge but for the first event I’m not so sure, it’s a shakedown.”

EX40 catamaran fleet in action during a practice day. Close to the Muscat shoreline (Photo © Lloyd Images)

EX40 catamaran fleet in action during a practice day. Close to the Muscat shoreline (Photo © Lloyd Images)

Extreme 40s at Extreme Sailing Series Boston 2011 (Photo by George Bekris)

Extreme 40s at Extreme Sailing Series Boston 2011 (Photo by George Bekris)

21 Olympians, 36 AC campaigns, 7 circumnavigations, 47 World Championship wins – all-star 9 nation lineup for Extreme Sailing Series 2012

With less than two weeks to go until the Extreme Sailing Series™ in Muscat, Oman, the Act 1 team line-ups have been confirmed, revealing a stellar cast of top professional sailors. Following the final event of 2011 in Singapore last December, the team managers and skippers have spent the last two months securing the best crews possible to help take them to overall victory in 2012.

Once again, the team rosters include world-renowned sailors from a multitude of backgrounds representing 9 different nationalities. French sailing superstar Loick Peyron, Britain’s three-times ISAF World Match Racing Champion Ian Williams, Austria’s double-Olympic Gold medalist Roman Hagara return to the circuit, whilst American double-Olympic Gold medalist Charlie Ogletree and five-times America’s Cup sailor, Bernard Labro from France are two new faces gracing the roll-call. The teams boast an array of Olympic, America’s Cup, match racing and round the world credentials, as well as a sprinkling of ocean racing record setters. The two key cornerstones for success in this highly competitive circuit are experience and consistency and to this end 2011 runners-up Groupe Edmond de Rothschild from France and the Swiss team of Alinghi are keeping their crew changes to a minimum, whilst the two Oman Sail teams are sporting a near new line-up with only Leigh McMillan and Nasser Al Mashari retaining their places. And there are plenty of new team combinations for this season to spice up the competition!

Extreme Sailing Series Fleet (Photo by George Bekris)

Extreme Sailing Series Boston (Photo by George Bekris)

Key Stats:
21 Olympians
4 Gold Medalists + 1 Silver
50 Trans-Atlantics
36 America’s Cup campaigns
47 World Championships
28 European Championships
11 records
7 round the world circumnavigations

A new team for the year is ZouLou who will have the current superstar of sailing, Loick Peyron at the helm for Acts 1–3 prior to team owner Erik Maris taking over. One of France’s most well-known sporting exports and a legendary multihull expert who recently shaved almost 3 days off the non-stop round the world Jules Verne record, Peyron will return to the Extreme Sailing Series. In 2010 he was the skipper and helm of 4th place Oman Sail Masirah.

Peyron contrasts his recent experiences: “I can’t wait to go back to the Extreme Sailing Series with ZouLou crew, and especially to Muscat where I already spent a few weeks with the local team in 2009 and 2010. After two round the world tours in one year [Barcelona World Race and Jules Verne] I am really looking forward to going back to this intense racing amongst these top level crews.“

Groupe Edmond de Rothschild has retained their core team of Pierre Pennec on helm and Hervé Cunningham introducing two new faces on bow in the form of Bernard Labro and Jean-Christophe Mourniac who raced for another team in Singapore last December. The Swiss team Alinghi will be helmed by Ernesto Bertarelli supported by the regular Extreme 40 Alinghi crew including Tanguy Cariou, Nils Frei and Yves Detrey. Meanwhile, the renowned Austrian duo of Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher on the Red Bull Sailing Team have confirmed that Matthew Adams will be part of the regular racing crew and introduce ‘newbie’ Graeme Spence on bow who makes the step from shore team to race team.

GAC Pindar skipper Ian Williams has gone the extra mile to secure a crew who can race with him for the season: “We have assembled a really strong team this year with a great mix of different skill sets. The only real opportunities to practice will be before the first event in Oman and before Act 5 in Cardiff so having a consistent team will be crucial to improving from event to event.” His crew includes Mark Ivey, Mark Bulkeley, Adam Piggot and Andrew Walsh – all have raced with GAC Pindar for at least one event in 2011 – and this combination will be integral in continuing their upward trend on the leaderboard.

The Oman Sail teams of The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air return this year with only Olympic Tornado sailor Leigh McMillan and Nasser Al Mashari retaining their roles from last year. McMillan who skippered The Wave, Muscat into fourth place overall in 2011, has handpicked a team that includes previous Extreme 40 sailors Ed Smyth from the USA, Pete Greenhalgh who with his brother Rob won the inaugural 2007 Extreme Sailing Series, and they will be joined by newcomer Omani sailor Hashim Al Rashdi who has come up through the Oman Sail programme.

Oman Air, will be led by record setting America’s Cup sailor Morgan Larson: “I’ve followed the Extreme Sailing Series since its conception and to now be competing on the tour with such a talented group of competitors is a dream come true.” The team that last year had 3 different skippers including Britain’s Olympic star Ben Ainslie, will benefit from the Extreme 40 experience of Olympic sailor Will Howden and Omani sailor Nasser Al Mashari who raced in 2011 with Oman Air on bow, whilst double Olympic gold medalist Charlie Ogletree brings a fresh skill set.

In a test aimed at keeping opportunities open for new talent, the teams will race Act 1 with five sailors rather than four, plus a VIP guest or media person when appropriate. This additional 5th sailor must be either female or under 23, or be classified as an amateur by ISAF. Both The Wave and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild will sail with female sailors as a result – Rachel Williamson and Adeline Chatelet respectively – the first girls to race since Olympic gold medalist Shirley Robertson skippered ‘iShares’ in 2009.

An 8th team for Muscat is still to be announced.

Extreme Sailing in Boston (Photo by George Bekris)

Extreme Sailing in Boston (Photo by George Bekris)

Cardiff  © Nick Treharne

Cardiff © Nick Treharne

 

The UK round of the award-winning Extreme Sailing Series™ now in its sixth year will be staged in Cardiff the capital of Wales between the 24-27 August, 2012. In a three-year deal, Cardiff won the bid to host the UK event of this global sailing circuit that is only one of four events with ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Special Event status, positioning the city alongside the other seven premium international sporting venues hosting an Extreme Sailing Series Act in 2012. The host venue agreement with Cardiff City is backed by a Welsh Government grant for 2012-2014.

The Extreme 40 catamarans, raced by many of the world’s best sailors, will race on Cardiff Bay over four days with the event open to the public between the 25-27 August as the Extreme 40 fleet race in the circuit’s action packed ‘stadium’ format.

Executive chairman of the organising company behind the series, Mark Turner of OC ThirdPole, said: “The circuit continues to represent perfectly the developments in the world at large, with its balance of east and west, different cultures and languages and variety of conditions.

“Year on year the commercial value to the host cities of securing this event for the host venues has steadily increased, and this is reflected in 2012 developments. A pro-active and innovative host venue is critical to the success of the event, and we are very excited in this respect by the partnership with Cardiff and the Welsh Government.”

Cardiff Council’s Executive Member for Sport, Culture and Leisure Cllr, Nigel Howells commented: “It’s great news that Cardiff has secured the Extreme Sailing series for the next three years, as a council we will do all that we can to support the event.

“Cardiff has proved time and time again that it can play host to a variety of world class sporting events. From top class football and rugby to newer events like Extreme Sailing. Since the opening of Cardiff International White Water (CIWW) in 2010 more and more watersport events are coming to Cardiff, which is helping to attract a new audience to Cardiff and Wales.”

The 2012 Extreme Sailing Series will be staged at 8 different international venues across three continents, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators. Alongside other significant media exposure, once again a dedicated TV series will be produced and broadcast on up to 40 channels around the world, including CNBC, Bloomberg, Channel 4 (UK), Sky (UK), Al Jazeera, Fox (Latin America, Australia Middle East), ESPN, Sport+ (France), RAI (Italy).

As we enter the final countdown to the first Act in Oman, the 2012 team line-up will be revealed this coming weekend at the Dusseldorf Boat Show.

2012 Calendar & Host Venues:
Act 1 : Muscat, Oman 28th February-2nd March
Act 2 : Qingdao, China 17th-20th April*
Act 3 : Istanbul, Turkey 7th-10th June
Act 4 : Porto, Portugal 5th-8th July
Act 5: Cardiff, UK 24th-27th August
Act 6 : Trapani, Italy 13th-16th September
Act 7 : Nice, France 18th-21st October
Act 8 : Brazil 29th November-2nd December

Due to official Chinese naval activities in the port of Qingdao, Act 2 will now be staged between 17th-20th April instead of the 19th-22nd April as previously communicated

 

Extreme Sailing Series Boston  Artemis and Red Bull (Photo © George Bekris)

Extreme Sailing Series Boston Artemis and Red Bull (Photo © George Bekris)

 

Alinghi Team, skippered by Tanguy Cariou ,celebrate winning Act 8 in Almeria, Spain (Photo by Lloyd Images)

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It came down to the wire in the final double points race to determine the podium places of Act 8 in Almeria. Going into the final race the Swiss team of Alinghi were in a strong position to claim overall victory, only a major faux pas would have prevented what was rightfully theirs after such a strong performance over the last five days and 32 races. In the end, Tanguy Cariou’s team on Alinghi secured victory by one of the biggest points margins of 22 points over Italy’s Luna Rossa in 2nd place: “We are really happy to have at least one win this year,” said Alinghi skipper, Tanguy Cariou. “We tried to manage the risks today, we had good boat speed and good team work. It is great for us to have a win here, I am really happy for Yann and the whole crew. It is really good to show the teams that we can make it.”

However, the fight for second was by the closest of margins with Luna Rossa holding off Ben Ainslie’s Oman Air by just one point: “For me it was my first experience of multihull racing and I have learnt a huge amount, which for me is probably more important to me personally than the end result,” said Ainslie. “To finish on the podium for the second time in three events is a great team effort. It is a very high level of competition and when you look at the people on board the other boats, they are all extremely accomplished sailors. They are fighting for every inch and with the type of racing that we do it ends up being very tight as the races are so short, and invariably you end up with collisions and action creating some exciting racing! It’s been fantastic sailing with the team. Now it’s time for me to get focused on the Olympics.”

Almeria has for the last two years hosted the final of the Extreme Sailing Series championship. This year the Spanish round, attended by an estimated audience just shy of 70,000 spectators, has set the stage for the final in Singapore between the 7th-11th December. And it is Max Sirena’s team who now lead the overall 2011 rankings by just one point: “We now have a month before the boats get to Singapore and to be in the lead for that month is fantastic,” said Luna Rossa helmsman, Britain’s Paul Campbell-James. “It’s good to have the mental advantage of being in the lead going into the final Act.”

Ian Williams’ Team GAC Pindar scored their best ever result of 2011 with a 4th place here in Almeria, stealing it from Groupe Edmond de Rothschild on the final upwind beat in the final race. It was a tough day for the French team on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild who had been in contention for the podium throughout the event. But Pierre Pennec’s team is still in the game for the Extreme Sailing Series ultimate victory – on 68 points for the season with Luna Rossa on 69. Emirates Team New Zealand was given redress after yesterday’s crash and maintained 6th place ahead of double-Act winner The Wave, Muscat. Leigh McMillan’s team were struggling to find their form in the light air Acts. Red Bull Extreme Sailing also had a tough end of regatta – Roman Hagara’s crew still had everything to play for, lying in 8th overall, going into the final race but it was not to be.

The points have never been tighter and the final positions can be harsher looking than the reality of the competition. Whilst the frontrunners held their own private battle for the podium, it allowed others to shine through here on the final day. Alex Schneiter’s debut in the Extreme 40 circuit was rewarded with two race wins today, and they ended Act 8 in a respectable 9th place, four points ahead of Roland Gaebler’s Team Extreme and Alberto Barovier’s Niceforyou team on 135 points, his team enjoying a morale-boosting race win in the penultimate race.

But the applause goes to skipper Tanguy Cariou, helmsman Yann Guichard, trimmer Nils Frei and bowman Yves Detrey for Alinghi’s victory in Almeria – their first win of the season. Luna Rossa is now top the season’s leaderboard and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild will push them to the limit in Singapore. And there will be a very tight fight behind them for third place, with six teams able to fill that podium place for the 2011 season. Singapore will be a great battle!

Extreme Sailing Series Act 8, Almeria, Andalucia (Spain) standings after 32 races (16.10.11)
Position / Team / Points

1st Alinghi (SUI), Tanguy Cariou / Yann Guichard / Nils Frei / Yves Detrey 254 points
2nd Luna Rossa (ITA), Max Sirena / Paul Campbell-James / Alister Richardson / Manuel Modena 233 points
3rd Oman Air (OMA), Ben Ainslie / Kinley Fowler / David Carr / Nasser Al Mashari 232 points
4th Team GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams / Mischa Heemrskerk / Andrew Walsh / Brad Webb 218 points
5th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec / Christophe Espagnon / Thierry Fouchier / Hervé Cunningham 216 points
6th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Adam Beashel / Ray Davies / Jeremy Lomas / Derek Seward 213.5 points
7th The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan / Kyle Langford / Nick Hutton / Khamis Al Anbouri 209points
8th Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Matt Adams / Craig Monk 202 points
9th Team TILT (SUI), Alex Schneiter / Boet Brinkgreve / Charles Favre / Nicolas Heintz 155 points
10th Team Extreme (EUR), Roland Gaebler / Nahid Gaebler / Antón Paz / Tom Buggy 151 points
11th Niceforyou (ITA), Alberto Barovier / Stefano Rizzi / Daniele De Luca / Simone de Mari 135 points

Extreme Sailing Series 2011
Overall standings after 8 Acts
Position / Team / Points

1st Luna Rossa 69 points
2nd Groupe Edmond de Rothschild 68 points
3rd Emirates Team New Zealand 60 points
4th Alinghi 59 points
5th The Wave, Muscat 57 points
6th Red Bull Extreme Sailing 53 points
7th Artemis Racing 48 points
8th Oman Air 47 points
9th Team GAC Pindar 29 points
10th Niceforyou 18 points
11th Team Extreme 18 points

Luna Rossa and Red Bull Sailing In Almeria, Spain (Photo by Lloyd Images)

GAC Pindar Leads Act 8 in Almeria, Sain (Photo by Lloyd Images)

ISAF World Match Racing Champion, Ian Williams, has helmed Team GAC Pindar to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of Act 8 in Almeria. This is the first time his team has ever led the overall standings in the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series global tour. The third day of the penultimate round in Spain, ahead of the final in Singapore, saw three different teams take the lead throughout the afternoon. Five races were completed today – two in open water and three inside the port of Almeria in stadium mode. Ben Ainslie helming Oman Air went into day 3 leading but nothing seemed to go there way today, and Emirates Team New Zealand pounced with Adam Beashel’s team taking the top spot after the first race held in open water in a reasonable sea breeze. The Kiwis fended their position, despite not scoring a race win and losing a crew overboard in the second race, whilst Alinghi and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild dominated at the front with two wins for the Swiss team and a victory for the French. But always in the background was Team GAC Pindar sailing strongly – a 4th, 5th, then a second, gaining their momentum until they were on equal points with Emirates Team New Zealand at the top. Tanguy Cariou’s team, driven by Yann Guichard, won the second stadium race in light airs and leap-frogged into the lead. Going into the final stadium race of the day, Alinghi and Team GAC Pindar were on 89 points each and further down the leaderboard the points situation could not have been closer with only 1 or 2 points separating the top 8 boats in a tactical game of snakes and ladders throughout the afternoon. The faltering sea breeze seemed to recognize the importance of the final day’s race and revived itself to allow the boats to show a good turn of speed on the short course. The Wave, Muscat and Team Tilt got a flying start ahead of Team GAC Pindar whilst Alinghi got stuck mid-fleet off the start, and that was that. Wiliams’ team was away and never looked back, 3rd place enough to take the lead going into the penultimate day of Act 8 tomorrow: “It was a really good day for us and we finished on the top half of every single race today,” said Williams. “For sure we will be fighting to try to retain the lead. Looking at the points it’s almost like a restart. We were 20 points behind last night and now we are 2 points ahead the second boat. It’s extremely tight, we will going down to the wire!” The weekend crowd is in for a treat as the forecast is showing a significant turning up of the wind speed dial for tomorrow and on Sunday the final battle will be played out to determine who wins in Almeria, and who will lead the 2011 Championship rankings going into the final Act. “Obviously with only two days to go we know by experience that anything can happen,” said Alinghi skipper, Tanguy Cariou. “We’re happy with that position tonight but we know that it will be even harder to keep it than to get it…” He is right about that – the all-French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, the Italians on Luna Rossa, the Kiwis on Emirates Team New Zealand and the Brits on Team GAC Pindar will be fighting them all the way…

Extreme Sailing Series Act 8, Almeria, Andalucia (Spain) standings after 14 races (14.10.11) Position / Team / Points

 1st Team GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams / Mischa Heemrskerk / Andrew Walsh / Brad Webb 98 points

2nd Alinghi (SUI), Tanguy Cariou / Yann Guichard / Nils Frei / Yves Detrey 95 points

3rd The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan / Kyle Langford / Nick Hutton / Khamis Al Anbouri 93 points

4th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Adam Beashel / Ray Davies / Jeremy Lomas / Derek Seward 90 points

5th Luna Rossa (ITA), Max Sirena / Paul Campbell-James / Alister Richardson / Manuel Modena 88 points

6th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec / Christophe Espagnon / Thierry Fouchier / Hervé Cunningham 85 points

7th Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Matt Adams / Craig Monk 84 points

8th Oman Air (OMA), Ben Ainslie / Kinley Fowler / David Carr / Nasser Al Mashari 80 points

9th Team Extreme (EUR), Roland Gaebler / Nahid Gaebler / Antón Paz / Tom Buggy 70 points

10th Team TILT (SUI), Alex Schneiter / Boet Brinkgreve / Charles Favre / Nicolas Heintz 62 points

11th Niceforyou (ITA), Alberto Barovier / Stefano Rizzi / Daniele De Luca / Simone de Mari 59 points

The fleet on the start line in stadium mode In Almeria, Spain( Photo by Lloyd Images)

Muscat The Wave In Front of Spectators (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Despite winds gusting into the 30s and a grim sky suggesting the onset of winter, so in the late afternoon the wind dropped below 20 knots and the turning tide flattened out the sea to allow racing to begin on the penultimate day of the Extreme Sailing Series Act 5 at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week.  Perhaps the greatest surprise given the damp overcast weather was the huge turn-out of spectators crowding to Egypt Point, and the beach surrounding the Extreme Sailing Series Race Village.

 

Spectators watch the Fleet From the race village (Photo by Lloyd Images)

The Extreme 40 crews have been tested to the limit in the breezy conditions that have dominated Act 5, and it has been a case of ‘taming the 40-foot beast’ to the best of their abilities. Asked to compare their Extreme 40s to an animal, the skippers came up with some surprising answers!

By the time racing started later than usual at 1640 BST the wind had dropped to the teens. “It was quite windy, gusting to almost 20 knots so it wasn’t nearly as ‘extreme’ as we have had for the rest of this week: nice and flat water as well which made the tacking and boat handling a little easier, so you didn’t see too many rudders out of the water today, but still a windy day and a hard day to battle a boat around the course,” described Luna Rossa helmsman Paul Campbell-James.

Alinghi helmsman Tanguy Cariou said that in the conditions it was still hard work on board: “It was really physical, really tough for us especially at the end as you had to come in so close to the shore before tacking it was quite difficult, but I think we were quite solid and I think anything could happen tomorrow.”

 The 11 Extreme 40s were divided into groups as the conditions on the penultimate day were still on the limit to race the fleet in one group with reefed mainsails but gennakers permitted after the first two races much to the publics delight.  With half of the fleet racing at a time, the tactical objective for the crews was to get as far into the shore as possible on the beat to make the best of the favourable eddy off Eygpt Point and definitely out of the 2.5 knot counter current offshore. As Campbell-James put it: “There was one way to do it – to come off the line, hit the beach and push your luck on the rocks. Whoever nailed that strategy was the guy who usually came up in first at the windward mark.”

The most tense moments came on the first beat of each race when the Extreme 40s would get as close as possible into shore and occasionally not get enough room to tack. But despite some hair-raising moments none of the boats went aground.

In fact it was the strong tide that proved the major stumbling block with several crews underestimating the angle of the rope tethering the weather mark. As a result several snagged it on their rudders causing them to pop up, perhaps the most dramatic being when Luna Rossa careered off downwind seeming to gybe twice accidently before they got their Extreme 40 under control.

 Campbell-James described it: “We just skimmed the windward mark on the way round and that popped the leeward rudder up. It was pretty dangerous in the big breeze with the one rudder in and one out, so we got to the leeward marks and we stuck it head to wind, did our penalty while putting the rudder back down. It was all a bit of a drama, but we managed it. Alister [Richardson] hurt his back a little bit a bit in the process.”

Team Extreme suffered the same fate in the third race and crewman Benedikt Wenk cut his hand as he attempted to get the rudder back down. Wenk required a couple of stitches and Roland Gaebler’s team had to retire from racing for the day.

Star of today’s competition was ex-Tornado sailor Pierre Pennec and the crew of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild who won three of their four races. Their third race was the tightest of the day with Leigh McMillian at the helm of The Wave, Muscat first to the top mark with the French team on their transom. There were whoops from the crowd ashore as the French crew came close to rolling past their Omani rivals. However, the real coup for the French team came on the second run when The Wave, Muscat crew thought they had crossed the finish line only to find that the race had been extended to finish on the next upwind leg. This wavering allowed the French team to overhaul them and to take their third bullet of their day by a matter of centimetres.

 

Groupe Edmond de Rothschild skippered by Pierre Pennec tearaway and the bows dig in, spray everywhere © Lloyd Images

Alinghi won their third race of the day and Tanguy Cariou was satisfied with their performance. “Today it was quite good, quite solid team work and good manoeuvres. We fought well against the other opponents.” In contrast it wasn’t such a good day for the Italian team on Luna Rossa who prior to their rudder incident at the top mark had suffered a broken outhaul shortly after the start of the first race.

At the close of play The Wave, Muscat continues to lead with a margin of 10 points on Luna Rossa, Alinghi third with Groupe Edmond de Rothschild fourth, now just six point shy of the podium. But as Paul Campbell-James points out it could inevitably once again come to tomorrow’s double points-scoring final race.  “Leigh is in front of us as he had a really good day today, so we’ve just got to put in a solid day tomorrow and see what happens in the double points last race,” said Campbell-James. “Basically it will be man against man with Leigh which I have been doing since I was nine years old!”

The weather forecast for tomorrow is looking good – 11-15 knots and sunshine, which will mean the Extreme 40s can, once again, race as one fleet for the for the final day of Act 5.

Extreme Sailing Series Act 5 at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week
Current overall standings, day 6 (11.8.11)

Position / Team / Skipper & crew / Points

1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan / Kyle Langford / Nick Hutton / Khamis Al Anbouri 138 points
2nd Luna Rossa (ITA), Max Sirena / Paul Campbell-James / Alister Richardson / Manuel Modena 128 points
3rd Alinghi (SUI), Tanguy Cariou / Yann Guichard / Nils Frei / Yves Detrey 117 points
4th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec / Christophe Espagnon / Thierry Fouchier / Hervé Cunningham 111 points*
5th Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Will Howden / Luke Cross 104 points
6th Oman Air (OMA), Sidney Gavignet / Kinley Fowler / David Carr / Nasser Al Mashari 101 points
7th Team GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams / Mischa Heemskerk / Andrew Walsh / Jono Macbeth 93 points*
8th Niceforyou (ITA), Alberto Barovier / Stefano Rizzi / Daniele de Luca / Simone de Mari 81 points
9th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Adam Beashel / Richard Meacham / Andrew McLean / Chris Ward 73 points
10th Aberdeen Asset Management (GBR), John Pink / Rick Peacock / Greg Homann / John Gimson 69 points
11th Team Extreme (EUR), Roland Gaebler / Nahid Gaebler / Benedikt Wenk / Dan Morris 51 points
12th Artemis Racing (SWE), Santiago Lange / Andy Fethers / Michele Ivaldi / Phil Jameson 23 points*
 

Team Extreme skippered by Roland Gaebler powering along. (Photo by Lloyd Images)