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Morgan Larson has one hand on the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series trophy after Alinghi snatch victory in Nice

Posted on 06 October 2014 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Extreme Sailing Series] Morgan Larson and the Swiss team Alinghi snatched victory from the hands of their fellow countrymen Realteam in the final race at the Extreme Sailing Series in Nice, to take victory on French waters in front of thousands of spectators – and with that they now have one hand firmly placed on the 2014 Series trophy. With only one Act to go this year, Alinghi have extended their lead at the top of the Series leaderboard to eight points over The Wave, Muscat, but with 20 points up for the taking in Sydney, and five teams capable of a podium position, it’s not over until it’s over, and as Larson commented, it is just getting harder and harder to win races. “We were confident at the start of the year that we had a little bit of an edge, but now the rest of the field are showing some real force. I think now you are seeing the future. More than half the fleet have the ability to win an event, and that’s exactly what we’re going to see going into Sydney. That event is going to be worth double points, and if we go out with a bad performance and The Wave, Muscat or Emirates Team New Zealand come in with a strong one – we’re going to lose. So we’ve got to go out and try and get back on the podium.”

Alinghi’s biggest Series rivals The Wave, Muscat needed to pull something special out of the bag today after starting in eleventh. The team showed early signs of recovery, winning two of the first four races, but Leigh McMillan and the teams hopes were dashed when a penalty took him from third to last in race five, from which they never recovered, to finish the regatta in eighth. “We said we would push hard, we did and we won some races. We’ve really learnt from these lessons”, commented a pragmatic McMillan. “We’ve had a pretty good run for the last two and a half years and it’s only a matter of time before you slip up and make mistakes. You learn from those, and we’ll be going into Sydney very much looking to win.”

Alinghi are one step closer to the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series championship title. Nice, 5 October 2014. Photo copyright Lloyd Images

Realteam, who led for the first two days in Nice, have been impressive on the French Riviera but couldn’t quite hold off the more experienced Alinghi. The Swiss team, who has improved Act by Act this year, took second overall, matching their season best from Act 3, Qingdao, which skipper Jerome Clerc was satisfied with. “We are really happy to finish second on this Act. We sailed very well today but unfortunately we did very badly on the last race which counts double and is key to win. But this is part of the game; we are a young team compared to Alinghi which has a strong experience on this kind of Stadium Racing. Everything remains open for the last Act of Sydney where points count for double, so I am sure it will be a fierce battle.”

J.P. Morgan BAR had their strategy sussed today, using the same tactics in every race start to come off the pin end of the line, and their persistence paid dividends. The Brits, led by four-times Olympic champion Ben Ainslie, scored two race wins and fifth place in the final race of the day was enough to finish in third overall – their second podium position of the year. “It was another really tough day here, as they all have been, with the winds changing a lot and the tough competition. But we seemed to find our feet a little bit more and get a good solid set of results together and finish on the podium so we are really happy with that”, said Ainslie. “It’s been challenging for all the teams but for us it’s been really good in a number of ways, we have worked on a different areas and we are happy with how we developed through the week.”

Seven races were sailed on the final day, with 29 in total over four days, and the threatening thunderstorm played havoc with the breeze, causing big shifts that meant mistakes were punished hard. The Austrians on Red Bull Sailing Team were unphased, and had great upwind speed today, which propelled them up the leaderboard from eighth at the start of the day to fourth overall, just missing out on their first podium position of the year by one point. Summing up the team’s week, the teams skipper Roman Hagara commented: “It’s very good for the team. We were improving over the last couple of days so I think it’s good motivation for the last event, and we know we can do it, which is really good. It was a tough start for us, we had our heads down on the first and second day and we just thought: this is not how we want to perform here. On the first day we struggled in the light winds, so we changed tactics each day and it just got better and better and in the end it worked out really well for us. It’s just little improvements but it really helps.”

Emirates Team New Zealand came home a respectable fifth place, which has secured them third on the overall Series rankings place heading to Sydney, while GAC Pindar secured their best result of the year, finishing in sixth place.

In seventh was SAP Extreme Sailing Team, who have steadily improved as the week has progressed to finish in seventh, with the home favourite Groupama sailing team finishing in ninth, and tied with The Wave, Muscat. Rob Greenhalgh’s Oman Air finished in tenth, with Phil Robertson and Gazprom Team Russia bringing up the rear, who struggled to replicate their early regatta form.

Only four days of racing are left this year with mathematically five teams: Alinghi, The Wave, Muscat, Emirates Team New Zealand, Realteam and J.P. Morgan BAR, capable of a podium position as the fleet head Down Under to Sydney, Australia for the final Act of the year. The fleet will race on one of the world’s most famous waterfronts in the heart of Sydney, with the Opera House and Harbour Bridge providing the iconic backdrop. Over 30 races are left to decide the 2014 Series champion and only one thing is for sure; it is going to go down to the wire!

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 7 Nice standings after Day 4, 29 races (5.10.14)
1st Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 183 points.
2nd Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wasem 171 points.
3rd J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Campbell-James, Bleddyn Mon, Matt Cornwell 161 points.
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Thomas Cjakgak, Stewart Dodson 160 points.
5th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Peter Burling, Glenn Ashby, Blair Tuke, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 156 points.
6th GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Seve Jarvin, Hugh Styles, Tyson Lamond, James Wierzbowski 146 points.
7th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Christian Kamp, Brad Farrand 145 points.
8th The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 143 points.
9th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Tanguy Cariou, Valentin Bellet, Arnaud Jarlegan, Devan Le Bihan 143 points.
10th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Ted Hackney, Kyle Langford, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 138 points.
11th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Phil Robertson, Garth Ellingham, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 133 points.

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A day to forget for The Wave, Muscat in Nice

Posted on 04 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Extreme Sailing Series] The third day of racing on the French Riviera for the Extreme 40s could prove to be one of the most defining days of the whole 2014 season, with the leaderboard well and truly blown open. There were plenty of movers and shakers in the rankings, but the most significant moves came from Alinghi, who came to Nice with a slender one-point lead in the Series rankings, between them and the team challenging them for the season title, The Wave, Muscat. The Swiss took an impressive 54 points from a possible 70, while the Omanis could only add 21 to their tally, and the result: Alinghi lead, The Wave, Muscat last going into tomorrow’s final showdown, leaving The Wave, Muscat now planning their damage limitation strategy.

Explaining what worked for them today, Morgan Larson commented: “Sometimes in the light air, if you just focus on your positioning, your tactics and your starts and ignore the other boats – it works. That was our strategy this morning; ignore the other boats. I know I keep my loose eye on The Wave, Muscat all the time, and the team remind me to just sail the boat well, and we did that – which in turn will put the pressure on them. It’s working, but there’s still a lot of races to go.”

For the defending champions from Oman it was a day of sailing they will want to forget. But while the team are down, they are by no means out and when the pressure is on, Leigh McMillan has more then enough ability to rise to the challenge and bounce back, which the team’s tactician Sarah Ayton was positive about: “It was a really tough day – the conditions were such that if you had a good start then you could lead either into the left or into the right and that’s were the gains were. As a team we are solid, our roles, routines, the synergy on the boat is good – so we’ll just take a bit of time to reflect on our performance and have another go tomorrow.”

Realteam, who have led the regatta since day one, did well to maintain their podium position and head into tomorrow in second place, just 10 points behind Alinghi, and three ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand, somewhat to the relief of Skipper Jérôme Clerc. “It was a tough day for us, we are surprised by the overall standings because we didn’t think we had a good day. The plan of attack for tomorrow is to continue to navigate as we did the first few days, it is quite regular and strategy work. The mindset will also play a role tomorrow because it is going to be complicated; everyone will want to attack and be on the podium.”

Seven races were sailed, and with so much at stake, the teams took plenty of risks in the light conditions, often rolling the dice and trying to break away from the pack to make gains. On the tight and congested racetrack, mistakes were punished hard; misjudge the start and there was no coming back, find yourself stuck in a hole in the wind and sufferer the consequences. Those who could minimise mistakes and stay out of trouble rose to the top, and it was a great day of racing for Rob Greenhalgh and the team from the Sultanate of Oman, Oman Air, scoring two race wins to upgrade their overnight position from eighth to fourth at the close of play. “It was a difficult day, we didn’t start off brilliantly but then we had a string of reasonable results all the way through,” said Greenhalgh “We were good downwind and made some good decisions. We will go out tomorrow and do the best we can – the team has made excellent progress and we hope to continue to.”

Behind them is J.P. Morgan BAR who had a consistently inconsistent day like much of the fleet, currently in fifth place and leading the middle of the pack. Just one point behind are the new boys from Down Under on GAC Pindar, and while it has been a steep learning curve this season the team are getting better Act by Act, as skipper Nathan Wilmot explained: “I think we’ve learnt a lot over the last couple of regattas. Generally we are being more consistent although we had a couple of bad races today. I think we are learning a lot and up there fighting at the top of the fleet in a lot of the races, so we’ve just got to try and keep it up and hopefully we’ll keep doing it come Sydney.”

Gazprom Team Russia tumbled a few places on the leaderboard, and finish the day tied on points with Red Bull Sailing Team in seventh place. Roman Hagara and his crew had a much better day, making the right sort of waves to move up from eleventh to eighth at the close of play and their double Olympic champion skipper Roman Hagara explained what was different: “We sat down as a team yesterday and tried to analyse all of the things we did that were both bad and good, and then came up with a plan for today. So we’ve continuously improved over the last three days, and that’s what we’ll try and do tomorrow.”

As is the way in Extreme Sailing Series, the final double points race can be a shoot-out that always has twists and turns, and expect tomorrow to be no different, with any team mathematically capable of a top three finish at the close of play.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 7 Nice standings after Day 3, 22 races (4.10.14)
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) 135 points.
2nd Realteam by Realstone (SUI) 125 points.
3rd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 122 points.
4th Oman Air (OMA) 120 points.
5th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) 110 points.
6th GAC Pindar (AUS) 109 points.
7th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) 106 points.
8th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 106 points.
9th Groupama sailing team (FRA) 105 points.
10th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 98 points.
11th The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 95 points.

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Swiss dominate on day two in Nice

Posted on 03 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Extreme Sailing Series] Swiss skipper Jérôme Clerc managed to fight off the challenges of the encroaching pack to keep Realteam at the top of the leaderboard on the second day of the Extreme Sailing Series™ in Nice as the pressure builds with just two days of racing left. The interest from the fans on the beach was huge – and so is the expectation on the teams, with all of the dockside talk already focused on the implications of this Act to the 2014 Series standings. Only 26 points separate first from eleventh place at the close of play – little more than the final double points race – in what is shaping up to be one of the closest, and most crucial, Acts of the season.

Onboard with Realteam's helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis on the second day of racing in Nice, France. Credit Lloyd Images

Onboard with Realteam’s helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis on the second day of racing in Nice, France. Credit Lloyd Images

Behind Realteam a whole host of teams are beginning to really challenge. Riding on their wave of success from the 49er world championships, and their nomination for ISAF World Sailors of the year, Pete Burling and regular sailing partner Blair Tuke and the experienced hands on Emirates Team New Zealand, clearly had the winning strategy worked out. The Kiwis started the day in sixth, and a string of consistent results has elevated them to second. Talking about their crew rotation this season, Burling commented: “Every event you go into, you go in with the aim of wining it. The good thing is that I’ve only sailed about eight days with Jero (Lomas) and four with Glenn (Ashby) and obviously loads with Blair, but the combination is just getting stronger and stronger.” Going on to talk about the day’s racing: “I didn’t think we actually had such a great day so thought we would be a bit further back on the scoreboard than second, but we’re just a couple of points off the lead which is what we’re looking at so we’re really happy to be in touch and to still be improving how we’re sailing.”

The Extreme Sailing Series 2014, Act 7, Nice, France.Credit Lloyd Images

The Extreme Sailing Series 2014, Act 7, Nice, France.Credit Lloyd Images

Gazprom Team Russia continued to impress, staying in touch with the leading pack in third place, with the current Series leaders now just one point behind them. After struggling to get out of the blocks yesterday, the Swiss team was on the march today, clocking up more points than any other, taking 49 from a possible 70. Talking about the mood and communication on board that helped the team to make it their day, helm Morgan Larson commented: “Anna (Tunnicliffe) said to us during racing today: you know what, we don’t need to win races, we just need to win points and if we get thirds all day long I’ll be super happy. So those are words from a champion that has the confidence, and she’s definitely that. It was good for all of us to hear it, because we were looking for some magic to win the races.”

The battle behind is raging with J.P. Morgan BAR and GAC Pindar tied on 75 points, and the defending Series champions The Wave, Muscat a point behind – an uncomfortable position for Leigh McMillan who is gunning for his third consecutive Series win this year. But as McMillan pointed out, there is a long way to go and plenty more points for the taking. “We have got plenty of game left in us for the next few days, although it may not look like it on the leaderboard. We did a lot of things well, but unfortunately the mistakes we made were big ones and cost us a lot of points. We’re working well as a team, the consistency onboard is really good – we’ll keep pushing.”

The Extreme Sailing Series 2014, Act 7, Nice, France.Credit Lloyd Images

The Extreme Sailing Series 2014, Act 7, Nice, France.Credit Lloyd Images

Seven windward-leeward races were sailed in a typical Mediterranean light sea breeze and beautiful sunshine delivering a stunning afternoon of racing. The home boat Groupama sailing team struggled to replicate yesterdays wining form, only adding one race win to their tally along with a string of results in the bottom three, which leaves the home boat in ninth place. Skipper Franck Cammas, however, was confident they could turn it around: “We won a race today and that is a positive thing and it shows what we are capable of. Now we just need to be more consistent. It’s all about the details and lost metres here and there, and that’s what makes all the difference.”

SAP Extreme Sailing Team found the form that was missing yesterday, to secure two race wins. The team clocked up a credible 40 points, but struggled – like many – for consistency in the tricky conditions, and finish the day tied on points at the tail end of the leaderboard with Red Bull Sailing Team.

Tomorrow is the penultimate day in Nice, and the pressure on the teams is palpable, with everyone improving race by race, and the pressure mounting.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 7 Nice standings after Day 2, 15 races (3.10.14)
Position / Team / Points
1st Realteam by Realstone (SUI) 92 points.
2nd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 84 points.
3rd Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) 82 points.
4th Alinghi (SUI) 81 points.
5th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) 75 points.
6th GAC Pindar (AUS) 75 points.
7th The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 74 points.
8th Oman Air (OMA) 73 points.
9th Groupama sailing team (FRA) 71 points.
10th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 66 points.
11th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 66 points.

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Realteam, Gazprom Team Russia and Groupama excel in Nice

Posted on 02 October 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Extreme Sailing Series] Light winds dominated the opening day of Act 7 of the Extreme Sailing Series™ in Nice, France calling for pin-point precision from the teams as the battle at the penultimate Act of the 2014 global tour began on the sparkling Mediterranean waters. There was change in the air with the newer teams on the circuit calling the shots and Realteam had all the right tactics and boat speed as the fastest average team according to the SAP sailing analytics. The Swiss team scored two first and two seconds places finishing the end of day one in pole position, and skipper Jérôme Clerc commented: “With these light wind conditions, it is even harder to be ahead all the time but I think we have been able to find a good strategy for the day. I think we have to continue with this spirit and try to limit the bad races.”

Gazprom Team Russia had their best day on the circuit on the opening day where the team finished in second position.Credit Lloyd Images

Gazprom Team Russia had their best day on the circuit on the opening day where the team finished in second position.Credit Lloyd Images

Despite not scoring in race two after sailing the wrong course whilst leading, Gazprom Team Russia sailed an impressive day, scoring two race wins to claim second place overall, on equal points with the all-French fixture on Groupama sailing team skippered by Franck Cammas at the close of play. Team Russia’s skipper Phil Robertson, who only took over the tiller at Act 5 Cardiff, spoke about ‘fine-tuning’ their Extreme 40 for light wind racing. “Your whole set up changes with your rig tuning and speed wise, the whole balance of the boat changes. We talk about these factors after every race, whether we need to make any changes or not and as a whole, chat about what we can improve on. That was really good today and the boys put in a big effort to make sure we were going fast. The trick now is just to keep that rolling. The hard part is having another day like this over the next three days, and keep as consistent as possible when we’re not having such a great day so that’s the key.” The Aussie team GAC Pindar, led by Olympic gold medallist Nathan Wilmot had their best start to a regatta this year, coming out of the blocks quickly and sailing consistently to finish the day in fourth place. Cool as ever, Wilmot commented: “We just kept plugging some good races in now and then, and in the lighter air you have a little more time to think about what’s going on. We just tried to sail the boat fast around the course and stay out of trouble with everyone and it seems to have worked well today. It’s pretty hard out there and it can be frustrating so it’s quite hard on the brain when trying to figure out where to go, but if we can keep the boat going around the course nicely we’ll be there doing alright at the end.”

The French local team, Groupama sailing team excelled on their home waters for Act opener in Nice, France.Credit Lloyd Images

The French local team, Groupama sailing team excelled on their home waters for Act opener in Nice, France.Credit Lloyd Images

Ben Ainslie and the British on J.P. Morgan BAR made the right sort of waves in the opening races, and looked to be in imperious form, but a penalty in the third race followed by a start line collision with Alinghi cost them valuable points. The Brits finish the day in a credible fifth place, tied with Emirates Team New Zealand, helmed here by Pete Burling, fresh from a successful defense of the World 49er title in Spain. J.P.Morgan BAR’s bowman Matt Cornwell explained what it was like on the course. “It was very tricky, very light and very easy to put yourself in situations where you’re looking to be in the top three, and then very quickly you can be in the bottom three, so it’s very hard to get those calls right. I think it was the same for everyone and there’s a lot of teams out there that looked frustrated with today’s racing but actually I think we’re all on similar points and it’s all very tight.”

Act 7, Nice 2014 - Day One - 2 Oct 2014. Credit Lloyd Images

Act 7, Nice 2014 – Day One – 2 Oct 2014. Credit Lloyd Images

It wasn’t such a pretty story for the current Series leader Alinghi, and their long-standing dueling partners The Wave, Muscat who both found themselves in the bottom half of the fleet more then the top today. The pair finish the day tied on 39 points in seventh place, leaving themselves with a bit of work to do over the next three days. Despite managing to finish a handful of races in the top three between, Oman Air, Red Bull Sailing Team and SAP Extreme Sailing Team all struggled in the light airs finishing the day in ninth to eleventh respectively. The opening day is just a shakedown of what is to come over the next three days here in Nice, and expect plenty more twists and turns on the leaderboard.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 7 Nice standings after Day 1, 8 races (2.10.14)

1st Realteam by Realstone (SUI) 51 points.

2nd Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) 48 points.

3rd Groupama sailing team (FRA) 48 points.

4th GAC Pindar (AUS) 45 points.

5th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) 44 points.

6th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 44 points.

7th Alinghi (SUI) 39 points.

8th The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 39 points.

9th Oman Air (OMA) 33 points.

10th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 30 points.

11th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 26 points.

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Extreme Sailing Series returns to Nice for the penultimate Act of 2014

Posted on 26 September 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Extreme Sailing Series] Act 7 of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series™ global tour is just around the corner, as some of world’s best sailors prepare to descend once again on to the shores of Nice, France, for the penultimate Act in the battle for the 2014 crown. The event will be broadcast live online to fans around the world from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th October 1530-1700 local time (GMT+2) daily, and nationally in France on Canal Sport+  on Saturday and Sunday.

Three Act victories so far this year puts Alinghi top of the Series leaderboard, and the Swiss team, helmed by Morgan Larson, will welcome back Olympic champion Anna Tunnicliffe as tactician in Nice. Tunnicliffe, a two-times ISAF World Sailor of the Year knows all about the pressure of competing and spoke about the team’s focus for the Act. “The fleet is very strong, especially now towards the end of the season. Every point counts. The smallest mistake costs a lot on the scoreboard. Our main goal is to win the Act. We can’t just focus on one boat, there are too many good teams on the course.”

Just one point behind Alinghi is The Wave, Muscat fresh from a second place at the last Act in Istanbul just two weeks ago. As defending champion of not only the Series but also the Nice Act, the team’s British helmsman Leigh McMillan knows what it takes to win on the French Riviera. “Nice can be a whole variety of conditions, so we have to be ready for anything. We just need to continue the form we have had for the last two events. We are always improving and working well as a team, so more of the same is the aim.” Looking at the bigger picture, McMillan continued: “The events are too long with too many races to be concerned with one boat, but as the end approaches, we will have Alinghi in our sights.”

Following fantastic form in Istanbul that saw the Kiwis take their first Act win of the year, you wouldn’t bet against Emirates Team New Zealand, who will be reinforced by Glenn Ashby as well as Pete Burling and Blair Tuke – a duo who are quickly earning a reputation as the hottest property in sailing right now. “We know that anything can happen in Nice and we will look to get as much out of the training day as possible, that hopefully will set us up for a good week of racing. Pete is taking turns at the helm with Dean (Barker) throughout the season and this crew rotation is something we decided at the beginning of the year to try different onboard configurations with the different guys, which is working out well. We go into Nice with the intention of keeping a podium position with 2 Acts to go”, said bowman Jeremy Lomas.

The British team J.P. Morgan BAR is currently leading the second half of the fleet, where the battle is just as close, with just nine points separating the Brits in fifth place, from Groupama sailing team in tenth, with SAP Extreme Sailing Team, Oman Air, Gazprom Team Russia and Red Bull Sailing Team all sandwiched between them. J.P. Morgan BAR’s trimmer, Nick Hutton, who won the Series in 2010, spoke about the importance of a good result in the French Riviera. “We have been addressing what worked and what didn’t so we can move things forward, ready to come back fighting in Nice. It’s the second to last event in the Series, there’s not much time left to get the points in the bag and we want to deliver – it’s a great venue and we are looking forward to some solid racing.”  

Groupama sailing team will be back to full strength welcoming their skipper Franck Cammas back to the fray, who missed Act 6 whilst competing in the Nacra 17 ISAF World Championships in Santander, Spain. Tactician Tanguy Cariou spoke about what to expect from their home waters: “Nice will offer a new racecourse and some different conditions from all the other Acts this season. The last two years the winds have been very strong so who knows what might happen this year! Nice is also a beautiful city and it will be very interesting to expose both the boats and the Stadium Racing to the French public.”

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Emirates Team New Zealand break Alinghi and The Wave, Muscat’s dominance

Posted on 14 September 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Extreme Sailing Series] In some of the best conditions the fleet have raced in all year, you couldn’t have scripted a better final to the Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 6 in Istanbul, and the fans on shore and following around the world were rewarded with a nail bitingly close, down to the wire shoot out after 31 races. The 12 Extreme 40s blasted around the track in 20-23 knots, reefs in their mainsails, with the lead changing hands in almost every race. As fortunes swung one way, and then another, Dean Barker and the crew on Emirates Team New Zealand needed to put two boats between them and The Wave, Muscat in the final race to take the win – and they did just that, clinching their first Act win of the year – the first time a team other then Alinghi or The Wave, Muscat have won an Act since 2012. “It’s always good to get on the plane after a good one rather than a bad one, so I’m just really happy with the way the guys have just responded after what was a really tough result in Cardiff (where the team came last) and every now and then it’s good to get a good kick up the backside to make you realise you have to work hard for these. We’ve improved each day and it was just a really close, hard event,” Barker commented.

Act 6, Istanbul 2014. Credit: Lloyd Images

Act 6, Istanbul 2014. Credit: Lloyd Images

Heading into the final race, mathematically Alinghi could have taken the Act win, but with their eyes on the 2014 season prize, their focus was locked on The Wave, Muscat and keeping them off the top spot. The Swiss had done their maths and knew exactly where they wanted their season rivals to finish, working hard to force them deep into the pack and out of contention for the Act win. “We had an outside chance to win that last race and we did one lap of the race still trying to win, not knowing what could still happen. Then we got to the final lap and it was clear that if we continued to win the race with Emirates Team New Zealand second, then The Wave, Muscat may have won this Act. So we were thinking of the overall Series, we just had to let the Kiwis go, and then go back and hold The Wave, Muscat back a little bit because they were coming out strong. They’re such a good team, picking off boats one by one and so we just had to try and block them back and make it so we got second.”

The Wave, Muscat finished the penultimate day at the top of the leaderboard in Istanbul. Credit: Lloyd Images

The Wave, Muscat finished the penultimate day at the top of the leaderboard in Istanbul. Credit: Lloyd Images

Despite missing out on top prize in Istanbul, McMillan and the team on The Wave, Muscat did what they came here to do: beat Alinghi and narrow the gap on the 2014 rankings. However, that gave little solace to McMillan, who commented after the win: “It was close points between us and Emirates Team New Zealand, but unfortunately Alinghi obviously didn’t want us to win and so they got in the way during the race and made our life pretty difficult. We’re frustrated, the last two days we’ve sailed really well. There are two more Acts, and we’ve beaten Morgan Larson at the last two, and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing. Second or first at this event, it doesn’t make any difference really because it can come down to Sydney and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Rob Greenhalgh’s Oman Air finished the regatta in fourth place, their strongest performance of the season, going better than their pre-Act target of sixth place, as Greenhalgh commented: “It has been a tough event as usual but we have finished fourth, which we are happy with. It has been hard work for everyone. The crew have worked really hard and have done a very good job. We are improving and refining the details and everyone wants to do better so they get upset when there are mistakes but that’s what happens when expectations improve. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going and put a good performance in Nice”.

The fleet power off the startline with Istanbul's Blue Mosque providing the backdrop. Credit: Lloyd Images

The fleet power off the startline with Istanbul’s Blue Mosque providing the backdrop. Credit: Lloyd Images

It was a good day for SAP Extreme Sailing Team, all the time making steady progress and narrowing the points gap to finish in a solid fifth place after starting in the day in eighth. Just six points behind is Groupama sailing team – a season’s best for the French under the guidance of skipper for this Act, Tanguy Cariou. Racing at this level, as one of the very best teams in the world, things don’t always go to plan, as the French found out on the opening day, when they dismasted. Missing four races and languishing in last place, the team still managed to bounce back to finish sixth overall, and their persistence, commitment, and performance on the water, earned them the Land Rover Above and Beyond Award.

With the penultimate Act of 2014 in Nice, France just over two weeks away (2-5 October), there will be many lessons learnt here and rivalries are burning stronger than ever. Alinghi hang onto the overall lead with 55 points but their advantage over The Wave, Muscat has been narrowed to just one point. Looking ahead Larson summarised: “It’s a fresh event and we’ll have to come out strong, try to have some great results – it will all be on. If we have some good results and things go our way, it will be nice going into Sydney but it’s going to be close and with double points in the final event I’m sure it will come down to the last race”.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 6 Istanbul standings after Day 4, 31 races (14.09.14)
Position / Team / Points
1st Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Glenn Ashby, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 210 points.
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 204 points.
3rd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 188 points.
4th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Ted Hackney, Kyle Langford, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 169 points.
5th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Christian Kamp, Brad Farrand 154 points.
6th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Tanguy Cariou, François Morvan, Romain Motteau, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 148 points.
7th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Bleddyn Mon, Matt Cornwell 143 points.
8th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Nick Blackman, Mark Bulkeley, Shaun Mason, Stewart Dodson 142 points.
9th Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Cédric Schmidt, Thierry Wassem 135 points.
10th GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Jack Macartney, Ed Smyth, Seve Jarvin, Tyson Lamond 130 points.
11th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Phil Robertson, Matt Adams, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 126 points.
12th TeamTurx (TUR) Mitch Booth, Can Bayülken, Selim Kakış, Deniz Çinar, Anıl Berk Baki 85 points.

Extreme Sailing Series™ 2014 overall standings
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) 55 points.
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 54 points.
3rd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 43 points.
4th Realteam by Realstone (SUI) 36 points.
5th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) 29 points.
6th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 24 points.
7th Oman Air (OMA) 23 points.
8th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) 23 points.
9th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 23 points.
10th Groupama sailing team (FRA) 20 points.
11th GAC Pindar (AUS) 6 points.

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A remarkable penultimate day’s racing for Extreme 40s in Istanbul

Posted on 13 September 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Extreme Sailing Series] The tankers and cargo ships on one of the world’s busiest shipping channels, the Bosphorus Strait, were replaced this morning with the magnificent sight of a fleet of Extreme 40s, as traffic was shut down for a spectacular passage race right through the heart of Istanbul. If navigating the channel and racing past some of Istanbul’s most spectacular Ottoman architecture wasn’t remarkable enough to open the penultimate day’s racing at Act 6 of the Extreme Sailing Series™, eight full on, adrenaline-fuelled races were sailed and as always, it is tight at the top between the leading pack heading into tomorrow’s final showdown.

Act 6, Istanbul 2014 - Day Three - 13 Sep 2014. Credit: Lloyd Images

Act 6, Istanbul 2014 – Day Three – 13 Sep 2014. Credit: Lloyd Images

Race Director Phil Lawrence summed up an extraordinary day’s racing: “The Bosphorus is one of my favourite races. You’re sailing around this fantastic waterway and it’s very rare that they’ll stop all the ships and the scenery is just absolutely fantastic.” Going on to talk about this afternoons racing, “Full-on would sum it up. It was pretty breezy, we had full mainsails – we didn’t go to a reef, so it was right on the limit for that. The sailors did a great job.”

The defending champions of the Series, The Wave, Muscat have held onto the advantage they had coming into the day, despite picking up no points in race six for not completing a starting penalty for which they team are hoping for a redress. Breathing down their necks after two races wins is Dean Barker and Emirates Team New Zealand, but Barker hinted they would like to go one better: “It was a great experience to do the Bosphorus race this morning and to take a look around there, then we moved into the stadium. We had a good day, and if we’d have said at the beginning of the week that we would be two-points behind the leaders going into the last day, we would have taken that. So we’re happy with the way it’s going, but you’ll always love to do better.”

Act 6, Istanbul 2014 - Day Three - 13 Sep 2014. Credit: Lloyd Images

Act 6, Istanbul 2014 – Day Three – 13 Sep 2014. Credit: Lloyd Images

Oman Air are continuing to ride on their season high, holding onto third place, but giving them a run for their money is a revitalised Alinghi, who had fire in their bellies and mistakes to be remedied today. The team, helmed by Morgan Larson, made every point count, as tactician Stuart Pollard explained: “Yesterday it wasn’t so good for us in the starts, but today we sorted that out. We sailed consistently around the race track and ended up getting us some points on the board which is good because we needed it after yesterday. Tomorrow we will need more of today, sailing consistently, sailing clean and sailing fast.”

The fleet couldn’t have asked for better conditions for this afternoon’s racing, with 20 knots on the course that saw the crews muscle their overpowered Extreme 40s around the track – at times on the edge of control. Keeping it clean, staying out of the scraps at the marks and timing the starts perfectly was key, and a team who had that sussed today was Groupama sailing team. The French started the day in twelfth place, but two race wins and being the fastest average boat on the water – matched only by J.P. Morgan BAR to 13.77 knots according to the SAP analytics – saw the French begin to make their march, to put themselves in a solid fifth place at close of play. The team are now tied on points with Red Bull Sailing Team, leading the mid leaderboard battle, and after racing skipper Tanguy Cariou commented: “We really had a great day. François Morvan (helm in Istanbul) has done a wonderful job on the starts, he has really analysed the different race configurations and his understanding of the specificities of the Stadium Racing is improving day by day. Today’s results are really rewarding both for François and the entire team and it is really gratifying to know that we are back on track.”

Act 6, Istanbul 2014 - Day Three - 13 Sep 2014. Credit: Lloyd Images

Act 6, Istanbul 2014 – Day Three – 13 Sep 2014. Credit: Lloyd Images

J.P. Morgan BAR also had a better day today, relishing the bigger breeze and the chance to really stretch their legs. The team, who between them has five Olympic gold medals, took maximum points in two races, to finish the day in seventh place and on 110 points. The Brits most experienced Extreme 40 sailor is former Series winner Nick Hutton, who commented: “We are really enjoying the racing here in Istanbul. Everyday we have had good conditions with a nice breeze. It is a bit gusty at times, but we are starting to read it now, paired with the flat water and open racetrack it makes for some of the best sailing we have had. We are pleased with our boat handling and form today and it’s all to play for tomorrow.”

After yesterday’s impressive showing, the young Australian team on GAC Pindar struggled to get out of the scrum and into the top half of the pack under the intensity of the day’s racing. Their day went from bad too worse, when their final race was cut short following a collision with Gazprom Team Russia, which knocked the Aussies out of racing, leaving them with a night of repairs. Skipper Nathan Wilmot talked through what happened: “We were coming down to the bottom mark and Team Russia were behind with no over-lap. We went to go around the mark, they got a gust and hit us. They went through our port bow, and we’re not quite sure how bad it all is yet so we will wait and see, but it has been draining water out for the last 15 minutes. We were our own worst enemy out there today, and we were a little out of sync. We just missed a few things, battled hard and it didn’t go our way. Unfortunately it was probably our best race when the crash happened, so it was just one of those days.”

The battles at the top and mid leaderboard are raging, with three hours of racing left in Istanbul, and a final double points shoot out still to come, there will be no quarter given. Tune into the final day’s racing from 1530 local time (GMT+3) to watch the final races, and the winners be crowned.

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Unprecedented day with two dismastings at Act6 Extreme Sailing Series

Posted on 12 September 2014 by Ivan Bidzilya

[Source: Extreme Sailing Series] In an unprecedented opening day at the Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 6 in Istanbul, the public and national media witnessed some extraordinary adrenaline fueled racing, with every team pushing hard – and at times too hard, with two boats dismasting; first Groupama sailing team and then Alinghi. In near perfect sailing conditions that topped out at 20 knots, the French, with too much load on their rig at the windward mark, were the first to lose their new mast during race four, which disappointingly for the French came after their best start to an event this year. In a completely unrelated incident in the seventh and final race of the day, Alinghi suffered the same fate, with both boats now out of the water and with a long night in the pitlane to be back on the water tomorrow.

Alinghi’s helmsman Morgan Larson explained what happened: “In that last race we were leading at the mark, we unfurled the gennaker, got the bear away and then the rig broke in two spots. We pushed a little too hard in that puff, and then it just went. It’s the first time I’ve broken the rig in these boats so it’s probably a lesson I’ve learnt there. There is a limit and we found it.” There were no guest sailors onboard when either of the incidents happened, with Race Management closely monitoring the conditions all day.

With a steady north easterly breeze of 15 knots, and gusts up to 20, the fleet relished the chance to flex their seafaring muscles and stretch their legs in the open water format on the Marmara Sea, racing at the entrance to the Bosphorus, with the iconic Blue Mosque and its landmark six minarets in the background.

Emirates Team New Zealand showed a return to form after their last place in Cardiff just two weeks ago, hitting the accelerator as both the fastest average boat downwind at 16.27 knots, and upwind at 11.80, to finish the day tied on points at the top of the leaderboard with the defending Series champions, The Wave, Muscat. The Kiwi team’s skipper Dean Barker remained cool and measured after racing. “There’s still a lot of racing to go, but we had a good solid day. It wasn’t anything flashy, there is still a lot of things we can improve on and I’m sure everyone will be feeling the same way. It’s a difficult racecourse, it’s hard to get your plan right all the time and you make some gains and some looses. I think today we managed the racecourse pretty well and took the opportunities when they were there.”

Just one point behind them is the Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team who took maximum points in two of the seven races sailed, with co-skippers Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Kostner gunning for their first podium position of 2014. With just three Acts left this year, all the teams have turned it up a notch as they look to secure their positions ahead of the penultimate event in Nice, France. Red Bull Sailing Team, with Austrian double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara at the helm, have been relatively slow starters this year by their own accounts, but had their best start to an event, with a string of results in the top half of the fleet, leaving them in fourth place with 40 points.“We had really tricky conditions – shifty with a few gusts which mixed up throughout the day. You had to be good at the starts but there was a lot to lose and a lot to gain. We know that we can handle this breeze and our crew work today was fantastic – the boys just did a great job. We over-took people on manoeuvres and around marks which was really good,” summarised Hagara.

Two points behind the Austrians are Gazprom Team Russia, who were the fastest off the startline according to the SAP analytics, with GAC Pindar just one point behind them. For skipper and Olympic champion Nathan Wilmot, this is only his second Act at the helm, and after a steep learning the curve, the team are on an upward trend, as Wilmot elaborated: “It was good out there – we had some good starts, some good races I think we’re just learning how to sail the boat a bit more now, we’re getting better and better each time. We’ve tried different things each day and we seem to be getting the boat reasonably fast – so it’s all about putting it in the right spot and getting the team around the course. Today it was great out there actually, it was beautiful sailing.”

The event was officially opened with the skippers press conference, attended by Turkey’s top media as well as country and city officials, and co-Host Venue Partners Yandex and Palmarina. Tomorrow the event officially opens to the public, with three days of Stadium Racing, and the live video starting from 1530 local time (GMT+3) tomorrow. If today’s racing is anything to go by, you don’t want to miss it!

Full day results here

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