[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.”
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.