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19 April 2012, 08:31 am
Big Wednesday In Qingdao At Halfway Stage Of Act 2
Close Combat
Close Combat

Extreme Sailing Series: Act 2
Qingdao, China

The Extreme Sailing Series fleet went into stadium sailing mode and the intensity on the water ramped up a notch, with plenty of close calls, contact between the boats, penalties and an incredible 11 false starts from the eight races.
To the satisfaction of Austrian skipper, Roman Hagara, Red Bull Sailing Team managed to hold onto their lead, but the remainder of the fleet reshuffled the leaderboard at the end of play on day two. Hagara is not a man to easily show his emotions but he looked visibly pleased when he stepped on to the stage after racing. His widest smile came when the Chinese commentator asked him 'Why he was so handsome?'! Hagara is a bit of a local hero here in a city that is proud of its Olympic culture, having a double-Olympic gold medallist in their midst is a huge draw.

Racing started in 12 knots of breeze, within the confines of the natural stadium of Fushan Bay, the fleet had to contend with big gusts up to 17 knots funneling through the city skyline making the bear-away turn at the final mark a tense moment. With the 50m run to the finish boxed in either side by concrete, the Extreme 40 crews had to get it right as they hauled out the massive gennaker, bows digging in before sprinting to the finish. Getting it wrong, or fouling another boat coming into the turning mark, would have ended with a visit to the pit-lane for repairs.

It was all about the nailing the reaching start line today which proved problematic with 6 of the 9 teams being punished for being too eager off the line, putting them at an immediate disadvantage as they fought to claw back places. The Wave, Muscat notched up three false starts - and added another to their tally in the opening race when they mistakenly thought they were over the line. The team managed to hold onto their second place position overall, much to skipper Leigh McMillan's surprise. "I've got no idea how we are where we are! I think we got lucky and had a few gains in a few races… I think we got away with it today. To be in second position is massive shock. I thought the rest of the fleet were long gone, so its good to still be in the mix."

Red Bull Sailing Team
hold onto the top spot at the end of day two despite the efforts of the rest of the fleet - in particular those of Oman Air and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild who managed to make significant in-roads on the Austrian team's points lead. Although the French team's mainsail trimmer, Hervé Cunningham, was far from impressed, "The result is good but we made so many mistakes on board and we've really got to step up and get the level higher if we want to get a good result here. Roman is one step ahead and his team is one of the best boats on the water for the season, and we're not going to achieve anything if we keep sailing like this."

Record breaking round the world sailor Loick Peyron and his French flagged-team ZouLou had their best day since making their Extreme 40 debut in Muscat, consistently sailing at the top end of the fleet with their first race win in race two and three further top three finishes. Their efforts were enough to climb a place on the leaderboard, finishing the day in sixth place.

The local contingent China Team continued to draw in the crowds with 2008 Olympic sailor Yngling Summer Song on board. After frustratingly having to retire from race six to repair a broken gennaker furling line, the team made a sterling effort to come back in race seven to claim their first podium position. Kiwi skipper Phil Robertson was pleased with the team's performance but looking for improvements, "We were within the top three around the first mark in pretty much every race so the starts were great but from then it didn´t go as well. The conditions were perfect. It´s very difficult and frustrating at times but we are really enjoying the short and fast races."

The newest team on the circuit and the Series' first ever Danish representatives SAP Extreme Sailing Team began to find their feet in the stronger winds, winning their first race in the colours of their newly announced sponsor SAP. Ramus Kostner, one of the team's two Danish skippers said, "In the fourth race we had a really good start on the other guys and we were straight to the first mark in the lead and then just opened up the gap a little bit more. So for the whole race we could just enjoy looking at the fleet from the lead and that was a great feeling." SAP Extreme Sailing Team climbs a place on the leaderboard to eighth.

As the Extreme 40s go into the penultimate day tomorrow, the teams can expect plenty of more close racing on the short stadium courses as they fight to secure their positions on the leaderboard before the final day. Current event leader Roman Hagara was under no illusions that his position is safe. "All of the teams are really strong contenders - we could see it already in Oman. Due to our experience in Qingdao we could be regarded as the experts in open waters where we were yesterday but not inside the harbour. I think all the teams know what goes on inside the harbour."

Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 2, Qingdao, China standings after Day 2, 14 races
Position / Team / Points

1. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman 90 points
2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan 83 points
3. Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson 79 points
4. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre 78 points
5. GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams 75 points
6. ZouLou (FRA) Loick Peyron 72 points
7. Alinghi (SUI), Pierre-Yves Jorand 68 points
8. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen 50 points
9. China Team (CHN) Phil Robertson 34 points

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