An ecstatic Leigh McMillan and his crew on board The Wave, Muscat won Act 2 of the Extreme Sailing Series with a race to spare, a feat rarely achieved on the circuit, and move into the lead for the overall Series.
But, after 29 races watched by over 55,000 spectators, it came down to the final double points decider to determine who would stand next to the Omani team on the podium. After a fairly disastrous start to the day, Hagara's hopes of challenging for first place were gone but Red Bull Sailing Team
got their act together in the last three races to clinch 2nd place, in what is there first event podium position since Muscat 2011. After starting the day in fifth place, the all-French Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
were the comeback kings today, steadily toppling their opponents to claim the final spot on podium.
There were a few anxious faces on the dock this morning as the weather forecasters predicted the same conditions as that fateful day in 2011 that saw an incredible four capsizes. The wind built gradually throughout the day but the effects of the low weather system only began touching the Extreme 40 fleet on Fushan Bay in the final double points race, with increasing poor visibility from the ever encroaching rain clouds.
The Wave, Muscat
came out fighting and made their intentions clear from the first start gun - winning the opening race of the day. Going into the final double points race, and to his surprise, McMillan had an untouchable lead. McMillan said, "We are thrilled to have won here in Qingdao and to have a second and a first place for the first two events is very good stuff for us. We weren't necessarily expecting to win here. It's been a tight competition and Red Bull Sailing Team have been performing very well this week and always getting closer and closer, and pushing us harder and harder."
Everybody's eyes were on the four teams who were in contention for second place going into the final race, with only 6 points separating them. It was the Danish entry, SAP Extreme Sailing Team
who won the race - a repeat of their final race win performance in Act 1 in Muscat - whilst Hagara's men held their nerve, and position, to finish second. It was a hard day on the water for the Austrians who at one stage looked like they had lost hope of finishing on the podium as they slipped to fifth place. The team, who sat top of the podium for the first two days in Qingdao, were toppled by The Wave, Muscat
yesterday and today they seemed to be continuing on the downward trend until the final three races which finally saw Hagara get back in the game. "The whole team is really happy especially as we were leading the first two days then we had a really bad third day. The last day the beginning was really hard for us and we made some really bad decisions on the racecourse so ending up in second place on the podium is great for us and the whole team really deserved it because we pushed really hard."
A fourth for Groupe Edmond de Rothschild in the final race also secured their place on the podium, "Before the last race we could have ended second or sixth overall so I feel satisfied about our third position because we are on the podium again,"
said skipper of the French favourites. "We know that this is what we must do to win the Championship."
It wasn't all celebrations today and a frustrated Ian Williams on board GAC Pindar was narrowly denied a podium finish, which has so far eluded the British sailor, "It was a shame for us… The last race really didn't go our way - it was tough with Mark Ivey's sickness and the change of crew halfway through today so we lost our rhythm a little bit. But on the positive side to be doing the last race in with a shot of second overall so we're pleased with the week overall, just a little bit disappointed at the end."
Co-organised by the Qingdao Yachting Association, China's 'City of Sailing' has once again demonstrated how they became such a successful Olympic sailing venue. Staging a flawless event with a spectacular opening ceremony, an inclusive social programme for schools and public, and a grand closing ceremony that even the rain could not dampen.
Next step of the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series, Act 3 Istanbul, Turkey 7-10 June.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 2, Qingdao, China overall standings after Day 4, 29 races
Position / Team / Points
1. The Wave, Muscat
(OMA) Leigh McMillan 189 points
2. Red Bull Sailing Team
(AUT) Roman Hagara 174 points
3. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
(FRA) Pierre Pennec 171 points
4. GAC Pindar
(GBR) Ian Williams 164 points
5. Oman Air
(OMA) Morgan Larson 162 points
(FRA) Loick Peyron 158 points
7. SAP Extreme Sailing Team
(DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen 130 points
(SUI), Pierre-Yves Jorand 129 points
9. China Team
(CHN) Phil Robertson 74 points
Extreme Sailing Series website - www.extremesailingseries.com