The pressure is on at the halfway stage of the deciding Act of the Extreme Sailing Series in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the frontrunners hit the accelerators.
The four teams who are gunning for the 2012 Series podium are taking charge of the Act leaderboard - which is developing into one of the closest seen so far this season with only two points separating the top four teams.
Going into the final race of the day three teams were tied on points in the top spot - The Wave, Muscat, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Oman Air - but no one could right-off Red Bull Sailing Team and a second place in the final race for Roman Hagara propelled his team from fourth to first with the Austrian double Olympic gold medallist leading the charge as we reach the halfway stage of the regatta. "Yesterday we made a lot of mistakes. Today we improved a little bit, but we still aren't happy. It did turn out well at the end of the day, but we will have to pick it up for the last two days to come out on top. We've got a chance to be on the podium overall, that's the goal for the team, and that's what we are fighting for."
The conditions off Flamengo Beach were demanding - light breeze with gusts funneling off the surrounding mountains, which local expert and skipper of wildcard entry Team Brasil Torben Grael explained is the status quo for this area. The racing, however, was no less intense for the light winds, and eight races saw four different winners with the French on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild taking the lions-share winning an impressive four, putting their pursuit of the podium back on track after beginning the day in seventh place - a reminder to the other teams that no one should be discounted here. "It was a really good day - we are lying in third, but were able to close the points gap on the top boats which we needed to do today,"
commented skipper Pierre Pennec after racing. "Everything was running smoothly onboard and we are going into the final two days with all guns blazing,"
Leigh McMillan's team The Wave, Muscat - although yet to win a race in Rio - are tied on points with Hagara. The 2012 Series trophy is beckoning for them but by McMillan's high standards, the team was off pace today. "It was a frustrating day, we really felt like we were struggling and battling our way around in the middle of the fleet. It's a surprise to find we are still in the hunt to be honest so that's a huge positive for the team as we were feeling pretty down at the end of racing. We can take some relief from that and come back tomorrow fighting."
The Wave, Muscat's Omani stablemates Oman Air had a solid day and two race wins puts them within touching distance of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, one point behind on 79 and in fourth place.
The top four teams are far from safe in their positions here in Rio de Janeiro and they will be looking over their shoulders at both Alinghi and SAP Extreme Sailing Team who are within striking distance of their first podium positions this Series. With two days of racing left and up to 20 races, it is anyone's guess what shape the Act 8 Rio leaderboard will take when the 2012 Series comes to a close on Sunday 9 December.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 8, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil standings after Day 2, 14 races (07.12.12)
Position / Team / Points
1. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT), Roman Hagara 81 points
2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan 81 points
3. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec 80 points
4. Oman Air (OMA), Morgan Larson 79 points
5. Alinghi (SUI), Pierre-Yves Jorand 77 points
6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN), Jes Gram-Hansen 70 points
7. ZouLou (FRA), Erik Maris 63 points
8. GAC Pindar (GBR), Andrew Walsh 56 points
9. Team Brasil (BRA), Torben Grael 43 points