ISAF World Match Racing Champion, Ian Williams, has helmed Team GAC Pindar to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of Act 8 in Almeria. This is the first time his team has ever led the overall standings in the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series global tour.
The third day of the penultimate round in Spain, ahead of the final in Singapore, saw three different teams take the lead throughout the afternoon. Five races were completed today - two in open water and three inside the port of Almeria in stadium mode. Ben Ainslie helming Oman Air
went into day three leading but nothing seemed to go there way today, and Emirates Team New Zealand
pounced with Adam Beashel's team taking the top spot after the first race held in open water in a reasonable sea breeze. The Kiwis fended their position, despite not scoring a race win and losing a crew overboard in the second race, whilst Alinghi
and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
dominated at the front with two wins for the Swiss team and a victory for the French. But always in the background was Team GAC Pindar
sailing strongly - a fourth, fifth, then a second, gaining their momentum until they were on equal points with Emirates Team New Zealand
at the top. Tanguy Cariou's team, driven by Yann Guichard, won the second stadium race in light airs and leap-frogged into the lead.
Going into the final stadium race of the day, Alinghi
and Team GAC Pindar
were on 89 points each and further down the leaderboard the points situation could not have been closer with only one or two points separating the top eight boats in a tactical game of snakes and ladders throughout the afternoon.
The faltering sea breeze seemed to recognize the importance of the final day's race and revived itself to allow the boats to show a good turn of speed on the short course. The Wave, Muscat and Team Tilt got a flying start ahead of Team GAC Pindar
whilst Alinghi got stuck mid-fleet off the start, and that was that. Wiliams' team was away and never looked back, 3rd place enough to take the lead going into the penultimate day of Act 8.
"It was a really good day for us and we finished on the top half of every single race today,
" said Williams. "For sure we will be fighting to try to retain the lead. Looking at the points it's almost like a restart. We were 20 points behind last night and now we are 2 points ahead the second boat. It's extremely tight, we will going down to the wire."
The weekend crowd is in for a treat as the forecast is showing a significant turning up of the wind speed dial for tomorrow and on Sunday the final battle will be played out to determine who wins in Almeria, and who will lead the 2011 Championship rankings going into the final Act.
"Obviously with only two days to go we know by experience that anything can happen," said Alinghi skipper, Tanguy Cariou. "We're happy with that position tonight but we know that it will be even harder to keep it than to get it…"
He is right about that - the all-French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
, the Italians on Luna Rossa
, the Kiwis on Emirates Team New Zealand
and the Brits on Team GAC Pindar
will be fighting them all the way…
Extreme Sailing Series Act 8, Almeria, Andalucia (Spain) standings after 14 races (14.10.11)
Position / Team / Points
1. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams 98 points
2. Alinghi (SUI), Tanguy Cariou 95 points
3. The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan 93 points
4. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Adam Beashel 90 points
5. Luna Rossa (ITA), Max Sirena 88 points
6. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec 85 points
7. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Roman Hagara 84 points
8. Oman Air (OMA), Ben Ainslie 80 points
9. Team Extreme (EUR), Roland Gaebler 70 points
10. Team TILT (SUI), Alex Schneiter Heintz 62 points
11. Niceforyou (ITA), Alberto Barovier 59 points