The dramatic city landscape of Qingdao provided the backdrop for the opening day of Act 2 of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series in Qingdao, China.
The horseshoe shaped Fushan Bay is home to the Extreme 40 fleet for the next five days surrounded by high-rise buildings of this huge industrial city, which is China's fourth largest manufacturing port also known as the 'City of Sails'.
Qingdao hosted the Olympic Sailing Competition during the 2008 Beijing Games in addition to being a stopover port for both the Volvo Ocean Race and the Clipper Race but the people of Qingdao haven't seen anything like the Extreme 40s before and although these first two days are non-public days, hundreds of public gathered along the huge pedestrian breakwater to see first-hand the boats in race mode.
Six races were staged today on the outside of the breakwater in a good easterly breeze between 10-15 knots and the 'open water' courses, still close enough for the spectators to follow each race unfold. The gloves were off from the beginning and it was clear the 11 teams were going to push for every inch of water, resulting in two minor crashes which saw Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
collide with Alinghi
and Red Bull Extreme Sailing
barrel into the back of team Niceforyou
It was Dean Barker
's (NZL) Emirates Team New Zealand
who had the better day finishing at the top of the leaderboard on 49 points.
Barker said, "We started off a little bit slowly and then we steadily improved, our worst result was a seventh. It was testing today as we haven't had the ideal preparation and I've been a little bit crook with food poisoning but it was good to get out there.
"The racing is really tight but it is the reason we are here, we want to test ourselves as much as we can against the best multihull sailors in the world, and this is the place to be."
The Kiwi campaign is gathering momentum from their impressive start in Act 1 in Oman, which saw Barker's men find their form over the final two days to finish fourth overall. And today's first, second, two fourth places, fifth and seventh place demonstrated that they are steadily on the upward curve.
The Wave, Muscat (Torvar Mirsky
(AUT)), Red Bull Extreme Sailing
(AUT)) and Artemis Racing (Santiago Lange
) ended the first day on equal points (47).
Lange, a six-time Olympian, bronze medallist in 2004 and competitor in Qingdao at the 2008 Olympic Games, was delighted with his first Extreme 40 experience, "I love it! I think we have had great wind conditions for Qingdao and I enjoyed it a lot.
"We have only practiced the day before and yesterday for a couple of hours so I felt that I was not going to perform 100% . It's the first time we sailed together and it was a challenge as I have some issues with the language especially in the heat of the battle!"
(AUT) was also enthusiastic with his team's performance, third overall in the standings equalling their overall podium result in Oman, the first time the Red Bull Extreme Sailing team made the Extreme Sailing Series podium, "Overall today was pretty good for us. We had some ups and downs but everybody was making mistakes and so were we but that is racing."
The Swiss-team Alinghi skippered by Tanguy Cariou
(FRA), helmed by Frenchman Yann Guichard, had a mixed day. They had two first places in race 3 and 5, but three results in the bottom half left them in fifth place overall after the first day. Max Sirena's Luna Rossa
improved in the second half finding some consistency to leave them in sixth place, a good eight points ahead of Act 1 victors, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild,
two second-places being their best race results of the day.
Chinese sailor, William Wu, on board Roland Gaebler
's Team Extreme had his first Extreme 40 race experience. Having had little time to train together, Gaebler's team will be looking to improve on their current tenth place standing as Act 2 unfolds.
Tonight the 11 teams will be attending the 'Official Opening Ceremony' at the Shangri-La Hotel attended by Qingdao's city dignitaries and the Qingdao organising committee.