The pace stepped up a level at the halfway stage of the Extreme Sailing Series in Istanbul today, with a new look top three at the end of day two.
Leigh McMillan and The Wave, Muscat started the day in what McMillan described as "a pretty slow start, we had our knickers in a twist" but that didn't phase the British Olympian who came out swinging at the end of the day in pole position, overhauling Red Bull Sailing Team in the final race. But the 'man of the match' award today goes to McMillan's teammate Morgan Larson on Oman Air, who scored an impressive three race wins to propel his team into third place.
The sailors were preparing for a light wind day today after a short postponement to racing with just one knot of wind reported from the racecourse as they tried to get proceedings underway. Thirty minutes later and in 12 knots, the wind was up and the racing was off - but not for four of the teams, who were over the line in the opening race and were forced to restart. The pressure on the water was evident - throughout the day five of the eight-boat fleet were given a penalty on the start line - only ZouLou, Alinghi, and Oman Air stayed out of trouble, which paid off for Morgan Larson, who climbed from fifth to third at the end of the day.
Larson said of the competition, "Red Bull Sailing Team set a level early on in this regatta. It's a tough field but we will keep plugging away."
When asked what his expectations are here in Istanbul, Larson smiled, answering coyly, "Tomorrow is the day we really want to win. To go into the final day at the top of the leaderboard puts you in a strong position. We have more wind expected tomorrow so bring it on."
The battle between The Wave, Muscat and Red Bull Sailing Team felt reminiscent of Act 2 in Qingdao, when Hagara kept McMillan at bay for the first two days of racing, only to be overthrown by the Omani team after 17 races who ultimately went on to win the Act. In Istanbul, the tally was 12 races for Red Bull Sailing Team before McMillan stepped up his game in the final race with a win - enough to leave them with an advantage, albeit a very slim one point advantage, at the top of the leaderboard at the half way stage. A relieved, and somewhat surprised McMillan said, "You get off the water after a day like that and breath a big sigh of relief that you haven't completely messed things up! We always seemed to be in a bit of a battle fighting with boats. Well it is just a big shock to find out that after day two we are top of the leaderboard."
Hagara was obviously disappointed after racing today but there was fighting talk from the double Olympic gold medallist. "The good news is that we are still very close to the leader. We made a bad decision on the last race at the gate and it ended up costing us one point and I think it will be tight until the last race of Sunday, for double points, so we still need to be up there and try to get a podium. We were leading yesterday, then The Wave, Muscat are now, so now it´s up to us to put pressure on them and keep that until the last race."
Alain Gautier proved he is not only an offshore sailing legend today, but that he can also mix-it up with the best sailors of stadium racing winning the opening race of the day with his team on Alinghi, seeing them climb from seventh to sixth, while Erik Maris on ZouLou was not so fortunate losing two men overboard in the first race of the day - they quickly recovered and completed in the race with two rather wet, and slightly embarrassed, sailors on board. Nonetheless, as Erik Maris reacquaints himself with Extreme 40 racing in his first regatta since 2009 , the team is showing they can mix-it up scoring a second place in the final race of the day.
It will be an early rise for the teams tomorrow who will complete a morning race on the Bosphorus, a busy shipping channel where the teams will have to contend with ferries and strong currents. The NeilPryde Racing Series also begins tomorrow with a line-up of 95 Turkish windsurfers who will be battling for their share of US$3,000.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 3, Istanbul, Turkey standings after Day 2, 13 races (08.6.12)
Position / Team / Points
1. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan 74 points
2. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara 73 points
3. Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson Bulger 69 points
4. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec 66 points
5. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen 53 points
6. Alinghi (SUI), Alain Gautier 49 points
7. GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams 45 points
8. ZouLou (FRA) Erik Maris 39 points