The Extreme Sailing Series is preparing to make its Portuguese debut in just one week's time, with some of the best sailors of international yacht racing preparing to line up against one another as the 2012 Series makes it move towards its half way point
The Extreme 40s will race over four days from 5-8 July, with open water morning racing on the tempestuous Atlantic followed by stadium style action each afternoon, which will be broadcast live online on the official event website from 1800 CETfrom 6-8 July.
For the first time, the Extreme Sailing Series will be held on the famous Douro river, providing a perfect natural amphitheatre for the stadium style racing and excellent spectator views of the racecourse from the public Race Village located near the iconic Luís I iron bridge. At the mouth of the Douro, the hilly city of Porto is one of Europe's most charismatic and undiscovered cities. This ancient port which in recent years has undergone a remarkable regeneration, was registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. It is steeped in history and tradition, best know for its narrow medieval alleyways, baroque churches, outstanding monuments by renowned architects, and of course the famous Porto wine.
There will be new faces onboard six of the eight teams competing at Act 4 with only SAP Extreme Sailing Team and Red Bull Sailing Team and retaining the same crews.
GAC Pindar will sail under the guidance of new skipper with Extreme 40 veteran Andrew Walsh upgrading from the British team's trimmer to replace regular helm Ian Williams, as he continues his defense of his World Match Racing Tour title. Also joining GAC Pindar is Kiwi Jonathan 'Jono' MacBeth, a two times winner of the America's Cup and the only non-Brit onboard. Walsh or 'Walshy' as he is known in the sailing fraternity predicts a wild event. "I am sure there will be some nerves ahead of the first race, but I can take confidence from the team around me and after that there are far to many races and too much action to think about anything other than the next racing decision! Racing in Porto looks set to be as spectacular as ever; there is normally one event each year where the wind really blows, and the Series truly lives up to its name, and the rumors amongst the fleet are that Porto could be that event…"
Both of the Omani flagged teams will make one amend to their crew lists for Porto, each choosing young sailors with aspirations of Olympic glory at the 2016 Games. 21 year old Andy Maloney will take time out from his role as training partner to New Zealand's Olympic Laser representative Andrew Murdoch to join Morgan Larson on Oman Air, while 19 year old Welsh 49er sailor Bleddyn Mon will join Leigh McMillan on The Wave, Muscat.
Swiss titan Ernesto Bertarelli is back in the driving seat of Alinghi with his regular crew after missing Act 3 in Istanbul, while Groupe Edmond de Rothschild will get a new edition in the form of 23-year-old Swiss sailor Arnaud Psarofaghis, who has already made quite a name for himself sailing with the French AC45 Energy Team.
ZouLou will have their third skipper in as many Acts, with one of the most experienced multihull skippers in the world with Fred Le Peutrec taking the reigns from Erik Maris for one Act only. Le Peutrec has a multitude of Olympic campaigns and world records to his name, most recently smashing the Jules Verne round the world record onboard Banque Populaire with Loick Peyron earlier this year. Despite his multihull experience, Le Peutrec is still looking forward to the challenge of 'rediscovering' sailing an Extreme 40. "I have been sailing on multihulls for the last 25 years but because I haven´t sailed on an Extreme 40 for a long time (since 2008), I will need to rediscover this boat and to focus on helming and the tactics very quickly, and I will rely on my crew for this. I´ve known them for years and I trust them fully. I raced in the Douro river in Porto 10 years ago so I know how tight racecourse is. The secret will be to get good starts and to have a good physical crew able to handle the boat well such as ZouLou´s crew."
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 standings after 3 Acts
Position / Team / Points
1. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 29 points
2. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) 25 points
3. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 24 points
4. Oman Air (OMA) 23 points
5. GAC Pindar (GBR) 18 points
6. ZouLou (FRA) 13 points
7. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 13 points
8. Alinghi (SUI) 11 points