Excitement is building in the Welsh capital Cardiff ahead of the UK leg of the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series, not only amongst the locals who are eagerly anticipating the Extreme 40s Welsh debut, but also within the teams who after their last meeting more than seven weeks ago, are champing at the bit for battle to commence, as they launch into the second half of the 2012 Series.
The fleet has already raced stadium-style in Muscat, Qingdao, Istanbul and most recently on the magnificent Douro river in Porto, and one team has dominated so far. British Olympian Leigh McMillan and his team The Wave, Muscat have triumphed in all but one of the previous Acts but as McMillan mused, it is getting harder to retain an advantage, especially with three other teams - the Austrian Red Bull Sailing Team, their stablemates Oman Air, and the French on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild.
"I think it is going to be really difficult in Cardiff,"
said McMillan. "We have had a pretty good winning streak but at some point these things always come to an end. There is no doubt that the other teams will be wanting that run to end right now and at the half way stage I expect they will see it as time for them to reel us in. It is going to be hard with all the teams gunning for us but we are coming into Cardiff with a new motivation and energy - and we intend to convert that into another win in front of our friends and family."
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild - who suffered serious damage to their Extreme 40 on the final day at Act 4 Porto which ultimately cost them their place on the podium - are more determined then ever to claim their first victory this year. Two new crew members will be racing - Christophe André, who last sailed an Extreme 40 in 2011, brings America's Cup, match racing and offshore experience to the French team, whilst Romain Motteau may be a newbie to the Extreme Sailing Series but as a youth multihull World Champion he is sure to find his Extreme 40 feet quickly. "When you fall you have to quickly get back in the saddle,"
said skipper Pierre Pennec. "The Act in Porto was a blow to us, especially for the overall Series leaderboard as we lost two places, but we are mid-championship and the end result is not known. Our shore crew has done an outstanding job fixing the boat and is like new, the whole team is extremely motivated to move forward."
Andrew Walsh will remain in the driving seat of the British GAC Pindar for a second consecutive Act with a few new faces amongst his crew. Team GBR 49er sailor Rick Peacock returns to the Extreme Sailing Series after debuting at the 2011 UK leg on board Aberdeen Asset Management, while American sailor Anna Tunnicliffe will be calling tactics for the British boat. Tunnicliffe, best known for winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and who has also been awarded the ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year twice said, "I'm very excited to be joining GAC Pindar in Cardiff. I'm looking forward to learning from the guys and offering my skills to the team. I've watched the Extreme Sailing Series over the past couple of seasons and I'm really looking forward to short stadium course sailing and fast paced races."
Tunnicliffe will be one of two women competing in Cardiff; the other is Olympic silver medallist Hannah Mills on the local entry Team Wales.
The Welsh spectators and visiting public are expected to turn out in their droves to watch the Extreme 40s as Cardiff Bay is transformed into an incredible stadium racecourse with viewing areas on all sides.
The nine Extreme 40s will race on Cardiff Bay from the 30th August for four days, with the event opening to the public on the 31st August. The fleet will race in the stadium race mode that is synonymous with the Extreme Sailing Series, putting the Welsh public at the heart of the action.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Overall Series Results after 4 Acts.
1. The Wave, Muscat 39 points
2. Red Bull Sailing Team 33 points
3. Oman Air Team 31 points
4. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild 31 points
5. GAC Pindar 22 points
6. Alinghi 18 points
7. SAP Extreme Sailing Team 18 points
8. ZouLou 16 points