Champagne sailing conditions kick-started a glamour first day for the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series at The Wave, Muscat, Oman today in what was a baptism of fire for the new teams who thrived on the Extreme 40 race course.
After scoring first blood in the first race, Leigh McMillan and his crew on The Wave, Muscat start the 2013 Series where they left off in 2012 at the top of the leaderboard, but with new and existing teams stepping up to mark, the competition it set to be one of the closest and unpredictable in the history of the Series.
Sailing conditions were perfect; a building sea breeze that hit 17 knots for the final two races, and the open-water format with long downwind legs allowed the Extreme 40s to really stretch their legs meaning plenty of bow-down, hull flying and water-spraying action.
Roman Hagara and his men on Red Bull Sailing Team scored two bullets to get their 2013 campaign off to a flying start, and finished the day just one point shy of The Wave, Muscat. Hagara, who in the morning's press conference to the Omani national and international media made it clear this year nothing but the podium would suffice, said, "It was perfect today, I mean we had good conditions, we had good boat handling and the team were doing a really good job on the course. I will be taking it day by day now, the hardest thing will be staying in the top, I think tomorrow it will change because we're inside and it's a completely different game, but still we always try to be on the top."
While Oman Air may not be back this year, their skipper Morgan Larson is and came out firing on all cylinders as tactician on Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi. Despite problems furling the spinnaker in race three which quickly saw them fall from first to last, the Swiss-flagged entry didn't let it break their stride, finishing the day in third. On sailing with a new team, Californian Larson commented, "Alinghi are a polished team, they've been doing it for a very long time so they don't need to talk, they just sail the boat, so the hardest part for them is probably working me into the equation! I made a boat handling mistake that cost us, but as a team we sailed well and I think we should be happy with today's performance. The level of racing was excellent - we have gained some new boat's this year who are pushing hard so I think all and all its very competitive."
Robert Greenhalgh showed he has lost none of his edge as skipper of Team Duqm Oman, the invitational team in Muscat. Winner of the inaugural Extreme Sailing Series, Greenhalgh turned it on today, finishing tied on points with Alinghi.
Realteam, a completely new entry for 2013, relished the breezy conditions, and skipper Jerome Clerc, a champion in the D35 class showed some of that winning multihull form today, sailing to victory in race two. "This is very different to all our training and it's completely different to how it looks in the videos,"
commented Clerc. "Considering it was our first day it was quite good for us and tomorrow will bring its own challenges in the stadium. There will definitely be more wins for our team this week - I hope!"
William Tiller also made his debut today as skipper of GAC Pindar and while he has some experience of big catamaran sailing from the Red Bull Youth America's Cup, today was their first taste of real Extreme 40 racing. "It was pretty different out there, but a lot of fun though! These boats are awesome, and with that much breeze we had quite a bit on."
When asked what their focus is on tomorrow, "Pretty much everywhere! I mean I felt we were OK speed wise and we had a few races where we were in the mix. The last one we were second and then given a penalty which dropped us right back to last - so I am pretty gutted about that! Other than that, it's feeling more comfortable around the boat, it's been about a week sailing on these so just about improving as much as we can."
Team Korea, another new squad for 2013 and one of the pre-season form guide favourites with Olympic silver medallist Peter Burling at the helm found out just how challenging the Extreme 40 race course can be, finishing the day eighth.
It is far too early and the leaderboard far too close to make a call on who will come out swinging at the end of Act 1 and tomorrow the game changes as the eight boat Extreme 40 fleet move into stadium mode inside the breakwater. Fans online can watch all the racing live online on the official event website from 1300 CET - you don't want to miss it.
Extreme Sailing Series 2013 Act 1, Muscat, Oman standings after Day 1, 7 races (5.3.13)
Position / Team / Points
1. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan 62 points.
2. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara 61 points.
3. Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto Bertarelli 47 points.
4. Team Duqm Oman (OMA) Robert Greenhalgh 47 points.
5. Realteam (SUI) Jérome Clerc 43 points.
6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen 40 points.
7. GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller 34 points.
8. Team Korea (KOR) Peter Burling 30 points.