The pressure turned up a notch today at the halfway stage of the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series opening Act in Muscat, Oman, as the new faces for 2013 began delivering podium places in the Extreme 40 stadium.
It may be the familiar sails of Oman and Austria setting the pace with The Wave, Muscat
and Red Bull Sailing Team
sharing spoils at the top of the leaderboard but the three new skippers of Team Duqm Oman
, Team Korea
and GAC Pindar
are pushing them relentlessly for the podium positions.
Returning champion Leigh McMillan was the headline Act for much of 2012, and the British Olympian is hoping a win in Muscat will set the scene for the rest of the season. "We're a pretty solid team, and when we've got things going right and we're working well together, we're good at stringing a lot of good results together - so that's the key. If we can do that we will be right there in the mix at the end, we've just got to try and sail cleanly - then we will be in good shape."
Stadium racing began in perfect fashion with 20 knots of wind, but as the Arabian sun heated things up in Muscat, the wind slowly faded, and the sixth and final race of the day was played out in just four knots. SAP Extreme Sailing Team
and Team Duqm Oman
were punished hard running out of time to finish the race, but despite the disappointment, Robert Greenhalgh, who returns to the Extreme 40 stage at the helm of the invitational team in Muscat, and his crew on Team Duqm Oman
had done enough throughout the day to wrap things up in fourth.
, with the London 2012 Olympic silver medal winning duo of Peter Burling and Blair Tuke from New Zealand, stepped up and made an impact from the first start gun in the stadium, winning the first race of the day, and more impressively, their first race on the stadium style race course. "It is pretty exciting to get out of the blocks. We had a pretty bad day yesterday so it was good to get a good position in the first race and it gave us some confidence for the rest of the day,"
commented Burling. "We are just trying to do as well as we can, we've only really done four days together as a crew but the lighter winds today gave us more time to communicate the manoeuvres and work together - so I think now we will be a lot more solid if we get another breezy day tomorrow."
Tied on points with Burling is another young Kiwi making his Extreme 40 debut, William Tiller. The World #5 ISAF Open Ranked match racer and his team on GAC Pindar showed they can handle the intensity of the new domain, winning their first race of the regatta, an indication of how strong a team they could be. Tiller was buzzing after racing, "The last couple of days here have been a steep learning curve for us and it's been really enjoyable and the boys are loving it and had a lot of fun today with the stadium racing. Being tied in fifth is pretty good for the team after two days on the water and I think the points are pretty close from fourth right down to eighth so it will be tight racing for the next couple of days and we will be hoping to improve on that - I mean fourth will be a great finish up there in mid fleet for the first time and it will be awesome."
The two-times winners of the America's Cup Alinghi set the day alight with three race wins. A false start for the team in the fifth race was a slight hindrance in their stride and a laid-back Morgan Larson - a new addition to the Swiss team for 2013 as tactician - commented after racing, "Winning the starts are everything and we just jumped the line and we finished last - but it wasn't by much. Ernesto did a really nice job focusing on the starts and he got aggressive and it obviously worked so we're pretty happy. The communication is solid and the team make it loose and light and fun. I guess when you're doing well it seems to come easy."
Thursday's forecast is 18 knots of breeze for the penultimate day of stadium racing and thousands of public are expected to attend over the Omani weekend to watch the spectacle first hand from the shoreside Race Village at The Wave, Muscat. Online fans can watch the racing live from 1300 CET on the official event website as the stage is set for the final day.
Extreme Sailing Series 2013 Act 1, Muscat, Oman standings after Day 2, 13 races (6.3.13)
Position / Team / Points
1. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara 105 points.
2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan 105 points.
3. Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto Bertarelli 96 points.
4. Team Duqm Oman (OMA) Robert Greenhalgh 79 points.
5. Team Korea (KOR) Peter Burling 73 points.
6. GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller 73 points.
7. Realteam (SUI) Jerome Clerc 69 points.
8. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen 66 points.