The opening day of Act 8 Florianópolis presented by Land Rover delivered the "best racing of the year" according to Alinghi helmsman Morgan Larson & SAP Extreme Sailing Team skipper Jes Gram-Hansen.
The final showdown of the 2013 Series began in style, and the South Brazilian city welcomed the eight elite level Extreme 40 teams with champagne sailing conditions - 14 knots of wind that steadily built to 20 and a brilliant Brazilian sunshine.
Eight short, sharp, fast paced races were sailed, with four different race winners and Oman's The Wave, Muscat blasted round the tight courses, reaching speeds of 24 knots and relishing the conditions that put Leigh McMillan's men at the top of the rankings at the end of day one.
The grudge match between long-standing Series rivals The Wave, Muscat and Alinghi is already evident, and the teams are unsurprisingly looking ahead to Sunday night when the 2013 Series champion will be crowned.
The two teams locked horns around the racecourse, neither willing to give an inch. Morgan Larson and the team of finely tuned Swiss sailors matched McMillan's two race wins, and according to the SAP sailing analytics were the fastest boat on the course, but slick manoeuvres by the Omani team gave them the edge, who finish the day just five points ahead.
"We were focusing on The Wave, Muscat when we could and when the opportunity was there we tried to get in their way a little bit,"
commented Larson. "They made it hard, and once again they're sailing well. I think we pushed them a bit, but they're solid. Five points isn't a lot but we need it to be five points the other way. It just means that tomorrow we may need to take a different approach and close that gap."
It wasn't all plain sailing on the opening day, particularly for Red Bull Sailing Team who didn't get their campaign for the podium off to the start they may have hoped. A broken halyard forced them to miss the second race of the day costing them valuable points. A quick repair however, and the team came back fighting, winning race three. The Austrian double Olympic gold medallists are tied in points with their biggest Series podium rivals, SAP Extreme Sailing Team, but three race wins for the Danish co-skippers Rasmus Kostner and Jes Gram-Hansen versus one for the Austrian team, gives the Danes the advantage on the leaderboard.
Back on the dock, SAP's Gram-Hansen enthused about the day's racing, "It was an absolutely fantastic day of sailing, definitely one of the best we've had so far this year. We had really good conditions today, good breeze with constant shifts which led to opportunities for everybody - I think was probably the best day of racing so far this year."
In what is only their third Act on the Extreme Sailing Series, ChinaSpirit had their best day to date, consistently securing results in the top half of the fleet and showing a marked improvement from the previous Act in Nice, on the French Riviera. Kiwi skipper Phil Robertson, one of the youngest in the fleet, was thrilled with the team's performance. "We were super consistent today and were mostly sitting around fourth position which is ideal - we really wanted to be clocking up some good results on day one. We were fast and we just tried to keep it as consistent as we could, so we just kept doing what we were doing tomorrow! We can't wait for the big wind - we will take it head on."
The local contingent on Team Brazil Mapfre lined up against the more experienced fleet that have been locked in irons against each other over the last nine months of global touring for the first time today, and are already drawing the support of the locals who enjoyed their first glimpse of Extreme 40 racing from the shoreline.
The Brazilians will be celebrating the Day of the Republic with an official national holiday on Friday 15 November, and with blistering winds on the forecast, they can expect an action packed day with plenty of intense, close Stadium Racing.
For Leigh McMillan, it is about playing it safe, and clocking up those valuable points on the Act 8 Florianópolis presented by Land Rover leader board. "Our priority tomorrow is to keep the boat in one piece and to try and get all of the races completed. It will be really challenging and we will try not to take too many risks and come out tomorrow without any disasters. It will be safety first."
Extreme Sailing Series 2013 Act 8, Florianópolis presented by Land Rover standings after Day 1, 8 races (14.11.13)
Position / Team / Points
1. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillian 69 points.
2. Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson 64 points.
3. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara 56 points.
4. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen 56 points.
5. ChinaSpirit (CHN) Phil Robertson 54 points.
6. Realteam (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis 49 points.
7. GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller 37 points.
8. Team Brazil Mapfre (BRA) Clínio de Freitas 28 points.