From 20-23 February the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series anticipation comes to fruition as the starting gun is fired at the first act in Marina Bay, Singapore.
Historically, the fight for glory each year has gone down to the wire, and Race Director Phil Lawrence is predicting 2014 could be one of the closest seasons to date, "Every boat on the water can win a race. I don't know who's going to win overall - which is how it should be."
In 2014, the circuit will once again be supported by Series Main Partner* Land Rover, as it continues to deliver Stadium Racing at eight iconic locations around the world.
The home nation representatives, Team Aberdeen Singapore, supported by Host Venue Partner Aberdeen Asset Management, will be led by Australian offshore legend, Nick Moloney. Local sailors Scott Glen Sydney, one of Singapore's top Laser sailors, and Asian Games keelboat match racing gold medallist, Justin Wong, will return to the fleet following a successful debut in 2013. America's Cup star Adam Beashel (AUS), and World Champion and World Record Holder Tom Dawson (GBR) will complete the local team line-up.
The only skipper this year to have never previously raced in the Extreme Sailing Series ever is GAC Pindar's Seve Jarvin. Jarvin is being supported by experienced catamaran hands Sam Newton, part of Oracle Team USA's America's Cup winning crew, and Troy Tindill, who sailed with Artemis Racing in the America's Cup World Series.
The team has recruited the 2013-winning tactician from The Wave, Muscat, Ed Smyth and 20-year old Alexandra South, 2013 Women's 18-foot Skiff World Champion, to complete the all-Aussie team.
Jarvin, a seven-time 18-foot Skiff World Champion, commented, "I'm very new to multihulls but the guys I'm sailing with have a lot of experience. Our main strength is that we are a young team that are all great mates and could be coming in as the underdogs."
Having won the Extreme Sailing Series titles in 2012 and 2013 on The Wave, Muscat, British Olympian Leigh McMillan will once again be joined by Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler (NZL) and Omani national Nasser Al Mashari.
Britain's double Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton will join the defending champions, and she is more than ready for the challenge of what she describes as the 'most high-performance' sailing she has ever done, "I'm honoured to be sailing with The Wave, Muscat and I am really looking forward to getting started. I'm sure the boys will agree with me that going into 2014 as defending champions doesn't add to the pressure, we'll be focusing on our own performance and taking one race at a time."
Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi returns hoping to rectify losing the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series. Alinghi narrowly missed out on the title in the final minutes of the final race of the year and is one of the few teams fielding the same line-up as last season. Morgan Larson, a 49er Olympic and America's Cup sailor, who has finished runner up for the past two seasons, will helm the Swiss team at the opening Act - an event the team won in 2013 - and will be looking for a repeat in 2014.
The team who finished third in 2013, with double Olympic Tornado gold medallists Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher, will return as the familiar duo at the back of the Austrian Red Bull Sailing Team. This season they are joined by experienced Tornado Olympian and Extreme 40 sailor Mark Bulkeley (GBR), Kiwi match racer Nick Blackman and 23 year old Australian Haylee Outteridge, who has recently embarked on her first Olympic campaign, in the 49erFX.
The new line-up have been training in Singapore, and skipper Hagara points to "consistency and winning races"
as key for this season. And the team he would like to beat? "Ben Ainslie. He is not only a great sailor, he is a gentleman, and it will be a pleasure for us to beat him."
The winner of the inaugural Series in 2007, Rob Greenhalgh (GBR), returns to the circuit, and is joined by long term Extreme 40 sailor Will Howden (GBR), and two Omani crew, Musab Al Hadi and Hashim Al Rashdi, who were both on The Wave, Muscat last season. The teams' fifth man will be Australian foiling Moth sailor Tom Johnson, a newcomer for 2014.
Sir Ben Ainslie's J.P. Morgan BAR start their Extreme 40 offensive teeming with Olympic pedigree, with three Olympic champions on board, not least their skipper who boasts four gold and one silver medal in his trophy cabinet. Beijing 2008 Olympic gold medallists, Paul Goodison and Pippa Wilson, will race alongside bowman Matt Cornwell, a previous Match Racing World Champion, with the final crew member still to be confirmed.
Many people will be eager to see if Dean Barker - who last met Ainslie during Emirates Team Zealand's defeat at the 34th America's Cup - can reverse the tables on the Extreme Sailing Series stadium racecourse. The Kiwi team will field the strongest of crews, with experienced multihull and America's Cup hands Glenn Ashby, James Dagg and Jeremy Lomas, joined by Youth sailor, Edwin Delaat.
Winner of the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, Franck Cammas (FRA), returns to the Series with heavyweights from his past Extreme 40 campaign Tanguy Cariou and Devan le Bihan, plus America's Cup and former Extreme 40 sailor Thierry Fouchier.
Cammas' Nacra 17 crew, Sophie de Turckheim, a two-time runner up at the Laser Radial World Championships, will be calling tactics. When asked about the French teams potential this season, mainsail trimmer Cariou, remained prudent, "We'll only be able to draw up an initial report after the first three events (Singapore, Oman and Qingdao). One thing we are sure about is that it's going to be tough as we did virtually no training prior to the boat's departure for Singapore. As such we'll be lacking the points of reference of our rivals, who have been sailing on the circuit for years."
The Swiss Realstone is back for a second season, again skippered by Jérôme Clerc, and opting for the same crew as 2013, formed around the 2012 D35 championship winning team, with eight crew members alternating throughout the year in a bid to better their 2013 results.
2014 will be the third season on the circuit for the Danish-run SAP Extreme Sailing Team. Co-skippers Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner have been training in France with Groupama Team France and Realstone, during which time they selected trimmers Thierry Douillard (FRA) and Peter Wibroe (DEN) as new additions to the team, while bowman Nicolai Sehested (DEN), will return for his second year.
SAP Extreme Sailing Team finished third in Singapore in 2013, and tactician Køstner explained the importance of a good opening Act, "The Series will not be won in Singapore but a good start definitely provides the basis to gather momentum throughout the year. Singapore will be testing and is one of the most challenging places to race.
"The wind is very unpredictable and even a good lead can be transformed to a big loss in a short space of time. You've got to make the most out of the opportunities given to you and be prepared to keep fighting until you have crossed the line."
Russia's London 2012 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Laser sailor Igor Lisovenko, will skipper the Russian entry, Gazprom Team Russia. The team have been training in the UK in preparation, and Lisovenko looked to the season ahead, "I feel a little bit of pressure coming into the Series this year, we're a new team and we're looking for a good result.
"The main focus for us before the first event is that we need to become a team, so everyone needs to be on the same page, to help each other, to understand each others roles."
Supporting the Russian entry will be British Extreme 40 heavyweights Paul Campbell-James and Alister Richardson, who have been part of two Series winning teams apiece, and Pete Cumming, the 2009 winning skipper.
And so the question everyone is asking. Will the experience of an existing team or a new entry reign supreme at the opening Act of the year?
Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 1 Singapore, crew lists
Skipper/Helm: Morgan Larson(USA)
Tactician: Stuart Pollard (AUS)
Mainsail Trimmer: Pierre-Yves Jorand (SUI)
Headsail Trimmer: Nils Frei (SUI)
Bowman: Yves Detrey (SUI)
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)
Skipper/Helm: Dean Barker (NZL)
Mainsail Trimmer: Glenn Ashby (AUS)
Headsail Trimmer: James Dagg (NZL)
Bowman: Jeremy Lomas (NZL)
Floater: Edwin Delaat (NZL)
GAC Pindar (AUS)
Skipper/Helm: Seve Jarvin (AUS)
Mainsail Trimmer: Troy Tindill (AUS)
Headsail Trimmer: Ed Smyth (AUS)
Bow: Sam Newton (AUS)/Alexandra South (AUS)
Gazprom Team Russia (RUS)
Skipper/Tactician: Igor Lisovenko (RUS)
Helm: Paul Campbell-James (GBR)
Mainsail Trimmer: Alister Richardson (GBR)
Headsail Trimmer: Pete Cumming (GBR)
Bowman: Aleksey Kulakov (RUS)
Groupama Team France (FRA)
Skipper/Helm: Franck Cammas (FRA)
Tactician: Sophie de Turckheim (FRA)
Mainsail Trimmer: Tanguy Cariou (FRA)
Headsail Trimmer: Thierry Fouchier (FRA)
Bowman: Devan Le Bihan (FRA)
J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR)
Skipper/Helm: Ben Ainslie (GBR)
Mainsail Trimmer: Paul Goodison (GBR)
Headsail Trimmer: Pippa Wilson (GBR)
Bowman: Matt Cornwell (GBR)
Oman Air (OMA)
Skipper/Helm: Rob Greenhalgh (GBR)
Mainsail Trimmer: Tom Johnson (AUS)
Headsail Trimmer: Will Howden (GBR)
Bowmen: Hashim Al Rashdi (OMA) /Musab Al Hadi (OMA)
Skipper/Mainsail Trimmer: Jérôme Clerc
Helm: Arnaud Psarofaghis (SUI)
Tactician: Bruno Barbarin (FRA)
Headsail Trimmer: Thierry Wasem (SUI)
Bowman: Nils Palmieri (SUI)
Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT)
Skipper/Helm: Roman Hagara (AUT)
Tactician/Mainsail Trimmer: Hans-Peter Steinacher (AUT)
Headsail Trimmer: Mark Bulkeley (GBR)
Bowman: Nick Blackman (NZL)
Runner: Haylee Outteridge (AUS)
SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN)
Co-Skippers: Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) / Rasmus Køstner (DEN)
Helm: Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN)
Tactician: Rasmus Køstner (DEN)
Trimmers: Thierry Douillard (FRA)/Peter Wibroe (DEN)
Bowman: Nicolai Sehested (DEN)
Team Aberdeen Singapore (SIN)
Skipper/Helm: Nick Moloney (AUS)
Tactician: Adam Beashel (AUS)
Mainsail Trimmer: Scott Glen Sydney (SIN)
Headsail Trimmer: Tom Dawson (GBR)
Bowman: Justin Wong (SIN)
The Wave, Muscat (OMA)
Skipper/Helm: Leigh McMillan (GBR)
Tactician: Sarah Ayton (GBR)
Mainsail Trimmer: Pete Greenhalgh (GBR)
Headsail Trimmer: Kinley Fowler (NZL)
Bowman: Nasser Al Mashari (OMA)
Extreme Sailing Series Website