The much-anticipated opening Act of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series began on Thursday 20 February in Singapore under the gaze of the cities soaring skyscrapers, where eight races produced six different winners.
The Swiss flagged Realtstone were the form team, executing a consistent strategy in the trying conditions, to finish the opening day of the global tour top of the leaderboard - their best result since joining the circuit last year. Some of the newer teams struggled to get to grips with the stadium racecourse, posting a mixed bag of results and a crash between defending champions The Wave, Muscat and GAC Pindar will leave the Aussies with a night of repairs ahead.
Realstone, who after practice racing described themselves as 'the underdogs' played a low risk game, setting up for manoeuvres and executing them precisely to give themselves some breathing space on the packed racecourse.
Skipper Jérôme Clerc commented, "We rotated the team a lot in 2013 to finally be in a position to choose the best people for the best positions and get here with an optimal configuration. We have sailed well with good starts, Arnaud made the boat go fast and we have followed simple schemes with starts on the same side and regular tacks in each leg. We noticed this worked out well so we have kept this strategy. It's the first day; all the teams are warming up so we are still the outsiders."
Eight races were sailed - the first of up to 250 this year - and in the continually shifting breeze, which ranged from 4-10 knots with slightly bigger gusts, the teams tacticians had it all on.
Groupama sailing team's skipper Franck Cammas - who won the seventh race of the day, only to follow it up with a last place - explained how tough the conditions were, "We have had more wind than expected so it was pretty hairy on the water. The wind flows in between the buildings and it all becomes very shifty. We had to take what we could. The teams who started well were not necessarily the teams who finished at the top. The key, in short, is a mix of a little bit of luck, be at the good spot, try to anticipate things and being opportunist."
The French team finish the day tied on points with second placed Alinghi.
On such a compact course, and with such short, intense races, the mark roundings were nail bitingly close, and those on shore found themselves holding their breath as the Extreme 40s seemingly created space where there was none. In the sixth race of the day, The Wave, Muscat and GAC Pindar found out just how tight the course is, when the Omani boat t-boned into the back of the Aussies in a port-starboard incident, leaving a significant hole in their boat and the team with a night of repairs ahead in the pitlane. Leigh McMillan explained, "GAC Pindar put in a tack, and at the last minute they looked like they weren't going to avoid us. I tried to smash it into a tack but there wasn't anywhere to go - plus I lost grip of the tiller and tripped over, and unfortunately went into them. We've had plenty of bad days and we will have to go back, look at the videos and take some lessons out of today and come back stronger tomorrow."
Many of the fleet struggled for consistency and none more so than newcomers Emirates Team New Zealand and J.P. Morgan BAR, who finished the day with two race wins a piece - but also a handful of last places.
Ben Ainslie commented, "We're all having to learn pretty quickly, and certainly in this tight venue - even for the experienced guys it's pretty tough. It's a really strong fleet, it's one of the toughest fields we've ever had and we're obviously very new to this so we really learnt a lot today."
There is little light on the leaderboard after day one, with just 18 points separating first placed Realstone from eighth placed Oman Air. The Wave, Muscat, Gazprom Team Russia, GAC Pindar and the local boat Team Aberdeen Singapore have a bit of catching up to do - and with up to 24 races still to come, there is plenty of opportunity to do it.
Marina Bay Reservoir will provide a temporary residence for the 12 Extreme 40s for the next three days of Stadium Racing, and if day ones racing is anything to go by, Act 1 with the support of Local Event main partner Aberdeen Asset Management, could be anyone's game.
The racing will be streamed live online tomorrow from 16:00 -17:30 local time / 09:00-10:30 CET to fans around the world - watch it on the official event website, www.extremesailingseries.com.
Extreme Sailing Series™ 2014 Act 1, Singapore standings after Day 1, 8 races (20.02.14)
Position / Team / Points
1. Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, 56 points.
2. Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, 48 points.
3. Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, 48 points.
4. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, 46 points.
5. J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, 44 points.
6. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, 43 points.
7. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, 39 points.
8. Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, 38 points.
9. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, 29 points.
10. Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, 28 points.
11. GAC Pindar (AUS) Seve Jarvin, 20 points.
12. Team Aberdeen Singapore (SIN) Nick Moloney, 17 points.
Extreme Sailing Series Website