Extreme Sailing Series - Inspiration for The Wave, Muscat's Ayton
by Oman Sail on 1 May 2014
A return to Qingdao with vivid memories of winning Olympic gold proved inspiring for The Wave, Muscat’s Sarah Ayton while a collision at the start of the Extreme Sailing Series Act 3 when GAC Pindar ploughed into Oman Air just 30 seconds after the gun has given the team a heavy workload to contend with over the next three days.
The Land Rover Extreme Sailing Series 2014. Act 3, Qingdao, China. The Double Star Mingren Cup © Lloyd Images
Oman Sail’s day of mixed fortunes was dominated by another impressive display from Leigh McMillan’s crew on The Wave, Muscat who recorded two podium places including a win to take second place overnight behind their Swiss rivals Alinghi.
For Ayton, who was making her first trip back to China in six years after winning a sailing gold medal in the Yngling class at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the return to familiar waters in Qingdao brought back some good memories.
'It’s been a few years and although Qingdao has changed, the sailing conditions remain similar – quite light and very tidal so pretty tough,' she said.
'At the Olympics we were racing more offshore so it was more about tide and the wind was more stable but it is still as I remember it…tricky!!
'Each leg on the Yngling took about 15 minutes whereas on the Extreme 40 it takes around four so it couldn’t be more different. But I’m really enjoying the Extremes. This is our third event and each time we get more and more.
'The first couple of days is about being consistent, getting top five results and trying not to have any shockers. But we have had an Ok day and will go out tomorrow and try and have another Ok day!'
The Wave, Muscat skipper Leigh McMillan, another British Olympian who campaigned the Beijing 2008 Olympics on the Tornado agreed that familiarity with the waters was a bonus but that other Extreme crewmembers, notably Anna Tunnicliffe on Alinghi who won Olympic gold in the Laser Radial class in 2008, were also putting their experience to good use.
'Having experience in the venues is good because it gives you an idea what to expect – for sure we are in a good position to draw on the lessons we learned in 2008 and try to make them work for us.
'The wind today was a little bit lighter than forecast. It was a pretty tough day but we will keep pushing hard and are looking forward to the next few days.'
The other team in the Oman Sail family racing in China did not fare so well, just 30 seconds into the start of Race one, the crew onboard Oman Air that for the first time included America’s Cup winner Kyle Langford, was forced to retire after GAC Pindar ran out of space as they bore away and ploughed into the port side of them, holing the boat and making it a long night for the three-man shore crew of Joe Lees, Hilal Al Zadjali and Suleiman Al Manji.
According to Oman’s Musab Al Hadi who was on the bow when the boats collided, it was an unfortunate incident but would not prevent Oman Air from returning to the racetrack tomorrow.
'GAC Pindar couldn't bear away. There was not enough room in the fleet,' he explained. 'By the time we saw them under the boom, there was nothing more we could have done and for them it was just an error. It was one of those things.
'We came here to race and not being able to race is upsetting. We were hoping to get into it – to use the start of the regatta to build and develop and now we are missing out on a day of sailing so it is a big disadvantage. We are keen to get into it tomorrow.'
Oman Air was craned out of the water and the shore crew immediately set about making repairs, a task that was set to take all night.
'Thankfully no one was hurt, that was the main thing so we will get back on the water tomorrow and lick our wounds,' explained skipper Rob Greenhalgh who is very keen to get some good racing in and spent the rest of the afternoon watching the fleet race with his crewmates.
'These things happen unfortunately but being in the right, hopefully we should get some average points for it once we get some racing in.'
The ESS Act 3 Qingdao has been enthusiastically supported by the Chinese media with over 80 media organisations attending the pre-race press conference. Thousands of spectators are expected to watch the Extreme 40s in action from the free public Race Village in Fushan Bay over the three days of public Stadium Racing starting tomorrow.