Act 3 of the Extreme Sailing Series is on the way and China’s Olympic Sailing City Qingdao is preparing to welcome the eight international Extreme 40 teams. Just two weeks ago, the Swiss team Alinghi claimed victory in Singapore before the fleet and all the Series paraphernalia were packed into containers and shipped by Logistics Partner GAC Pindar non-stop to Qingdao. Ahead of Act 3 which starts on Thursday, 2nd May Extreme Sailing Series organisers, OC Sport, has also confirmed that a major announcement about the future of the Series will be made next Tuesday.
This is the third consecutive year the Extreme Sailing Series will be hosted in Qingdao, and the city holds some vivid memories for many of the sailors, many of whom represented their nations on these waters at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Peter Burling, the silver medal winning skipper of Team Korea, was just 17 years old when he represented New Zealand in his first Olympic Games in Qingdao in the 470 class, while Britain’s Leigh McMillan (The Wave, Muscat), Austrian’s Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher, both Red Bull Sailing Team, and Aussie Mitch Booth who will co-skipper the invitational entry China Team at Act 3, all went head to head in the Tornado class on the waters of Qingdao.
Ernesto Bertarelli’s Alinghi team currently has the advantage on the overall Series leaderboard as they head to Qingdao, courtesy of a third and first place in the first two Acts of 2013. Morgan Larson is tasked with protecting Alinghi’s lead, replacing Bertarelli as skipper for the Chinese Act, after he gave a master class in Extreme 40 racing in Singapore.
But, as ever, Larson is mindful of his opposition:
'With Qingdao quickly approaching there is no time to rest on our success in Singapore. We are obviously proud of what we accomplished. Saying that, we are under no illusion that we will be able to repeat our success in Qingdao. We expect a variety of conditions and we know the very competitive field will be aiming for podium results. With Red Bull and The Wave, Muscat hot on our heels it should be a good battle next week in Qingdao!'
Defending Series champion Leigh McMillan won the Qingdao Act in 2012, and after finishing fifth in Singapore – the first time his team The Wave, Muscat have finished off the podium since Almeria (Spain) in 2011 - McMillan is fired up for the Chinese battle:
'The Singapore Act was a bit of a disappointment for us not to finish on the podium, but a good lesson at the same time. We have reflected on it and we are now looking forward to racing again in Qingdao and hoping to put that right, and finish up on the podium so we can get our title defence back on track. The Wave, Muscat won in Qingdao last year but once you get into stadium racing it's all about having a good day on the right day and, hopefully, we can get back to our normal form and be able to fight at the front.'
Some of the new teams for 2013 have really began to shine, none more so than Jérôme Clerc and his team of D35 Champions on Realteam who finished in fourth in Singapore, giving Clerc a confidence boost ahead of Act 3.
'Our team is very pleased with our second regatta in the Extreme Sailing Series. We have made real progress since the first race in Oman in many areas: our organisation on the ground, our manouvers and speed of our boat. We are looking forward to racing in China and continue to progress in what will be an extremely tough race track!'
The majority of teams have chosen to keep largely the same line-ups, opting for consistency. Only Shaun Mason (GBR) will replace Brad Farrand on GAC Pindar as the youth America’s Cup team continue their training programme.
The spectators are expected to be out in force to support their local boat led by Extreme 40 co-creator Mitch Booth who will be racing with a young crew of Chinese nationals, aged between 20 and 26, all fresh from the ACWS in Naples (Italy). The Act will also welcome as guest sailors Xu Lijia, China’s Gold Medalist from London 2012 in the Laser Radial and ISAF World Sailor of the year, and Guo Chuan, the first Chinese sailor to sail non-stop around the world, who returned to his home port of Qingdao earlier this month.
Fans can watch the delayed race coverage from Qingdao from Friday to Sunday online (internet restrictions in China prevent live streaming) and enjoy all the action from the multi-camera coverage on the official event website.
Act 3, Qingdao crew lists:
Alinghi (SUI) Skipper/Helm: Morgan Larson (USA) / Tactician: Stuart Pollard (AUS) / Mainsail Trimmer: Pierre-Yves Jorand (SUI) / Headsail Trimmer: Nils Frei (SUI) / Bowman: Yves Detrey (SUI)
Current Series ranking: First position
China Team (CHN) Skipper/Helm: Mitch Booth (AUS) / Co-skipper/Tactician: Wen Zijin (CHN) / Mainsail trimmer: Yingkit Cheng (CHN) / Headsail trimmer: Liu Xue (CHN) / Bowman: Zhang Yiran (CHN)
Current Series ranking: Sixth position* GAC Pindar (NZL) Skipper/Helm: William Tiller (NZL) / Tactician: Shaun Mason (GBR) / Mainsail Trimmer: Stewart Dodson (NZL) / Headsail Trimmer: Harry Thurston (NZL) / Bowman: Matt Steven (NZL)
Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Skipper/Helm: Roman Hagara (AUT) / Tactician: Hans Peter Steinacher (AUT) / Mainsail Trimmer: Matthew Adams (GBR) / Headsail Trimmer: Pierre Le Clainche (FRA) / Bowman: Graeme Spencer (AUS)