Muscat, Oman Extreme Sailing Series - Oman Emirates Team New Zealand
Emirates Team New Zealand have announced their return to the Extreme 40 circuit this year, says skipper Dean Barker. The first regatta will be held next month. The series ends next December in Sydney.
Barker says the team needs to start developing the sailing team for the 35th America’s Cup while integrating Peter Burling and Blair Tuke into the squad.
'We can’t wait around until Oracle releases the Protocol for the 35th America’s Cup,' he said. 'We need to keep developing and take every available opportunity to compete in cats.'
Barker said he had discussed Burling’s Olympic 49er campaign commitments and it seemed he would be available for three of the eight regattas. 'I will skipper five. We will rotate sailing squad members through the other crew positions.
'Between the two of us we will be able to field competitive crews through the year.'
Barker will be at the helm at the first two regattas – Singapore next month and Muscat, Oman, in March. Burling takes over for the following two regattas China in May and Russia in June. The remaining regattas have yet to be finalised.
The team competed on the circuit in 2011 – an unforgiving introduction to the world of top-level multihull racing. Courses are tight and traffic around the marks can be heavy. Collisions and capsizes are frequent.
Barker says, 'Extreme 40 racing is unlike any other; the teams are very competitive, races are short, the action non-stop and split-second decisions are needed.'
Racing takes place over four days at each event: one day of open water racing followed by three days of stadium racing. If the breeze is favourable eight to 10 races can be held each day.
Barker’s first Extreme 40 event was the last regatta of the 2010 series. 'It was at Almeria, Spain, and we were last.' But they learned what they had to do to become competitive in multihulls, a massive step towards the 34th America’s Cup.
Barker and crew soon had the measure of the boat and the opposing teams in the 2011 circuit and the crew improved with every regatta, winning the Boston event in May.
Then AC45 training became the priority and the team used the Extreme 40 series to give he rest of the sailing crew valuable multihull experience,
Burling and Tuke sailed in three Extreme 40 regattas last year before switching their focus to the AC45 and the Youth America’s Cup, wining the regatta in September. This year their Olympic campaign will take priority but they aim to make their mark in the Extreme 40s.
The Extreme Sailing Series is organised by OC Events and in many ways rivals the America's Cup World Series, sailed in AC45's. In the past several America's Cup teams past and present have sailed in the ESS including Alinghi, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa.
This year the Extreme Sailing Series™ will race at eight venues: Singapore (February 20-23), Muscat, Oman (March 19-22), Qingdao (May 1-4), St Petersburg, Russia (June 26-29), Cardiff, Wales (August 22-25), Istanbul (September 11-14), The Mediterranean at a port to be announced (October 2-5), Sydney (Dec 11-14).
Ahead of the Extreme Sailing Series about six members of Emirates Team New Zealand, including Peter Burling, Blair Tuke, and Glenn Ashby, will compete in the World A-Class Championships off Takapuna Beach.