The pressure turned up a notch on the second day of racing at the Extreme Sailing Series 2014 curtain raiser in Singapore, with the wind and the heat from the city, cranking up. The 12 elite level teams battled a huge wind range from three knots right through to gusts that peaked at 24 knots, using all their tactical prowess to muscle their Extreme 40s around the racecourse in a series of short, sharp races, which saw a reshuffle on the overall leaderboard.
Six races were sailed on Marina Bay and Alinghi stamped their dominance on the series with two race wins and three second places to upgrade their overall position to first place. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Swiss, and in race 13 their Californian helm Morgan Larson did well to control the over-powered catamaran when the biggest gust of the day caught the team off-guard, bringing it back from the brink of a capsize, as Larson explained: 'Coming into today we said we wouldn’t push it as hard otherwise we’ll end up in the water. But early on, we got lifted right up on one hull, and we just thought, if we were to go any further we’re definitely going to tip over. Things were definitely smiling in our favour today! There was no shouting onboard, we all kind of looked at each other and thought, damn we got lucky there!' And the key to getting good results? 'The winds are gusty and shifty, so it challenges you tactically. In a lot of venues, starting is crucial, but here I think it’s just getting away from the other boats and then picking your moments to build up the fleet.'
Dean Barker’s Emirates Team New Zealand hadn’t competed together for five months before this week, and the team of Kiwi America’s Cup legends are quickly getting to grips with the stadium format of the Extreme Sailing Series. A string of results in the top half of the fleet, including a win in the fourth race of the day, promoted them to second place from yesterday’s fourth. The biggest upgrade of the day came for the defending champion, The Wave, Muscat, with three race wins bringing them within six points of the Kiwis. With two days left, McMillan’s attentions are already turning to the end result. 'It was a pretty solid day and I’ll be pushing harder the next two days. We’re now in competition for the podium and that’s the most important thing for the first event.'
Realstone had a superb opening day yesterday, and were on form again today before a collision with Oman Air, which could be heard by the crowds around the bay, put an end to the Swiss team’s winning run. Realstone’s skipper, Jerome Clerc, explained what happened: 'Oman Air tried to bear away behind us, and under the pressure, that isn’t always easy, so Rob (Greenhalgh) didn’t achieve his manoeuvre and hit us at the back of the boat. They smashed into the rudder and created a big hole, we started sinking but we pushed ourselves to finish that race.' With damage to their steering system, the Swiss were forced to retire and limped back to the pit lane, missing the final race of the day, while the Omani team made a quick repair on the water to their bow. Both boats will be craned out tonight, but expect them to be back ready to race tomorrow.
The Red Bull Sailing Team is a familiar fixture on the Series, but is fielding a new line-up this year. The Austrian team, who finished third overall in 2013 and are currently eighth in Singapore, have had a mixed bag of results so far this week as they adapt to their new line up. With just 40 points separating them from current leader, Alinghi, their experienced skipper Roman Hagara spoke tactics for putting that right. 'I think we just have to focus a little more on our starts, we had some really shocking starts today and then on the second downwind we made some major mistakes and we lost a couple of boats at times. We’ve just discussed this in our de-brief and that’s definitely what we have to look towards tomorrow!'
Even the most experienced of Extreme 40 sailors are struggling to be consistent with the unpredictable breeze on the tricky stadium racecourse. Paul Campbell-James, helm of Gazprom Team Russia, is a two-time Series winning helm, but admits stepping back into the Series for the first time since 2011 has been a challenge. 'I’m really enjoying it but I am definitely showing some sure signs of rust! It is a bit frustrating obviously as the last time I sailed an Extreme 40 was here in Singapore and we won the event! It’s a bit harder to be at the back of the fleet. The main thing is the starting and that’s the thing we didn’t do well at all the last couple of days. We will get there. We're still on a learning curve. Everything is positive.'
The local representative on Team Aberdeen Singapore, who got the biggest cheers from the fans around the bay, and narrowed the gap over 11th placed GAC Pindar to just one point. The public is expected to be out in the droves over the weekend to watch the elite level racing, right in the heart of this high-rise city.
Extreme Sailing Series™ 2014 Act 1, Singapore standings after Day 2, total 15 races
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 111 points.
2nd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Glenn Ashby, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 90 points.
3rd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 84 points.
4th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Sophie de Turckheim, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 81 points.
5th Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Thierry Wassem, Sebastien Stephant 81 points.
6th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Pippa Wilson, Matt Cornwell 80 points.
7th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Peter Wibroe, Nicolai Sehested 73 points.
8th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Nick Blackman, Haylee Outteridge 71 points.
9th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, Will Howden, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 61 points.
10th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Paul Campbell-James, Alister Richardson, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 56 points.
11th GAC Pindar (AUS) Seve Jarvin, Troy Tindill, Ed Smyth, Sam Newton, Alexandra South 32 points.
12th Team Aberdeen Singapore (SIN) Nick Moloney, Adam Beashel, Scott Glen Sydney, Tom Dawson, Justin Wong 31 points.