The sixth year on the international sailing calendar for the Extreme Sailing Series global circuit has seen eight world-class teams – plus three ‘wildcard’ home teams in Cardiff, Qingdao and Rio - compete in seven Acts, spanning three continents in what has been another extraordinary year of competition.
Vital for the sponsors of the event and teams, without whom there would be no event, the estimated media value for 2012 is forecast to be just shy of €30m, as predicted by independent media evaluation company Havas Sponsorship Insights, with the live TV output increasing its share with coverage by host broadcasters Qingdao TV, TRT3 (Istanbul), RTP2 (Porto) and SportTV (Brazil) - three out of the eight venues going live on national TV.
The distribution of the 6 x 26 minute TV documentary series continues to grow in quality and reach with over 40 broadcasters now showing the series across five continents. And global brand SAP announced a three-year partnership as Official Technical Partner, which will greatly enhance the viewing experience in the future. Two more supporting sponsor announcements are due in the comings weeks.
Bringing sailing to the public through its pioneering stadium sailing format, the new venues of Porto (Portugal), Cardiff (UK) and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) were added to the global mix attracting new fans along the way. Over one million spectators have now seen the Extreme 40s in action first hand and the public get to see more than just a racing event with aerial displays, musicians, dancers and the NeilPryde Racing Series attracting many top wind surfers at each location. The number of Facebook fans has tripled since the start of the season and the Extreme Sailing Series YouTube channel has had over one million views in the past two years.
Starting in the Sultanate of Oman in February, new and old faces representing the best in the sport competed against each other for the first time and it was American ace sailor Morgan Larson, fresh to the circuit, who stepped up to the mark winning the opening Act in his Extreme 40 debut with his team Oman Air – a feat never achieved before by a new skipper.
Next, it was back to China’s Olympic sailing city, Qingdao and this time it was another Omani team, The Wave, Muscat, making the headlines. British Olympian Leigh McMillan led his team to their first victory of the year and with it, put them top of the 2012 Series podium – a position McMillan quickly became comfortable with. Double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara’s Red Bull Sailing Team took second – the Austrian team’s first podium result since Muscat 2011.
Istanbul, Turkey, the gateway between Europe and Asia, hosted an unforgettable Act 3. From racing on the stunning waters of the Bosphorus to stadium racing against the backdrop of Istanbul’s old town and the famous Blue Mosque, it was again Leigh McMillan who led his team The Wave, Muscat to their second Act victory, with the French Groupe Edmond de Rothschild snatching second place from Red Bull Sailing Team in the dying minutes of the final race.
Next to Porto, Portugal - a new host venue in 2012 where the biggest ever spectators numbers came to see just what would happen when the eight Extreme 40s competed on the most compact race course in the history of the circuit on the Douro River. There were plenty of bumps and scrapes - a big collision between SAP Extreme Sailing Team and GAC Pindar stopped these teams in their tracks and the French team found themselves on the rocks. But McMillan excelled in the tight stadium racing, storming to his third consecutive Act win and extending the overall Series lead for his Omani team.
Cardiff UK welcomed the Extreme 40s as part of the Cardiff Harbour Festival and there was plenty for the fans to cheer on with high-adrenalin racing in gusty conditions, wing walkers and parachutists. Wildcard entry Team Wales had London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Hannah Mills as part of their crew and ex-England cricket captain and Strictly Come Dancing star Michael Vaughan tried his hand at racing at the sharp end. Oman Air set the pace early on and Morgan Larson’s team clinched victory in the final race denying The Wave, Muscat their fourth straight win.
Getting into the business end of the Series, the penultimate Act took the fleet to the French Riviera in Nice, racing off the Promenade de Anglais. Described by skippers as ‘extreme’ and ‘on the edge’, Nice delivered the best conditions of the year which suited Pierre Pennec’s Groupe Edmond de Rothschild.
The Swiss team Alinghi slammed into The Wave, Muscat putting a dent not only in their hull but in their stride for victory. And so it was a win on home waters for the French team putting them back in contention for a Series podium place.
In 2016 Rio de Janeiro will host the Olympic Games and leading up to that the designated Olympic waters will host the Extreme Sailing Series for another three years after the stunning debut two weeks ago. Four teams (Red Bull Sailing Team, Oman Air, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and The Wave, Muscat) were gunning for the Series podium places, including the team that led the charge for so much of 2012, The Wave, Muscat.
Inevitably there were winners and losers, and in the closest finish ever in the Extreme Sailing Series history, McMillan clinched both the Rio de Janeiro Act and the Overall 2012 Series Trophy. Olympic sailing legend Torben Grael skippered the home boat ‘ Team Brasil’ in his Extreme 40 debut, but the closest Grael came to the ‘silverware’ was when he handed it over to McMillan. Perhaps next year….
It all starts again on March 5th in Muscat Oman for the seventh year of the effective World Championship of Stadium Sailing!