The iShares Cup Extreme 40 Sailing Series arrives in Kiel, Germany over the weekend of the 29 to 31 August - and thousands of spectators are expected to watch the incredible catamarans battle it out for the crown at the fourth event of this premier European circuit. The field is packed with the world's top sailors from the world of the America's Cup, Olympics and offshore racing scene and it is a rare opportunity to see this class of sailors racing so close to shore.
After 45 races over three European events so far this season it's still incredibly tight at the top of the overall leaderboard, with just one point separating Team Origin (GBR), skippered by Rob Greenhalgh, from Ed Baird, skipper of Alinghi (SUI) - who has won the past two events.
'The 2008 iShares Cup Extreme 40 circuit has so far lived up to expectations,' commented Rob Greenhalgh, who is hoping to secure overall victory next weekend. 'Competition has been significantly higher than last year. 2008 has seen us finish second at each event - good consistent results. We have however made some errors, capsizing at the last two events. We are currently holding a 1-point lead over Alinghi for the series so Kiel is going to be critical to the final standings. We are going with the aim of winning the event to help secure our iShares Cup overall series standing.' However, competition continues to be tough with 10 Extreme 40s racing at Kiel, including leg one winner double Olympic gold medalist Shirley Robertson on JPMorgan Asset Management. Third-placed Holmatro, skippered by Andreas Hagara, and Volvo Ocean Race, with Herbert Dercksen helming, will both be looking to climb the leaderboard before the series grand finale in their home country of Amsterdam next month.
The scores are close right through the fleet, with the third, fourth, fifth and sixth-placed boats on 19, 18, 17, and 16 points respectively. 'We're just one point back in fourth overall, an easily catchable deficit,' said Andrew Walsh, helmsman of BT. 'But we certainly can't just focus our efforts on beating Holmatro, as close on our heels are the likes of JPMorgan Asset Management and Oman Sail on 17 and 16 points respectively. So the podium is still anyone's to win!'
They'll be battling it out against former Olympians Hugh Styles, skippering iShares, and Athens bronze medalist Chris Draper, helming Oman Sail. USA team Tommy Hilfiger also rejoins the circuit in Germany, and Team Aqua will be returning to the fray after suffering damage during the crash-and-burn UK leg of the series at Cowes.
'After not being able to complete the Cowes event, we're fired up for Kiel and keen to show what we're capable of,' explained a determined Team Aqua's Jim Turner.
One of the core objectives of the iShares Cup is to bring sailing to the public, and the new venue of Kiel Sailing City is ideal. Every year the German city hosts Kiel Week, a huge regatta and summer festival, which sees crowds of spectators lining the city's sea walls to view the action, and the iShares Cup will be held in the same fantastic sailing amphitheatre. With the Extreme 40 racecourses set just metres from the shoreline, over 70,000 people are expected to come and watch the spectacular iShares Cup sailing in Kiel. There will be onshore commentary in both English and German from Roland Gaebler, German Olympic bronze medalist at Sydney in the Tornado catamaran, to help visitors keep up with the fast and furious races. The iShares Cup race village will be open to the public, where there will be live music each evening - and lots of chances to find out more about the Extreme 40s and the incredible sailors who race them.
'Having Kiel at this stage of the competition brings a lot of interest: first the scores on the leaderboard are very tight and we will have some real suspense over the three days of racing. Secondly the public will be able to watch the competition very closely as part of the racecourse is right alongside the shoreline, and there will also be a daily parade at 1345 to present the teams to spectators,' explained Event Director Gilles Chiorri.
After a media and practice race day on Thursday 28 August, racing takes place from Friday 29 August to Sunday 31 August on the Kieler Førde, from the Marina and Germania Yacht Clubs at Kiellinie, between IFM-Geomar and Reventlouwiese. The teams will be taking guests for a sail on the Innerførde each morning, then racing starts at 2.30 each afternoon, with up to six short and sharp races scheduled each afternoon.
Follow all the action at http://www.iSharesCup.com