Next week the iShares Cup Extreme 40 Sailing Series arrives right in the heart of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, for the grand finale of the European circuit.
After four events and am amazing 61 fast and furious races this season, incredibly there is a draw at the top of the overall leaderboard, with Team Origin (GBR), skippered by defending iShares Cup champion Rob Greenhalgh, tied with the America's Cup holders Alinghi (SUI) skippered by Ed Baird. Alinghi have won the past three iShares Cup events in a row, whilst Team Origin scored consistent second places at every venue to hold the lead overall - until now.
Team Origin skipper Robert Greenhalgh was looking forward to the duel:
'And so we get to the final event of what has been an excellent iShares Cup Extreme 40 series. Obviously our aim is to win the series and so we will be 100 per cent focused on that goal. Our boat is fully repaired and ready to go after the crash on the last day of Kiel so let's hope we get some great racing in what will be a very tight space!'
Because of the big fleet and ultra-tight racetrack the 10 Extreme 40s will be split into 'rounds' of five races, with eight boats racing at a time on the narrow IJ-Haven.
Alan Hillman, Race Director, explained: 'On the final day after completing as many rounds as possible and counting up all the teams accumulated points we shall have a Grand Finale for the top eight boats. This race will have a lot at stake as it counts double the points and should create a nail-biting, high pressure finish for the teams as they fight for the 2008 iShares Cup.'
The high-octane competition continues right through the fleet, with third-placed BT currently just two points ahead of Holmatro - who'll be fighting hard for a good showing in their home venue. Oman Sail and JPMorgan Asset Management are snapping at their heels too, with just five points separating the four boats.
Other teams who will looking for a good showing are the largely Dutch crew on Volvo Ocean Race who will want a great result at the Netherlands leg, as will the American team onboard Tommy Hilfiger who have strong Dutch connections with their title sponsors. Team Aqua found great form to finish the last event in third place, while iShares ended Round 4 on a high by winning the final double-points race, and both will be hoping to build on their improving results.
After a media and practice race day on Thursday 18 September, racing takes place from Friday 19 August to Sunday 21 August on the IJ-Haven between Java Island and the Tosaristraat Bridge.
Racing starts at 1.00 each day, with up to 10 short and sharp races scheduled each afternoon. There will be a parade of sail before each afternoon, and onshore commentary to help visitors keep up with the fast-paced action, while the iShares Cup race village in the IJ-Haven will be also be open to the public.
Sunday in Amsterdam is a car-free day so lots of public are expected to come and watch the racing, and hoping for another spectacle like Kiel at the last iShares Cup event.