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SAP Extreme Sailing Team triumph in 2017 Extreme Sailing Series™

by Extreme Sailing Series 3 Dec 2017 21:59 PST 30 November - 3 December 2017
Danish-flagged SAP Extreme Sailing Team was crowned champion of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series™. © Lloyd Images

Danish-flagged SAP Extreme Sailing Team was crowned champion of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series™, while Alinghi took home the Act 8, Los Cabos, presented by SAP trophy, in an electrifying season finale.

The wind tantalised the apprehensive teams, only filling in enough to run three scoring races in the final hour of the day. The Danes had victory in the bag by the time it came to the closing double-points race but the heat was still on between Alinghi and Oman Air in the war to win the first-ever Mexican Extreme Sailing Series Act.

For an ecstatic SAP Extreme Sailing Team co-skipper Rasmus Køstner this is a momentous occasion, as it is his first ever victory in the ultimate Stadium Racing championship since he began competing in 2012.

"It's a goal we've had for a long, long time, and it's actually the reason we started the project, so it is amazing," said an elated Køstner, who celebrated with his fellow crewmembers: Co-skipper and coach Jes Gram-Hansen, helm Adam Minoprio, headsail trimmer Pierluigi de Felice, trimmer and grinder Mads Emil Stephensen and bowman Richard Mason.

"It's been a great journey and a really fantastic achievement by the team and I'm very proud of them for the work they've put in. We're finally here and it's a good feeling, that's for sure," added Køstner, whose team's victory was topped off by winning the Zhik Speed Machine Trophy for reaching the top speed of the Act and of the year at 33.7 knots, an insight provided by SAP.

Although the season trophy was out of reach for Alinghi and Oman Air, their fate in Act standings was only decided in the last nail-biting race of the day. Not deterred by Oman Air's two race wins in the run-up, the Swiss finished ahead of the Omani syndicate to seal the Act 8 triumph.

"Today was quite tricky and we didn't start the day well but we came back in the second race and everything was on the table for the last one," said Arnaud Psarofaghis, co-skipper and helm of Alinghi, who finished second for the season.

"It was a great battle with Oman Air, but we managed to beat them. I think Phil Robertson [skipper of Oman Air] lost at his own game of trying to match race us and we got ahead in the end. Really well done to SAP Extreme Sailing Team; it's been a great season," he added.

Despite a commendable effort in the two opening races, Oman Air was unable to catch its adversary Alinghi and finished second for the Act and third for the season.

"It was a massive fight and we were very close to pulling off the event win. We were in the position a couple of times in that last race to do it, but unfortunately the Swiss sailed a little too well to make it easy for us. We had to get our hands dirty but it didn't go our way," said skipper Phil Robertson.

"It was a very good event, I'm pretty pleased with the way we sailed today but it would be nice to be on the top step," he added.

With SAP Extreme Sailing Team determined to keep its main threat at an arm's length, Red Bull Sailing Team had a tough battle on its hands and one which it lost.

"SAP Extreme Sailing Team were going at us from the start. We knew they were coming but Adam Minoprio is a very good match racer and I judged it wrong. We fought back but it still wasn't enough," said skipper Roman Hagara, whose team finished fourth for the Act and the season.

Land Rover BAR Academy was helmed this week by Olympic gold-medallist and 2017 America's Cup sailor Giles Scott, who managed to out sail his America's Cup rival, Kiwi Josh Junior, who was at the helm of NZ Extreme Sailing Team. A fifth-place finish in the Act for the Brits saw it leapfrog the New Zealand-entry on the overall leaderboard to take fifth.

The drama was heightened in the final double-points race when local wildcard Team Extreme México pulled off its first-ever race win. The crowds were overjoyed for the home team, which was skippered by Mexican sailor Erik Brockmann and helmed by Brit Chris Taylor.

"We couldn't have asked for more. We had a tough second race today so we had nothing to lose going into the final race. We thought 'let's go for it, let's give the crowd a show'," said Brockmann.

"We had a great start. We were the only ones on port and it gave us a good advantage over the fleet. In this fleet, you can't be leading at the first mark and just keep hold of that lead. We had to really fight for it to go our way and it was just amazing for the crowd. We could hear all the fans and that made it very special."

US-flagged wildcard Lupe Tortilla Demetrio, who competed for the second time here in Los Cabos following its debut at Act 7, San Diego, finished bottom of the Act leaderboard.

Act 8, Los Cabos, presented by SAP, rounded off a sensational 10-month long season that has seen the Stadium Racing championship visit eight cities across three continents. The high-octane action resumes in 2018 and the calendar will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information about the event visit the official website.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 8, Los Cabos, presented by SAP Overall Results: (20 races)

  1. Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Timothé Lapauw, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 224pts
  2. Oman Air (OMA) Phil Robertson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 212pts
  3. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Rasmus Køstner, Adam Minoprio, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi de Felice, Richard Mason 209pts
  4. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Will Tiller 191pts
  5. Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Rob Bunce, Giles Scott, Oli Greber, Sam Batten, Matt Brushwood 157pts
  6. NZ Extreme Sailing Team (NZL) Graeme Sutherland, Josh Junior, Harry Hull, Andy Maloney, Josh Salthouse 157pts
  7. Team Extreme México (MEX) Erik Brockmann, Chris Taylor, Alex Higby, Tom Buggy, Danel Belausteguigoitia Fierro, Armando Noriega Negrete 153pts
  8. Lupe Tortilla Demetrio (USA) John Tomko, Jonathan Atwood, Matthew Whitehead, Tripp Burd, Trevor Burd 125pts
Extreme Sailing Series™ 2017 Overall Results:
  1. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 98pts
  2. Alinghi (SUI) 96pts
  3. Oman Air (OMA) 95pts
  4. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 84pts
  5. Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) 70pts
  6. NZ Extreme Sailing Team (NZL) 70pts
Additional quotes:

Rob Bunce (GBR), skipper and bowman of Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR): "We were really excited to come to a new venue and for the first three days we had some amazing breeze, which we weren't expecting. It's great to sail these boats in the conditions they were made for. We had a new helm here in Giles Scott and it's been difficult for us to transfer that learning to a different person, but I think today we finally did that so we're happy enough.

"We've had our ups and downs but I think when we get the best five guys together we're a force to be reckoned with and we proved that with our second place in China and our win in the Red Bull Youth America's Cup. After that it's about finding new sailors from the UK and bringing that talent through. We've got a great bunch of guys now and a great bunch of guys next year, so the Academy is doing really well."

John Tomko (USA), skipper and helm of Lupe Tortilla Demetrio (USA): "It was a huge opportunity to be able to do this, racing with some of the best sailors in the world. I would never have dreamed I would have that chance. It was a lot of fun, we really enjoyed it. Getting to sail with the guys on our boat was a real pleasure for me, I feel like they're all a league above me so watching them learn the boat and get better and better was a tonne of fun."

Josh Junior (NZL), co-skipper and helm of NZ Extreme Sailing Team (NZL): "We're sailing the boat heaps better than when we started. I think things just haven't gone our way this week and I guess that happens from time to time but we're improving and looking forward to next season."

Adam Minoprio (NZL), helm of SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN): "We're ecstatic. We've been working hard this year and always looking to improve. To be able to win half of the events this year has been great for the team and we feel like we've really improved the boat, the team and the performance, and we're pleased we get the reward of the win here."

The Oman Air crew pulled out all the stops on the final day of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series with back-to-back race wins in a dramatic conclusion to a closely fought season. (from Oman Sail)

The team took to the water for the final races of the Act in Los Cabos, Mexico, focused on overhauling regatta leaders Alinghi.

With the last day seeing just three races due to a lack of wind, Oman Air halved the 12 point overnight deficit to the Swiss team with decisive wins in the first two, and went into the final double-points decider with a real chance of winning the Act and securing second place in the season overall.

After the lead changed hands several times in the course of the race, it came down to almost the final manoeuvre of the entire regatta. Agonizingly, the Oman Air crew of Phil Robertson, Nasser Al Mashari, Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth and James Wierzbowski had to watch as Alinghi edged ahead round the last mark of the course to push them into second place.

"We started the day 12 points behind Alinghi and put ourselves in a position going into the last race exactly where we wanted to be after winning the first two races," said Robertson, Oman Air's skipper and helm.

"It was a massive effort and it proved that when we need to we can pull out all the stops. We came out on the right foot with a chance to win it in the final race, but Alinghi were a little too far up the leaderboard for us. So a day of drama, but a good day – not quite where we wanted to be but a strong finish is nice.

"It would have been a great outcome to have taken it, a real nail-biter, but Alinghi sailed very well to get to where they were in that race all things considered, and they've had a glamour regatta so congratulations to them for winning," added the New Zealand world match-racing champion.

Alinghi's victory in Mexico saw them finish the overall Extreme Sailing Series in second spot, with Oman Air just a point behind in third place. The 2017 title went to the Danish-flagged SAP Extreme Sailing Team who won four of the eight Acts in the course of the season, and had gone into the Mexican finale with a realistically unassailable lead.

Oman Air's veteran bowman Al Mashari said: "We knew it was going to be hard to overtake SAP in Mexico, so our focus was on beating Alinghi and winning the regatta and then seeing what happened with the rest of the fleet.

"It was very close, and winning the two races here on the final day showed what we are able to do when the pressure is on. It has been a good season for us with many strong results to remember. Our congratulations go to SAP Extreme Sailing Team for their season victory."

With the drama in Mexico concluded, Robertson was also able to reflect on his debut season with the experienced Oman Air team.

"It's been a very good season overall. We dropped a couple of points at one or two regattas which we regret but apart from that we have sailed very, very well. The highlights of the season were winning back-to-back Acts in Barcelona and Hamburg, and finishing on the podium at all the others except for San Diego.

"With me coming in to helm it took a while for us all to learn each other's styles, and the boys my style. This is a good place to be and we are learning more about ourselves and how we sail together as a team, it's all positive.

"Next year we are going to be stronger for sure and we've got enough to win the season. We will be looking to get ahead of all the teams, and starting in Oman is definitely an event we would want to win, so we will be coming in to it ready to go. It's going to be a good season and we are all eyes forward."

Don't miss the Team Oman Air season review here.

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