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An interview with Rasmus Kostner about the Extreme Sailing Series Los Cabos, Mexico Event

by David Schmidt 19 Nov 2018 08:00 PST 29 November 2018

The Extreme Sailing Series began in 2007 with a four-event circuit that saw teams travel to major European cities including Amsterdam, Munich, Marseille, and Cowes to sail then-state-of-the-art Extreme 40 catamarans in stadium-like settings that brought high-performance sailing to the masses. Great Britain's Rob Greenhalgh (more recently of Volvo Ocean Race fame) and his Basilica team reached the podium's top step that first season, and the events attracted enough eyeballs to justify going bigger in 2008. By 2009, the Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) was traveling to Asia, and by 2011 it was putting on up to nine different international "Acts" (in ESS parlance) each season.

Flash forward to 2018, and the ESS now uses foiling GC32 catamarans and races on a seven-Act international circuit that stretches as far east as Muscat, Oman, and as far west as San Diego, California, and Los Cabos, Mexico, and it has expanded to seven teams, including former America's Cup winner Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi squad, Red Bull Sailing Team, Oman Air, and INEOS Rebels UK, the later of which is being skippered by three-time ESS champion Leigh McMillan.

After enjoying a successful event in San Diego (October 18-21), the ESS is now preparing to unfurl its flags ahead of its Cabos San Lucas act (November 29-December 2), which will see teams racing on crystal clear waters off of the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula, just as the weather starts getting cold and blustery in most of Europe and North America.

I checked in with Rasmus Kostner, skipper of the SAP Extreme Sailing Team, via email, to learn more about his team's successful 2018 season and this high-flying regatta.

Congratulations on a fantastic 2018 season! What have been your biggest keys to success this year?

I think we're building on many years of experience of running the campaign, but also a very good mix of individuals on the boat. I think we have some very experienced guys, and we've been mixing it a bit with some younger, keen sailors on the boat. This has made it fairly easy to perform consistently. We're really happy with how the team is sailing at the moment.

How tricky of a place is Los Cabos to race boats like the GC32? Is local knowledge a big deal at this venue?

Last year was the first time for us sailing in Los Cabos, and we saw some conditions that were very shifty and puffy coming off the beach there. It makes it really difficult on a powerful boat like this, where, in the wind range of 4-8 knots, the boat is behaving very, very differently.

I think some of the days we saw quite windy conditions. If you're foiling, then very gusty conditions require that you're good at changing angle and changing mode.

It's very physical, it's very hard to predict, and when you mix it with a short course and a lot of good competitors and you definitely have an interesting race!

What was your strategy going into last year's Los Cabos Act? Also, how do you envision changing your strategy going into this year's final Act? Or, will you employ the same vision that you used last year? Can you please explain?

Last year we were in a pretty good position on the overall leaderboard, with a couple of points down to Alinghi and Oman Air, and that took a little bit of the pressure off. We knew that we should have two boats between us and Alinghi, and for us to lose and become second...it was a little bit of a game of sailing our own regatta and doing as best we could, but not focus too much on other boats...We knew that if we could stay on the podium we would win.

We were really happy finishing third on the podium, which wouldn't have happened at many of the other regattas that year. It was a big relief to win it after six years, and we are really happy with our overall result last year.

This year, we are hunting down Alinghi, and we hope we can make it happen. They have had a very strong season so far, and we have lost out on some of the last races where it has been quite even.

We'll see if we can turn it around...with the double points in Los Cabos, there's still some opportunity that we are definitely looking for. It will hopefully be down to the last race in Los Cabos.

Competition wise, who do you see as your biggest rivals going into the Los Cabos event?

It's obviously a lot on Alinghi and Oman Air for the overall season leaderboard. Both of these teams have had really good seasons this year, and we have lost out on some pretty critical races, so we obviously have a lot of respect for them, but at the same time we know we can win when we are doing things right.

It's going to be interesting in Los Cabos.

Have you or your team taken any steps to reduce your environmental footprint or otherwise reduce the environmental impact of your campaign?

We are in a sport where we are sailing on the water using the natural resources of the Earth, and of course we are looking after not making too big a footprint or harm with what we do.

It's very easy to think that you just buy some stuff and throw it away when you're done with it, but we try and re-use as much as we can. For example, the racing sails, we have given away to a project in Denmark where they are building a new hotel and the sails are going to be the facade of the elevator towers.

Hopefully we can see that project for many years, instead of that sail just occupying some space in a storage room.

So, it's things like that where-if you are a little bit creative and you think outside of the box-you'll find solutions for some of the waste that you have, things that you're not using any more.

We have a lot of things to think about, but finding a solution that works well it's not that difficult, so we try as best we can to minimize our footprint.

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