Sydney Harbour saved her best until last for the 50 Extreme Series sailors. Sunday dawned with clear skies and a steady 15 knot north-easterly made exciting viewing for the spectators who crammed the foreshore.
High-flying hulls were commonplace and there were several times when paint was exchanged. But spectators had to wait until the sixth race for the expected carnage to occur. Screaming up the harbour at over 20 knots, GAC Pindar overtook Realteam but when they tried to get clear ahead Realteam touched their port rudder and tore it off, causing the Australian boat to round up and capsize. GAC Pindar was found to be at fault as the windward boat and no penalty was called on Realteam, who were also responsible for the incident yesterday when Ben Ainslie's tiller bar was taken out.
Wilmot commented: “From my point of view we sailed over the top of Realstone on the run. We were hit hard, with the impact just ripping off the rudder and the capsize was imminent. Everyone is fine and we're hoping the rig is in one piece. Obviously we're down one rudder but the main thing is that everyone's OK.
“It's a disappointing end to the week for us but it's been incredible sailing on Sydney harbour and we've enjoyed all the support from our home fans.”
At the front of the fleet all eyes were on Alinghi and The Wave, Muscat, who were duelling for both the Act win and the overall points. When Leigh McMillan won two of the first four races, it looked as though the Act win could be his, but Morgan Larsen kept Alinghi in contact before finishing strongly with a win and two second places.
Ultimately Larsen took the Act by 12 points and the series by 10, finally becoming champion after two runners-up performances. The Wave, Muscat was second for the 2014 season and Realteam were third after Team New Zealand decided not to contest the final Act.
Larsen was understandably very pleased with his team's win. “We’ve had an amazing season with an amazing team. To win the season and the Act on the last day in the conditions we had here in Sydney, which is the best sailing venue in the world, is a special moment that’s going to take a long time to sink in. The level of confidence that we have on our boat just made me realise I can win anything with these guys. This is the best feeling I’ve had all year and probably in the whole of my sailing career, so I’m going to cherish it.”
While GAC Pindar struggled with poor starting and some slow gybes and tacks today, Tom Slingsby's daily rate as a professional sailor must surely have risen sharply after the past two days. Friday was his first day racing the Extreme 40 and he took nine races to get to grips with the concept. But after winning the final race of that day he went on to be equal best performer on Saturday and was the stand-out today. In a class where experience is considered the most valuable commodity, this rapid command of a difficult class to sail is positively freakish.
Throwing Oman Air into tacks and gybes with ease, he used clever tactics and his knowledge of Sydney Harbour to put together an impressive scorecard. Often starting on port and ducking all the starboard tackers off the line, he would fly into the shoreline at Lady Macquarie's Point and then beat across to the top mark on starboard, leaving most of the fleet in his wake.
He won only one race today, but was almost always in the top three, scoring 70 points out of a possible 90. Despite starting day two in last place and a long way behind on points, Oman Air finished fourth overall. Slingsby was quick to praise his crew, which included fellow Australians and Oracle Team USA America's Cup winners Kyle Langford and Joey Newton, along with Australian match racer Ted Hackney and Omani national Ali Al Balashi.
“We did as well as we could have done today, and the points worked out well,” Slingsby said. “The atmosphere out there was great, with all the spectator boats, the people on the shore cheering as you went past was pretty amazing. After coming last in day one to come back and win the next two days to get fourth overall is fantastic – I wish I had adapted to these boats one day earlier! It was tricky the first day, I felt I was out of my league.”
Although there are questions being asked about the financial performance of the Sydney Act, we believe a commitment has been made for three years. The sailors all want to come back and the spectators loved the event – on the water it was a complete success.
– Roger McMillan, Editor.