In some of the best conditions the fleet have raced in all year, you couldn’t have scripted a better final to the Extreme Sailing Series Act 6 in Istanbul, and the fans on shore and following around the world were rewarded with a nail-bitingly close, down-to-the-wire shoot out after 31 races.
The 12 Extreme 40s blasted around the track in 20-23 knots, reefs in their mainsails, with the lead changing hands in almost every race. As fortunes swung one way, and then another, Dean Barker and the crew on Emirates Team New Zealand needed to put two boats between them and The Wave, Muscat in the final race to take the win – and they did just that, clinching their first Act win of the year – the first time a team other then Alinghi or The Wave, Muscat have won an Act since 2012.
“It’s always good to get on the plane after a good one rather than a bad one, so I’m just really happy with the way the guys have just responded after what was a really tough result in Cardiff (where the team came last) and every now and then it’s good to get a good kick up the backside to make you realise you have to work hard for these. We’ve improved each day and it was just a really close, hard event,” Barker commented.
Heading into the final race, mathematically Alinghi could have taken the Act win, but with their eyes on the 2014 season prize, their focus was locked on The Wave, Muscat and keeping them off the top spot. The Swiss had done their maths and knew exactly where they wanted their season rivals to finish, working hard to force them deep into the pack and out of contention for the Act win.
“We had an outside chance to win that last race and we did one lap of the race still trying to win, not knowing what could still happen. Then we got to the final lap and it was clear that if we continued to win the race with Emirates Team New Zealand second, then The Wave, Muscat may have won this Act. So we were thinking of the overall Series, we just had to let the Kiwis go, and then go back and hold The Wave, Muscat back a little bit because they were coming out strong. They’re such a good team, picking off boats one by one and so we just had to try and block them back and make it so we got second.”
Despite missing out on top prize in Istanbul, McMillan and the team on The Wave, Muscat did what they came here to do: Beat Alinghi and narrow the gap on the 2014 rankings. However, that gave little solace to McMillan, who commented after the win: “It was close points between us and Emirates Team New Zealand, but unfortunately Alinghi obviously didn’t want us to win and so they got in the way during the race and made our life pretty difficult. We’re frustrated, the last two days we’ve sailed really well. There are two more Acts, and we’ve beaten Morgan Larson at the last two, and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing. Second or first at this event, it doesn’t make any difference really because it can come down to Sydney and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Rob Greenhalgh’s Oman Air finished the regatta in fourth place, their strongest performance of the season, going better than their pre-Act target of sixth place, as Greenhalgh commented: “It has been a tough event as usual but we have finished fourth, which we are happy with. It has been hard work for everyone. The crew have worked really hard and have done a very good job. We are improving and refining the details and everyone wants to do better so they get upset when there are mistakes but that’s what happens when expectations improve. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going and put a good performance in Nice”.
It was a good day for SAP Extreme Sailing Team, all the time making steady progress and narrowing the points gap to finish in a solid fifth place after starting in the day in eighth. Just six points behind is Groupama sailing team – a season’s best for the French under the guidance of skipper for this Act, Tanguy Cariou.
Racing at this level, as one of the very best teams in the world, things don’t always go to plan, as the French found out on the opening day, when they dismasted. Missing four races and languishing in last place, the team still managed to bounce back to finish sixth overall, and their persistence, commitment, and performance on the water, earned them the Land Rover Above and Beyond Award.
With the penultimate Act of 2014 in Nice, France just over two weeks away (2-5 October), there will be many lessons learnt here and rivalries are burning stronger than ever. Alinghi hang onto the overall lead with 55 points but their advantage over The Wave, Muscat has been narrowed to just one point.
Looking ahead Larson summarised: “It’s a fresh event and we’ll have to come out strong, try to have some great results – it will all be on. If we have some good results and things go our way, it will be nice going into Sydney but it’s going to be close and with double points in the final event I’m sure it will come down to the last race”.
Extreme Sailing Series Act 6 Istanbul standings after Day 4, 31 races (14.09.14)
Position / Team / Points
1st Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Glenn Ashby, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 210 points.
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 204 points.
3rd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 188 points.
4th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Ted Hackney, Kyle Langford, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 169 points.
5th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Christian Kamp, Brad Farrand 154 points.
6th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Tanguy Cariou, François Morvan, Romain Motteau, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 148 points.
7th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Bleddyn Mon, Matt Cornwell 143 points.
8th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Nick Blackman, Mark Bulkeley, Shaun Mason, Stewart Dodson 142 points.
9th Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Cédric Schmidt, Thierry Wassem 135 points.
10th GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Jack Macartney, Ed Smyth, Seve Jarvin, Tyson Lamond 130 points.
11th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Phil Robertson, Matt Adams, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 126 points.
12th TeamTurx (TUR) Mitch Booth, Can Bayülken, Selim Kakış, Deniz çinar, Anıl Berk Baki 85 points.
Extreme Sailing Series 2014 overall standings
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) 55 points.
2nd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) 54 points.
3rd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 43 points.
4th Realteam by Realstone (SUI) 36 points.
5th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) 29 points.
6th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 24 points.
7th Oman Air (OMA) 23 points.
8th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) 23 points.
9th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 23 points.
10th Groupama sailing team (FRA) 20 points.
11th GAC Pindar (AUS) 6 points.