With the UK leg of the global Stadium Racing tour just 24 hours away, David ‘Freddie’ Carr gives his dockside views from Cardiff Bay.
I’ve been going to Cardiff for around 14 years now and every time I go down to the Bay, I always think what an awesome venue this is an Extreme Sailing Series event – it really is the perfect place for it. There aren’t too many high-rise buildings surrounding the racecourse to mess up the wind, and the boats can sail out into the main area with the reward of some good breeze. The racecourse itself is kind of shaped like an hourglass, with all the starts and finishes right in the guts of Cardiff Bay just under the nose of the locals. The Extreme 40s can reach out past the Saint David’s Hotel into the middle of the bay itself, do a couple of windward leewards and then blast back in towards the spectators. It’s got something for everyone – it’s rewarding for the sailors as the breeze is often really good, and it’s a superb area to watch the sailing from whilst having a pint or an ice cream – it’s a great spot.
Looking at the line-up, with nine out of 11 teams making crew changes, I think the most notable thing is the two teams at the top of the leaderboard – Alinghi and The Wave, Muscat – have chosen not to change their crew. Although Anna Tunnicliffe is returning to Alinghi from the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games – she’s obviously sailed a number of Acts with the team this year – the two teams have taken on the mentality of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, their boat handling and boat speed is just brilliant.
So far this season there are a number of teams that are likely to be disappointed with their positioning on the leaderboard at the halfway stage, and will be looking to use this transfer window to add a bit more energy to potentially shake things up, and try to climb the scoreboard. It’s a calculated risk because after four events, the crews boat handling and communication will be locked in and on a few of the boats they’re changing up to two crewmembers – so it’s quite a risk! However, you never know, it could just be that little shot in the arm that a couple of the teams need to start climbing up that leaderboard.
With the recent announcement of Paul Campbell-James joining Ben Ainslie Racing for the 35th America’s Cup Freddie talks about his fellow teammate:
Paul Campbell-James is hot property within the sailing community. He’s won the Extreme Sailing Series twice and with a couple of America’s Cup teams interested in him, it just worked out that he joined Ben Ainslie Racing – and Cardiff will in effect be his first outing sitting next to Ben Ainslie on J.P. Morgan BAR. Paul Goodison, has done a fantastic job so far this season as tactician, and due to other sailing commitments, it was always the plan for the team for him to step away from the Series for the Act, and I think Paul Campbell-James will be a very strong addition to the team, he knows Extreme 40 sailing inside out, but he will have to work up a good communication system with Ben that will get the Extreme 40 around the course. With Paul Campbell-James stepping off of Gazprom Team Russia for the Act, he’s left that helmsman spot for Phil Robertson who is a very talented young Kiwi Match Racer. He competed in the Series in 2012 for China Team and 2013 with ChinaSpirit where he held his own and did exceptionally well.
The other boat that stands out to me going into Act 5 is SAP Extreme Sailing Team. They’ve had a really up and down year so far, but they have Christian Kamp joining them who I’ve sailed with on past America’s Cups. He’s not only one of the best people to race with – he’s a world-class trimmer – but he’s an absolute joy to go sailing with. He’s really consistent, a fun and happy bloke and whatever type of boat you’re sailing on with Christian, he just keeps his chin up and keeps the morale going – he’s a great person to go into battle with. I think that will be a really strong addition to SAP Extreme Sailing Team alongside young Kiwi Brad Farrand, and he might just be that leveller that brings the mood up, and keeps the team performing consistently.
What’s in store for the Brits?
I know from speaking to the Brits that are competing in Cardiff, they’re very aware they’re going to be competing on their home waters, and they really want to put on a good show. They all want to be on the podium at the end of the week and get a good cheer from the home crowd. I look at the history of the Extreme Sailing Series and from 2007, out of the eight years of the circuit, six years have been won by Brits. In 2007 it was Rob Greenhalgh, 2008 the American Ed Baird, 2009 the British sailor Chris Draper, 2010 and 2011 Paul Campbell-James and 2012 and 2013 Leigh McMillan. So there has been a real kind of British dominance within the Extreme Sailing Series from a helmsman point of view, and I think that’s something that should be celebrated. As a man who’s very patriotic, I feel very proud of that. It is one of the events that is the pinnacle of sailing and for the British guys to be doing so well on it is brilliant.
So who’s going to take the Act win in Cardiff?
It’s hard to call it. At the back of my mind I’m still waiting for either Alinghi or The Wave, Muscat to slip, but every time I say that before each regatta they don’t. They basically don’t blink, they’re both full throttle all of the time and they’re just sailing really well. I think rather than two or three teams going into the double-points race with the chance for the podium, I think this Cardiff venue and the change in crews could be a real leveller. Saying that you never know, it could be the case yet again of The Wave, Muscat or Alinghi running away with it, but the further we go into the year I think it will be less likely.
I spoke extensively with GAC Pindar skipper, Nathan Wilmot, yesterday and he says the Australians are keen to improve on their performances in the series so far. With most of their support crew at Hamilton Island Race Week, Team Australia is a little under-manned, but the breezy conditions will suit them.
Currently all boats are out on the bay in an informal sailing session, ahead of a practice race this afternoon and then a sailing/cycling challenge in which, foolishly, this scribe will take part. It involves taking professional cyclists out on the boats for three quick races, followed by a member of the sailing crew, the cyclist and an unsuspecting member of the media undergoing a 16km bike ride in the rain! Fortunately, only the first two home count.
– Roger McMillan, editor