The countdown is on as the teams prepare to take to the water for the second Act of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series™ in China's Olympic Sailing City, Qingdao, for the “Mazarin Cup”, run in conjunction with Mazarin Qingdao Shipyard Co. and hosted by Qingdao Organising Authority. Wildcard entry Team Extreme is set to join the six full-season squads for a piece of the action, which runs from 28 April – 1 May.
Following an epic season opener in Muscat in March, the racing reconvenes over China's May Labour Day holiday weekend, with open water racing on day one followed by Stadium Racing in Fushan Bay, a venue notorious for its temperamental weather that has previously seen multiple capsizes caused by its unexpected gusts.
Current leader SAP Extreme Sailing Team came out of the blocks firing in Muscat, taking its first Act win since Qingdao in 2015, with Kiwi sailor Adam Minoprio at the helm for the first time. Returning to the venue in which his team saw success the last time, co-skipper Jes Gram-Hansen is confident that history can be repeated.
“We have won in Qingdao before and we are excited to get the opportunity to repeat that this year. We had a very good result in Sydney where I was helming and I will try to build on that,” said Gram-Hansen, who takes turns on the helm with Minoprio, coaching when he is not helming.
“It was a great start to the year for SAP Extreme Sailing Team in Muscat. Looking on from the coach boat I picked up a lot of small details in how to drive the boat as well as how to set up for the very important start,” he added.
Last season's victor Alinghi currently sits in second on the 2017 leaderboard following a consistent performance in Muscat but one that saw them bag only five wins to SAP Extreme Sailing Team's nine, allowing the Danish team to move into the lead.
Co-skipper Arnaud Psarofaghis acknowledges the threat from the Danes but remains unfazed: “SAP Extreme Sailing Team is a strong team for sure but there are many teams that will be in play for this season. As always, we will not focus on the others but will sail as we know.
“Qingdao is a great venue as we have a little bit of both styles of racing; open water and Stadium Racing. We feel really confident on both racecourses. The more challenging it is, the better we get,” added Psarofaghis.
Despite Muscat being his first Act as skipper and helm of Oman Air, current World Match Racing Tour champion Phil Robertson was able to steer his team to a spot on the podium. But the Kiwi sailor has greater ambitions as he heads for China.
“Oman Air is an impressive team that goes a lot deeper than the five sailors on the water. There is a reason the team has been so successful,” said Robertson. “We were satisfied with the podium finish in Muscat but not entirely happy. We were in a great position going into the last day and we didn't execute it as we planned. It has definitely stirred us up for Qingdao; the goal is to do better.”
Red Bull Sailing Team enter the second Act in fourth overall, but skipper Roman Hagara and tactician Hans Peter Steinacher have the advantage of experience in the Chinese venue, having competed there in the 2008 Olympics as well as at the past six years of the Extreme Sailing Series. The Austrian team finished third in Qingdao last season.
Following its debut in Muscat, in which it took a respectable three bullets, the Kiwi-flagged entry has undergone a name change to NZ Extreme Sailing Team, previously Tawera Racing. Co-skipper Chris Steele, who competed in Qingdao last season on board CHINA One, is happy with his team's performance in Act 1 but is looking to be more consistent as his team hits the water in one week's time.
“It's awesome that we were able to win races in Muscat. That shows we have the ability to be competitive overall,” said Steele. “The goal is to try and eliminate those lower place finishes that don't give you enough points to stay higher up the leaderboard.
“Having sailed in Qingdao last year, I can confirm that it's tactically the hardest venue we sail on in this Series. However, with challenge comes opportunity. If we can get our heads around the tricky conditions early on, it could be a venue that suits us as boat speed becomes less significant to the overall picture and picking the right shifts becomes absolutely crucial,” added Steele, whose team will be coached by Rod Davis in China, a sailing legend with two Olympic medals and multiple America's Cup campaigns to his name.
Land Rover BAR Academy return to race ahead of the Red Bull Youth America's Cup, which takes place in June. The British entry currently sit at the bottom of the overall leaderboard. They will be joined by wildcard syndicate Team Extreme, skippered by Portuguese sailor Bernardo Freitas, who competed in the 2012 Olympics in the 49er.
Racing begins at 14:00 (UTC+8) on Friday 28 April and fans can watch the action for free from Fushan Bay breakwater or follow via the official social media channels, with racing streamed live on the official Facebook and YouTube channels on Sunday 30 April and Monday 1 May. For more information about the event and how you can keep up with the latest results visit our website.
For those looking for a more unique experience, the Extreme Sailing Series offers a range of VIP packages, which include the opportunity to race on board a GC32 catamaran. More information can be found here.
Crew line-up for Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 2, Qingdao “Mazarin Cup”
Co-skipper/helm: Arnaud Psarofaghis (SUI)
Tactician/mainsail trimmer: Nicolas Charbonnier (FRA)
Headsail Trimmer: Nils Frei (SUI)
Bowman: Yves Detrey (SUI)
Floater/foil trimmer: Timothé Lapauw (FRA)
Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR)
Skipper/bowman: Rob Bunce (GBR)
Helm: Chris Taylor (GBR)
Mainsail trimmer: Will Alloway (GBR)
Headsail trimmer: Oli Greber (GBR)/Sam Batten (GBR)
Floater: Adam Kay (GBR)
NZ Extreme Sailing Team (NZL)
Co-skipper/helm: Chris Steele (NZL)
Co-skipper/mainsail trimmer: Graeme Sutherland (NZL)
Headsail trimmer: Shane Diviney (IRL)
Foil trimmer: Leonard Takahashi (NZL/JPN)
Bowman: Josh Salthouse (NZL)/George Anyon (NZL)
Oman Air (OMA)
Skipper/helm: Phil Robertson (NZL)
Mainsail trimmer: Pete Greenhalgh (GBR)
Headsail trimmer: Ed Smyth (NZL/AUS)
Bowman: James Wierzbowski (AUS)
Bowman: Nasser Al Mashari (OMA)
Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT)
Skipper/helm: Roman Hagara (AUT)
Tactician: Hans Peter Steinacher (AUT)
Mainsail trimmer: Stewart Dodson (NZL)
Headsail trimmer: Adam Piggott (GBR)
Bowman: Will Tiller (NZL)
SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN)
Co-skipper/helm: Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN)
Co-skipper/tactician/mainsail trimmer: Rasmus Køstner (DEN)
Headsail trimmer: Pierluigi de Felice (ITA)
Bowman: Richard Mason (GBR)
Trim assist/grinder: Mads Emil Stephensen (DEN)
Team Extreme (wildcard)
Skipper/helm: Bernardo Freitas (POR)
Mainsail trimmer/tactician: Martin Evans (GBR)
Headsail trimmer: Tom Buggy (GBR)
Bowman: Rob Partridge (GBR)
Fifth crew: TBA
– Extreme Series Media