Danish-flagged SAP Extreme Sailing Team was crowned champion of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series, while Alinghi took home the Act 8, Los Cabos, presented by SAP trophy, in an electrifying season finale.
The wind tantalised the apprehensive teams, only filling in enough to run three scoring races in the final hour of the day. The Danes had victory in the bag by the time it came to the closing double-points race but the heat was still on between Alinghi and Oman Air in the war to win the first-ever Mexican Extreme Sailing Series Act.
For an ecstatic SAP Extreme Sailing Team co-skipper Rasmus Køstner this is a momentous occasion, as it is his first ever victory in the ultimate Stadium Racing championship since he began competing in 2012.
“It's a goal we've had for a long, long time, and it's actually the reason we started the project, so it is amazing,” said an elated Køstner, who celebrated with his fellow crewmembers: Co-skipper and coach Jes Gram-Hansen, helm Adam Minoprio, headsail trimmer Pierluigi de Felice, trimmer and grinder Mads Emil Stephensen and bowman Richard Mason.
“It's been a great journey and a really fantastic achievement by the team and I'm very proud of them for the work they've put in. We're finally here and it's a good feeling, that's for sure,” added Køstner, whose team's victory was topped off by winning the Zhik Speed Machine Trophy for reaching the top speed of the Act and of the year at 33.7 knots, an insight provided by SAP.
Although the season trophy was out of reach for Alinghi and Oman Air, their fate in Act standings was only decided in the last nail-biting race of the day. Not deterred by Oman Air's two race wins in the run-up, the Swiss finished ahead of the Omani syndicate to seal the Act 8 triumph.
“Today was quite tricky and we didn't start the day well but we came back in the second race and everything was on the table for the last one,” said Arnaud Psarofaghis, co-skipper and helm of Alinghi, who finished second for the season.
“It was a great battle with Oman Air, but we managed to beat them. I think Phil Robertson [skipper of Oman Air] lost at his own game of trying to match race us and we got ahead in the end. Really well done to SAP Extreme Sailing Team; it's been a great season,” he added.
Despite a commendable effort in the two opening races, Oman Air was unable to catch its adversary Alinghi and finished second for the Act and third for the season.
“It was a massive fight and we were very close to pulling off the event win. We were in the position a couple of times in that last race to do it, but unfortunately the Swiss sailed a little too well to make it easy for us. We had to get our hands dirty but it didn't go our way,” said skipper Phil Robertson.
“It was a very good event, I'm pretty pleased with the way we sailed today but it would be nice to be on the top step,” he added.
With SAP Extreme Sailing Team determined to keep its main threat at an arm's length, Red Bull Sailing Team had a tough battle on its hands and one which it lost.
“SAP Extreme Sailing Team were going at us from the start. We knew they were coming but Adam Minoprio is a very good match racer and I judged it wrong. We fought back but it still wasn't enough,” said skipper Roman Hagara, whose team finished fourth for the Act and the season.
Land Rover BAR Academy was helmed this week by Olympic gold-medallist and 2017 America's Cup sailor Giles Scott, who managed to out sail his America's Cup rival, Kiwi Josh Junior, who was at the helm of NZ Extreme Sailing Team. A fifth-place finish in the Act for the Brits saw it leapfrog the New Zealand-entry on the overall leaderboard to take fifth.
The drama was heightened in the final double-points race when local wildcard Team Extreme México pulled off its first-ever race win. The crowds were overjoyed for the home team, which was skippered by Mexican sailor Erik Brockmann and helmed by Brit Chris Taylor.
“We couldn't have asked for more. We had a tough second race today so we had nothing to lose going into the final race. We thought 'let's go for it, let's give the crowd a show',” said Brockmann.
“We had a great start. We were the only ones on port and it gave us a good advantage over the fleet. In this fleet, you can't be leading at the first mark and just keep hold of that lead. We had to really fight for it to go our way and it was just amazing for the crowd. We could hear all the fans and that made it very special.”
US-flagged wildcard Lupe Tortilla Demetrio, who competed for the second time here in Los Cabos following its debut at Act 7, San Diego, finished bottom of the Act leaderboard.
Act 8, Los Cabos, presented by SAP, rounded off a sensational 10-month long season that has seen the Stadium Racing championship visit eight cities across three continents. The high-octane action resumes in 2018 and the calendar will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information about the event visit the official website.
Extreme Sailing Series Act 8, Los Cabos, presented by SAP standings after Day 4, 20 races (03.12.17)
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Timothé Lapauw, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 224 points.
2nd Oman Air (OMA) Phil Robertson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 212 points.
3rd SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Rasmus Køstner, Adam Minoprio, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi de Felice, Richard Mason 209 points.
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Will Tiller 191 points.
5th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Rob Bunce, Giles Scott, Oli Greber, Sam Batten, Matt Brushwood 157 points.
6th NZ Extreme Sailing Team (NZL) Graeme Sutherland, Josh Junior, Harry Hull, Andy Maloney, Josh Salthouse 157 points.
7th Team Extreme México (MEX) Erik Brockmann, Chris Taylor, Alex Higby, Tom Buggy, Danel Belausteguigoitia Fierro, Armando Noriega Negrete 153 points.
8th Lupe Tortilla Demetrio (USA) John Tomko, Jonathan Atwood, Matthew Whitehead, Tripp Burd, Trevor Burd 125 points.
Extreme Sailing Series 2017 overall standings
Position / Team / Points
1st SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 98 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) 96 points.
3rd Oman Air (OMA) 95 points.
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 84 points.
5th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) 70 points.
6th NZ Extreme Sailing Team (NZL) 70 points.
Rob Bunce (GBR), skipper and bowman of Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR): “We were really excited to come to a new venue and for the first three days we had some amazing breeze, which we weren't expecting. It's great to sail these boats in the conditions they were made for. We had a new helm here in Giles Scott and it's been difficult for us to transfer that learning to a different person, but I think today we finally did that so we're happy enough.
“We've had our ups and downs but I think when we get the best five guys together we're a force to be reckoned with and we proved that with our second place in China and our win in the Red Bull Youth America's Cup. After that it's about finding new sailors from the UK and bringing that talent through. We've got a great bunch of guys now and a great bunch of guys next year, so the Academy is doing really well.”
John Tomko (USA), skipper and helm of Lupe Tortilla Demetrio (USA): “It was a huge opportunity to be able to do this, racing with some of the best sailors in the world. I would never have dreamed I would have that chance. It was a lot of fun, we really enjoyed it. Getting to sail with the guys on our boat was a real pleasure for me, I feel like they're all a league above me so watching them learn the boat and get better and better was a tonne of fun.”
Josh Junior (NZL), co-skipper and helm of NZ Extreme Sailing Team (NZL): “We're sailing the boat heaps better than when we started. I think things just haven't gone our way this week and I guess that happens from time to time but we're improving and looking forward to next season.”
Adam Minoprio (NZL), helm of SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN): “We're ecstatic. We've been working hard this year and always looking to improve. To be able to win half of the events this year has been great for the team and we feel like we've really improved the boat, the team and the performance, and we're pleased we get the reward of the win here.”