In an unprecedented opening day at the Extreme Sailing Series Act 6 in Istanbul, the public and national media witnessed some extraordinary adrenaline-fueled racing, with every team pushing hard. At times too hard, with two boats dismasting; first Groupama sailing team and then Alinghi.
In near perfect sailing conditions that topped out at 20 knots, the French, with too much load on their rig at the windward mark, were the first to lose their new mast during race four, which disappointingly for the French came after their best start to an event this year. In a completely unrelated incident in the seventh and final race of the day, Alinghi suffered the same fate, with both boats now out of the water and with a long night in the pitlane to be back on the water tomorrow.
Alinghi’s helmsman Morgan Larson explained what happened: “In that last race we were leading at the mark, we unfurled the gennaker, got the bear away and then the rig broke in two spots. We pushed a little too hard in that puff, and then it just went. It’s the first time I’ve broken the rig in these boats so it’s probably a lesson I’ve learnt there. There is a limit and we found it.”
With a steady north easterly breeze of 15 knots, and gusts up to 20, the fleet relished the chance to flex their seafaring muscles and stretch their legs in the open water format on the Marmara Sea, racing at the entrance to the Bosphorus, with the iconic Blue Mosque and its landmark six minarets in the background.
Emirates Team New Zealand showed a return to form after their last place in Cardiff just two weeks ago, hitting the accelerator as both the fastest average boat downwind at 16.27 knots, and upwind at 11.80, to finish the day tied on points at the top of the leaderboard with the defending Series champions, The Wave, Muscat.
The Kiwi team’s skipper Dean Barker remained cool and measured after racing. “There’s still a lot of racing to go, but we had a good solid day. It wasn’t anything flashy, there is still a lot of things we can improve on and I’m sure everyone will be feeling the same way. It’s a difficult racecourse, it’s hard to get your plan right all the time and you make some gains and some looses. I think today we managed the racecourse pretty well and took the opportunities when they were there.”
Just one point behind them is the Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team who took maximum points in two of the seven races sailed, with co-skippers Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner gunning for their first podium position of 2014.
With just three Acts left this year, all the teams have turned it up a notch as they look to secure their positions ahead of the penultimate event in Nice, France. Red Bull Sailing Team, with Austrian double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara at the helm, have been relatively slow starters this year by their own accounts, but had their best start to an event, with a string of results in the top half of the fleet, leaving them in fourth place with 40 points.
“We had really tricky conditions – shifty with a few gusts which mixed up throughout the day. You had to be good at the starts but there was a lot to lose and a lot to gain. We know that we can handle this breeze and our crew work today was fantastic – the boys just did a great job. We over-took people on manoeuvres and around marks which was really good,” summarised Hagara.
Two points behind the Austrians are Gazprom Team Russia, who were the fastest off the startline according to the SAP analytics, with GAC Pindar just one point behind them. For skipper and Olympic champion Nathan Wilmot, this is only his third Act at the helm, and after a steep learning the curve, the team are on an upward trend, as Wilmot elaborated: “It was good out there – we had some good starts, some good races I think we’re just learning how to sail the boat a bit more now, we’re getting better and better each time. We’ve tried different things each day and we seem to be getting the boat reasonably fast – so it’s all about putting it in the right spot and getting the team around the course. Today it was great out there actually, it was beautiful sailing.”
The event was officially opened with the skippers press conference, attended by Turkey’s top media as well as country and city officials, and co-Host Venue Partners Yandex and Palmarina. Tomorrow the event officially opens to the public, with three days of Stadium Racing, and the live video starting from 1530 local time (GMT+3) tomorrow. If today’s racing is anything to go by, you don’t want to miss it!
Extreme Sailing Series Act 6 Istanbul standings after Day 1, 7 races (11.09.14)
Position / Team / Points
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 46 points.
2nd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Glenn Ashby, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 46 points.
3rd SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Christian Kamp, Brad Farrand 45 points.
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Shaun Mason, Stewart Dodson 40 points.
5th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Phil Robertson, Matt Adams, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 38 points.
6th GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Jack Macartney, Ed Smyth, Seve Jarvin, Tyson Lamond 37 points.
7th Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Ted Hackney, Kyle Langford, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 30 points.
8th Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 28 points.
9th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Bleddyn Mon, Matt Cornwell 24 points.
10th TeamTurx (TUR) Mitch Booth, Edhem Dirvana, Selim Kakış, Ateş çinar, Anıl Berk Baki 21 points.
11th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Tanguy Cariou, François Morvan, Romain Motteau, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 20 points.
12th Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Cédric Schmidt, Thierry Wassem 19 points.