With less than a week to go until the Land Rover Extreme Sailing Series Act 3, Qingdao, there is a palpable tension in the air, as the nine-strong Extreme 40 fleet head to China’s Olympic sailing city, 30 April – 3 May.
A make or break racecourse, Fushan Bay in the heart of Qingdao is a perfect sailing stadium. Surrounded by skyscrapers, the gusts come in thick and fast but from unpredictable angles, with a tendency to catch the fleet off guard as they hit them, which is previous years has resulted in some of the biggest crashes and most dramatic moments ever seen in the Series.
“Qingdao is infamous and this year looks like no exception. The long term weather forecast is for 25-30 knots next weekend,” Race Director Phil Lawrence explained. “It’s a very challenging venue for the sailors it can throw anything at them; big waves, strong winds, flat calm, fog. They need to be prepared for everything.”
For the team that can hold their nerve, the potential reward is worth it – for the last three years the crew that has mastered the conditions in Qingdao has gone on to win the Series – that honour going to The Wave, Muscat in 2012 and 2013, and Alinghi in 2014.
Heading to China, the podium is in deadlock, The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) and SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) all tied on 18 points at the top, with Series newcomer Stevie Morrison and the team on Oman Air just five points adrift in fourth.
Red Bull Sailing Team, led by double Olympic gold medallists Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher, took the win in Act 1 Singapore, and with helm Jason Waterhouse making waves this week at the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Hyeres, currently third in the Nacra17 class, the team will enter Qingdao with high spirits and expectations.
Honours at Act 2 Muscat went to Leigh McMillan and his veteran crew on The Wave, Muscat on home waters. While SAP Extreme Sailing Team, co-skippered by Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Køstner are currently sitting third overall on count back after two second places. Experienced on the Qingdao racetrack, Gram-Hansen is ready to take the teams’ inaugural Act win.
“You’ve got to be on your game, I think mentally you need to be very focused, to keep up with everything that’s going on in the racecourse, but it’s adrenaline fuelled racing that’s for sure – you just have to remember to enjoy it.”
Having last hit the Qingdao podium in 2013 finishing third, Gram-Hansen knows his team has the potential to do well. “We’re not taking anything for granted. We want the team to feel good about the hard work is paying off, but it’s one race at a time. We need to temper how we review every day’s successes and learning.”
Entering the Extreme 40 fray, local invitational entry ‘Team Extreme Qingdao’ will be co-skippered by Cheng Ying Kit and Danish Olympic Champion Jonas Warrer with Volvo Ocean Race sailors Liu Ming (Leo) and Kong Chencheng (Kong) and British Artemis Offshore Academy graduate Aaron Cooper trading in their ocean experience for Extreme 40 Stadium Racing. Read more about the local entry here.
With up to eight races planned each day, the action will kick off Thursday 30 April with the official media day before the free to enter public Race Village opens located at Fushan Bay, the home of the 2008 Olympic Village, from the Friday 1 May.
Follow the racing at www.extremesailingseries.com.
The Line Up – Act 3, Qingdao
GAC Pindar (GBR)
Skipper/Helm: Seve Jarvin (AUS)
Tactician: Jack Macartney (AUS)
Mainsail Trimmer: James Wierzbowski (AUS)
Headsail Trimmers: Marcus Ashley-Jones (AUS)
Bowman: Tyson Lamond (AUS)
Gazprom Team Russia (RUS)
Skipper/Tactician: Igor Lisovenko (RUS)
Helm: Phil Robertson (NZL)
Mainsail Trimmer: Garth Ellingham (NZL)
Headsail Trimmer: Alexander Bozhko (RUS)
Bowman: Aleksey Kulakov (RUS)
Lino Sonego Team Italia (ITA)
Skipper/Helm: Lorenzo Bressani (ITA)
Tactician: Enrico Zennaro (ITA)
Mainsail Trimmer: Andrea Tesei (ITA)
Headsail Trimmer: Stefano Rizzi (ITA)
Bowman: Tom Buggy (GBR)
Oman Air (OMA)
Skipper/Helm: Stevie Morrison (GBR)
Tactician: Nic Asher (GBR)
Mainsail Trimmer: Ed Powys (GBR)
Headsail Trimmer: Ted Hackney (AUS)
Bowman: Ali Al Balashi (OMA)
Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT)
Skipper: Roman Hagara (AUT)
Helm: Jason Waterhouse (AUS)
Tactician: Hans-Peter Steinacher (AUT)
Trimmer: Stewart Dodson (NZL)
Bowman: Shaun Mason (GBR)
SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN)
Co-Skipper/Helm: Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN)
Co-Skipper/Tactician: Rasmus Køstner (DEN)
Mainsail Trimmer: Mads Emil Stephensen (DEN)
Headsail Trimmer: Thierry Douillard (FRA)
Bowman: Brad Farrand (NZL)
Team Turx powered by Kaya Ropes (TUR)
Co-Skipper/Helm: Mitch Booth (AUS)
Co-Skipper/Floater: Edhem Dirvana (TUR) or Can Bayulken (floater/reserve)
Mainsail Trimmer: Selim Kakış (TUR)
Headsail Trimmer: Pedro Andrade (POR)
Bowman: Brock Callen (USA)
The Wave, Muscat (OMA)
Skipper/Helm: Leigh McMillan (GBR)
Tactician: Sarah Ayton (GBR)
Mainsail Trimmer: Pete Greenhalgh (GBR)
Headsail Trimmer: Ed Smyth (NZL)
Bowman: Nasser Al Mashari (OMA)
Team Extreme Qingdao
Co-Skipper/Helm: Jonas Warrer (DEN)
Co-Skipper/Headsail trimmer: Cheng Ying Kit (CHN)
Mainsail Trimmer: Aaron Cooper (GBR)
Bowman: Liu Ming (CHN)
Bowman: Kong Chengcheng (CHN)