Extreme Sailing Series : McMillan tops the table in Sydney after an epic 10-race day

The fleet might have lost yesterday’s racing because of 45 knot gusts on Sydney Harbour, but today the city delivered in style and the sailors patience was rewarded with some of the best racing of the season so far, at the final Act of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series™ presented by Land Rover. A physically exhausting 10 races were sailed, with all the teams pulling some big punches out of the water that resulted in seven different race winners. Oman’s The Wave, Muscat blasted round the tight course and were slick in executing their manouvres – despite a huge nose dive in the first race that almost saw the team lose control – and two race wins and two second places put Leigh McMillan’s team at the top of the rankings at the end of the day.

McMillan summed up after racing: “It was a pretty feisty day to be honest – full on. There were big gusts and it was massively shifty so it was pretty hard to be consistent. We had to make quick decisions.” With only two days left this season, McMillan’s attentions quickly shifted to the bigger prize: “We know we have a lot to do and Morgan’s not far behind on the leaderboard, but he had a better day than we had hoped today to be honest. We could have done with him being further back but we’ll keep working away at it tomorrow and give ourselves the best possible position we can.”

With 18 knots of breeze and gusts up to 24 knots that blasted across the course like bullets from the surrounding city skyscrapers, the fleet had it all on to remain in control of their over-powered catamarans, against the backdrop of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge and the Royal Botanical Gardens. Reaching starts and incredibly tight mark roundings had the trimmers working in overdrive as they powered around the track trying to capitalise on the pressure points and avoid the lulls in the breeze. The Swiss Realteam were impressive, with two race wins helping to secure them second place, and getting their campaign for the Series podium off to a flying start -literally, as the fastest average boat on the water. Not giving too much away, Larson commented: “It was a good effort by the guys and they muscled the boat around. Every point counts and it’s going to come down to one or two points I know, so it’s good to know we didn’t get any last place finishes. We know what we have to do tomorrow. Now it’s time to get more aggressive and go after it, but being too aggressive on a new course, in a tight zone with winds gusting between 15 and 25 knots could really get you in trouble.”

One duo who know their way around Sydney Harbour better than most is Roman Hagara and his right-hand man Hans Peter Steinacher of Red Bull Sailing Team, who picked up their first of two Olympic gold medals here in 2000. The team put their knowledge to great use, sailing a slick course and executing the fewest maneuvres according to the SAP analytics, and a race win coupled with two second places leaves them tied on points with J.P Morgan BAR in fourth. Roman commented: “We know Sydney well, and it’s great to be back and see how much interest there is in sailing here. There were lots of spectators supporting the racing today from the Botanical Gardens, which is incredible to see. The racing was good for us – we did some really nice starts and had some really nice crew work – we are pleased with the race win so we are happy with the first day.”

With the windward mark literally metres from the shore, the elite level teams could hear the crowds cheering, while the public could hear the frenetic shouts from the boats during the high speed mark roundings. One team who took it too close to the rocks was Gazprom Team Russia, and the sound of carbon crunching could be heard from the shore as the team run aground. However, two race wins for the Russian meant it was a mixed day, and skipper Phil Robertson certainly showed the team’s intentions this week, commenting: “It was really close and difficult out there. There are massive shifts and big puffs so it was pretty hard getting off the line. It’s a hard one to read but it was fantastic down by the windward mark. We were pushing it a little too close, but that’s what you do when you’re racing at this level – you’re trying for every inch. It’s an awesome spot and a great viewing point for the spectators.”

It was a tough day in the office for the two skippers from Down Under, Nathan Wilmot and Tom Slingsby, whose local knowledge was no match for the more experienced Extreme 40 fleet. It’s a big ask for any sailor to step into this fleet at this stage in the season, and even Slingsby whose enviable CV boasts five Laser World Championship titles as well as an Olympic gold, struggled with some boat handling errors as the new skipper of Oman Air. But a win in the final race of the day made it clear we will see a lot more of this team over the weekend.

Tomorrow is the penultimate day of the season, and it is all about clocking up those valuable points on the Act 8 Sydney presented by Land Rover leaderboard with every team wanting to finish on a high. Extreme Sailing Series commentator David Carr has predicted one more twist in the season this year, and with a lighter breeze and glorious sunshine on the forecast for the coming days, it’s not over until it’s over.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 8 Sydney presented by Land Rover standings after Day 2, 10 races (12.12.14)
Position / Team / Points

  1. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 75 points.
  2. Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wasem 74 points.
  3. Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 70 points.
  4. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Shaun Mason, Stewart Dodson 61 points.
  5. J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Campbell-James, Bleddyn Mon, Matt Cornwell 61 points.
  6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Christian Kamp, Brad Farrand 49 points.
  7. Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Tanguy Cariou, Romain Motteau, Thierry Fouchier, Hervé Cunningham 49 points.
  8. Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Phil Robertson, Matt Adams, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 41 points.
  9. GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Seve Jarvin, Matt Mitchell, Tyson Lamond, James Wierzbowski 40 points.
  10. Oman Air (OMA) Tom Slingsby, Ted Hackney, Kyle Langford, Joey Newton, Ali Al Balashi 30 points.

Photo Credit : Lloyd Images

Tags on NauticNews: Extreme Sailing Series, Extreme 40

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