Extreme Sailing Series : Two in a row for The Wave, Muscat
By staff - Mon Sep 19, 5:05 am
Leigh McMillan’s team on The Wave, Muscat made it two in a row winning Act 6 of the Extreme Sailing Series™ in Trapani on the back of their Act 5 win in Cowes, UK. It was an incredibly close finish to Act 6 – after 34 races in total, The Wave, Muscat took it with 283 points [11pts for a race win], just 9 points ahead of the French team Groupe Edmond de Rothschild on 274, and Oman Air, with Ben Ainslie at his first Extreme Sailing Series regatta, in third on 266.5. A mere 3.5 points behind were Max Sirena’s Luna Rossa, and only three points behind them Hagara’s Red Bull Extreme Sailing. The compensation for Sirena and British helmsman, Paul Campbell-James, is that Luna Rossa’s result here elevates them to the top of the 2011 Overall Extreme Sailing Series leaderboard, 1 point ahead of Groupe Edmond de Rothshild.
Today’s eight races delivered the best stadium action of Act 6 with 17+ knots of breeze and the Extreme 40 fleet finish box directly in front of the spectators, generating spontaneous applause from them with the action just metres away. The highlight came at the finish of the fourth race of the day when Red Bull Extreme Sailing, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Luna Rossa charged into the finish area under gennaker, hulls flying, neck and neck fighting for the lead at the ultimate gybe mark to the line. Roman Hagara’s Red Bull Extreme Sailing dived in on the inside and got a nose ahead, the three boats made the tight hand-brake turn launching themselves for the finish line set just 20m away. There was no room for a photo finish – the line was only wide enough for two boats but Hagara held his nerve and his miniscule lead to cross first ahead of Pierre Pennec’s team. This was the Stadium Sailing that the Extreme Sailing Series is known for at its very best.
Going into the final double-points race, four boats were still in with a chance to claim victory with just 8.5 points separating The Wave, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Oman Air – Luna Rossa was adrift by 14.5 points but mathematically it was still possible. In the end, Red Bull Extreme Sailing claimed the race win but Leigh McMillan’s team kept their nerve to finish 2nd and clinch victory: “It has been the toughest week we have had, well one of the toughest weeks I have ever had on the water,” said McMillan. “Everyday we have been grinding it out trying to get some good races, we are thrilled to have won in Trapani and somehow we have won two in a row. I thought it would go to Alinghi or Oman Air. Alinghi started off really well and Oman Air have been incredible all through the week, right on the pace. So to actually have managed to beat both of them as they were pushing us all the way is great.”
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild were struggling in the first half of the Act but slowly found their form: “I am happy, much better than in Cowes, as we did a good job. But still we have to improve,” said bowman Hervé Cunningham. “It would be easier for us if we started well and stayed in the top of the leaderboard from day 1 but it’s not happening. We are all really happy we managed to sneak into second position on the leaderboard. We all said this morning that there was no pressure and we would stick to our plan, focus on ourselves and we would see how it goes, and it went well! The level of the fleet is still rising so we must focus and keep improving to sail the best we can.”
Ben Ainslie at the helm of Oman Air once again demonstrated how quickly he has got a handle on these boats and raced strongly throughout the afternoon, only a poor start in the final race was the team’s undoing: “I’ve have really enjoyed it,” said Ainslie. “We have a lot of improvements to make and I am just learning the ropes, the guys are fantastic and have pulled me through. It’s great to be in the top three for my first event.”
For the Italian team of Luna Rossa, the favourites of the crowd here and positioned as favourites to win Act 6 by many of the pundits, but Trapani didn’t go the way skipper, Max Sirena, had hoped: “It is what it is,” said a disappointed Sirena. “We are going to spend this week working out what went wrong so we can work out what we need to improve.” A bit harsh on himself perhaps considering how close it was going in to the final race.
In the penultimate race the Swiss team Alinghi, who had led Act 6 for the first two days and were performing well, was involved in a port/starboard collision with Team GAC Pindar resulting in serious damage to the transom, and requiring a swift haul-out by crane. Tanguy Cariou’s team was given redress and they retained their 6th place in the overall rankings.