Alinghi team tops Sydney standings on penultimate day

Published on December 13th, 2014

Sydney, Australia (December 13, 2014) – It was an action-packed, full pressure day on Sydney Harbour for the Extreme 40s at the penultimate day’s racing of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Season tour, where the grudge match between Alinghi and The Wave, Muscat was rife. Two race wins for the Swiss to the Omanis one, means it’s advantage Alinghi as they head into tomorrow’s final day – with their fellow countrymen Realteam in second place and The Wave, Muscat just two points back in third.

Cool as ever, Larson commented: “We came out fighting and feel like we got hold of the event again. There’s still one more day to go and I think history has proven that things can get shaken up pretty quick so we’ve got to keep the focus on the win. It’s the end of the season, it’s been a long year, but now’s the time to sail at the highest level we can.”

The double-defending champions on The Wave, Muscat have to win in Sydney and Alinghi has to be sixth or worse for the British Olympian McMillan and his team to make it a hatrick of Series wins – a tough but not impossible ask. The team’s tactician Sarah Ayton, who sailed at the Sydney Olympic Games as a training partner before going onto compete and win gold at the 2004 and 2008 Games, commented: “If there was an opportunity to make it difficult for Alinghi today then you would take it, but there’s a lot of racing and you still very much have to do your own thing, and that’s what we were doing. We have a lot to do, and we’ll have to put the pressure on to Alinghi tomorrow and let them make the mistakes.”

Every podium place is still open at Act 8 Sydney presented by Land Rover – but with 20 points up for the taking for the Act win, the implications on the Series leaderboard are huge. Ben Ainslie and J.P. Morgan BAR will be hoping they can mount a late charge and clinch a podium place – in their way are Realteam, in pursuit of their first ever Act win to secure their position. For skipper Jérôme Clerc, the team’s performance so far this year has exceeded his expectations: “It would be great for the team to finish on the podium. This was not our main target at the beginning of the year; we just wanted to get a podium at one of the venues. But if we are on the podium on Sunday, it would be a great victory. We have come a long way but I think now we are now sailing at our best.”

Softening but no less testing conditions caused a shuffle on the leaderboard, with five different teams claiming maximum points (10) in the eight races sailed. J.P. Morgan BAR started the day on the back foot, when Realteam slammed into their back beam during the tight windward mark rounding, knocking out their rudders and the team out of the following three races. A points redress for the team limited the damage ahead of tomorrow’s final day and the Brits are five points ahead of a seemingly revitalized SAP Extreme Sailing Team. The Danes found some of their best form of the season with an impressive four second place finishes elevating the team to fourth from seventh place at the beginning of the day.

Co-skipper Jes Gram-Hansen is looking to finish the season on a high. “Our speed is good, the crew handling is good, it’s a tricky place to sail but overall the day was pretty good for us. We hope we can finish the season with a good regatta here in Sydney. It’s been a difficult year for us, that’s no secret. So it will mean a lot for our progression for next year if we sail well here.”

It was also an impressive day by GAC Pindar, whose skipper Nathan Wilmot also celebrated his 35th birthday today. Two race wins from the boys from Down Under was impressive, but not as impressive as his former Australian Olympic team mate Tom Slingsby on Oman Air, who was rarely out of the top three. The Omani team finish the day in seventh place, four points ahead of Phil Robertson and Gazprom Team Russia, who lead GAC Pindar by another four points, with Groupama sailing team languishing in tenth.

As the fleet head into the end game, tonight’s team debriefs will be some of the most important of the season, with points, the Act and the championship at stake. With the Act and the final race worth double points, it is going down to the wire. Will Realteam win their first ever Act and secure their place on the 2014 podium? Can the four-times Olympic champion Ben Ainslie and the Brits pull off their best day of the season? Can Alinghi take victory in the 2014 Series, or will Leigh McMillan and The Wave, Muscat ruin their plans? Watch the final races of the Series live at 1530 local time (GMT+11), to find out!

Standings after Day 3 (18 races)
1st Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 127 points.
2nd Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wasem 125 points.
3rd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 120 points.
4th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Campbell-James, Bleddyn Mon, Matt Cornwell 108 points.
5th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Christian Kamp, Brad Farrand 103 points.
6th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Shaun Mason, Stewart Dodson 100 points.
7th Oman Air (OMA) Tom Slingsby, Ted Hackney, Kyle Langford, Joey Newton, Ali Al Balashi 87 points.
8th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Phil Robertson, Garth Ellingham, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 83 points.
9th GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Seve Jarvin, Matt Mitchell, Tyson Lamond, James Wierzbowski 79 points.
10th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Tanguy Cariou, Romain Motteau, Thierry Fouchier, Hervé Cunningham 73 points.

Watch hereEvent website

Report by ESS media

Report from Alinghi coach Anna Tunnicliffe…

Today was a bit of a snakes and ladders type of day. Although still very shifty and tricky, we managed to find the ladder most of the day, to climb our way up the overall leaderboard to the top spot by the end of racing. Behind us in second is RealTeam, with The Wave, Muscat sitting in third.

The day started off fantastically. We didn’t have a great start, but the boys played the shifts on the first beat perfectly to pull up to third at the top of the leg. Downwind they found just the right puff and passed one boat then another on the second upwind, then extended their lead from there to take the race win!

Next followed a string of results just outside the top 4 of a 6, 6, 7, 5 before finding our stride again and finishing the day with a 1, 3, 2. It was a great way to end the day with the team sailing well, starting well and finding their momentum again.

One of the most exciting moments of the day came in the seventh race. As everyone knows, there is a big battle for the series’ overall title between us and The Wave, Muscat. Whenever each team has an opportunity to put boats and thus points, between them and the other team, the opportunity is never passed up.

In the seventh race of the day, the course had been reduced to a one-lap windward/leeward with a reach that was becoming more of a downwind leg to the finish. This meant that once the boats had rounded the windward mark for the second time, the passing lanes were virtually shut down. It was better, therefore, to be more towards the front of the fleet.

Both us and The Wave were approaching the top mark for a starboard rounding for the second time. We were on the starboard lay line (coming in from the right) and they were approaching on port (coming from the left). They were slightly advanced on us but not quite enough to get across in front of us. But they also couldn’t get behind us. Because they were in this situation, they did the right thing and slowed a little. The thinking behind this was to try to get us more advanced so that they could either go behind or at least not be so affected by us coming at them.

As we reached them, we forced them into a tack. At this point they were already slower than they would have liked. We managed to make our tack a little slower too, so that as they matched our tack back, they lost even more speed. The idea behind Alinghi’s move was that the rest of the fleet coming into the mark with speed would, now, be able to get between us and them to put extra points in there. It was a great manoeuvre that saw The Wave, Muscat drop from 4th to last place in the race as they crossed the line.

It sounds cruel but it’s the nature of the game. Teams battling for positions know this play and execute it; just sometimes it works better than others.

Even though we are back on top of the leaderboard, the regatta is far from over. We have one more day of racing, in forecasted slightly lighter conditions. By the end of tomorrow, both the Act winner and the Overall Series winner will be determined! The points are very close, and tomorrow’s last race counts as a double points race. It’s still all to fight for!!

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