Mark Lloyd / Extreme Sailing Series

Alinghi looking unstoppable

Morgan Larsen's team on fire at the Extreme Sailing Series Sydney

Saturday December 13th 2014, Author: Nicola Moore, Location: Australia

An action-packed day on Sydney Harbour at the Extreme Sailing Series presented by Land Rover saw a grudge match between Alinghi and The Wave, Muscat. Two race wins for the Swiss to the Omanis one, means it’s advantage Alinghi heading 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, Alinghi skipper Morgan 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.”

But now the double-defending champions on The Wave, Muscat have to win in Sydney with Alinghi finishing sixth or worse for McMillan and his team to make it a hat trick of Extreme Sailing Series wins – a tough but not impossible ask. Tactician double Olympic Gold medallist Sarah Ayton 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 in Sydney – but with 20 points up for the taking for the event win, the implications on the Extreme Sailing 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, but in their way is Realteam, in pursuit of its first ever ESS 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 winning today's eight races. 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 revitalised SAP Extreme Sailing Team. The Danes found some of their best form of the season with four second place finishes elevating the team to 4th from 7th 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. There were two race wins for the Nathan Wilmot-skippered crew, but this was 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 finished the day in seventh place, four points ahead of Phil Robertson and Gazprom Team Russia, which leads GAC Pindar by another four points, with Groupama sailing team languishing in tenth.

As the fleet heads into the final day, tonight’s team debriefs will be some of the most important of the season, with points for both Sydney and the Championship at stake. With the Sydney event and the final race worth double points, it will be tight. Will Realteam win their first ever event 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?

Results after 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.


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