McMillan overhauls Hagara’s 17-race reign to lead going into final day
19 April, 2012
The Austrian Red Bull Sailing Team came out to defend their position on the penultimate day of racing here in Qingdao, only to see their dominance toppled by the Omani flagged The Wave, Muscat. Britain’s Ian Williams and his crew had a strong day, climbing from 5th overall yesterday to 3rd, raising the hopes of the team of making the podium for the first time. After 8 closely contested races on Fushan Bay only 10 points separate the top 3 boats going into the final day of Act 2 tomorrow.
On the first day of racing in Qingdao, The Wave, Muscat’s Leigh McMillan said the team were ‘scratching their heads’ as they tried to figure out the tricky conditions – and today it certainly seem like they had it sussed, coming out all guns blazing to win the opening two races, leaving them tied on points with Red Bull Sailing Team. It was a game of cat and mouse between Austria and Oman for the first five races with Red Bull Sailing Team temporarily regaining control in race 18, but in the next race The Wave, Muscat overhauled them, putting an end to their reign at the top of the leaderboard. A frustrated, but still optimistic, Hagara said: “It was not our best day, we had some really bad starts and it was really hard picking the right shifts and gusts on the racecourse so we made a lot of mistakes. But it’s good that we’re still in there and tomorrow it’s a big day. We try to be up until the last race and then we’ll see who is going to win. Everybody has their ups and downs, and we had our ‘down’ today so, hopefully, we’ll have our ‘up’ tomorrow!”
Going into the final race of the day, The Wave, Muscat had an unassailable lead but only have a slender point advantage going into the final day: “It is very close for the top 4 or 5 so anyone can take it. 10-12 points doesn´t mean anything in this kind of racing. If we sail well we will have the chance to win so that´s what we need to do,” said McMillan. Find out more about the Austrian team’s onboard dynamics in this video.
Series favourite Pierre Pennec (no doubt cursing his ‘Form Guide’ accolade) and his all French team on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild looked like they were on form for the opening two races today but it quickly turned nasty when they got stuck on a mark and had to watch the rest of the fleet sail on. Things didn’t improve much for the team in the next race, who were penalized for a false start leaving them lagging in eighth place. A win in the final race provided some consolation for Pennec, who also celebrated his birthday today, but not much as the team slip a place to fifth overall – 1 point shy of Oman Air. Find out more about Oman Air’s skipper here.
At the other end of the fleet, the two new teams on the start line China Team and SAP Extreme Sailing Team have struggled against the more experienced Extreme 40s, and are in 9th and 8th respectively. Alinghi are 10 points clear of SAP Extreme Sailing Team but will have a hard task to catch 6th placed Loick Peyron on ZouLou who sailed consistently at the top end of the fleet today and hold a 12 point lead over the Swiss.
The city of Qingdao has undertaken a huge marketing campaign around the event with billboards lining the streets from the airport to port. Today Qingdao TV broadcast the race coverage live which in turn was syndicating to 11 other channels, including the hugely popular Beijing TV.
The official Series weather forecasters, WetterWelt, has forecasted light winds and a risk of fog tomorrow, meaning the teams will have to be slick in their tactics to make gains on the racecourse. There are plenty of points still to play for and the all important double-points final race decider, giving plenty of opportunities for the teams to make their final bid for victory.
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 2, Qingdao, China standings after Day 3, 22 races (19.4.12)
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA), 139 points
2nd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT), 131 points
3rd GAC Pindar (GBR), 129 points
4th Oman Air (OMA), 125 points
5th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), 125 points
6th ZouLou (FRA), 115 points
7th Alinghi (SUI), 93 points
8th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN), 83 points
9th China Team (CHN), 50 points