Tension Building Ahead of Start of Act 1 at The Wave, Muscat
Final preparations are underway for the 11 teams ahead of the Extreme Sailing Series Act 1 that starts tomorrow [Sunday, 20th February] at The Wave, Muscat, and the tension is building for the 44 skippers and crew. “Everyone is going to be finding their feet and their place and figuring out what’s good and what’s bad. The intensity is brewing and everyone’s got a bit of excitement going,” said Torvar Mirsky, who is new to the circuit this year as skipper of The Wave, Muscat.
Three practice races were staged today with wins going to Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, Artemis Racing and Team New Zealand. Not all the teams took part in all the races so its difficult to view the results as true pre-start indicators. Terry Hutchinson and his Artemis Racing crew posted a 3rd and a 1st whilst Luna Rossa improved on their 7th place in the first race to score a 2nd and a 3rd – mind you, on the helm is 2010 winning skipper Paul Campbell-James. Team New Zealand finished last in the first practice race but then bounced back with a win in the final practice race. “We feel a little bit on the back foot at the moment because a lot of the teams, even the new teams, have put in a huge amount of time already with different training camps, but we made a decision not to do it and we may pay for that a little bit initially,” said skipper Dean Barker. “But then hopefully as the season progresses we’ll close the gap as we go. We know if we sail well and don’t make any big mistakes we can be very competitive. It’s the same for the other teams and if you make a mistake you get punished pretty badly for it.”
There is little doubt that with 11 teams engaged in close-quarter combat on the short, ‘stadium’ format of Extreme 40 racing, the action is going to be fast and furious. With six new teams in the 2011 series against five existing teams from 2010, the fight for supremacy is going to be fierce. All the teams are fielding an exceptional line-up of sailors that race at the highest level of the sport but stepping into this circuit is a new ball game for many, and the learning curve is steep: “We have three experienced Extreme 40 sailors now and its much easier, especially on the short courses with that many maneuvers that we have to do,” said Roman Hagara, skipper of Red Bull Extreme Sailing. “In the training races we have done in Massanah we had a little edge on the crew work which was good for us. Its really tight out on the race course and you have to stay out of trouble. I think that is one of our main goals – it won’t work every time but we have to try!”.
Whilst the crews got ready for training today, they were entertained by the Freestyle Red Bull Mountain Biking riders who pulled off some pretty neat stunts that impressed both the media and the sailors. The entertainment is set to continue over the public days of Act 1 between the 22nd-24th February as the Race Village hosts a variety of sporting talent including the Beach Football League, kiting and kite buggy demonstrations, off-road RC car shows and the Red Bull series of BMX football and dance freestyle shows. The Extreme Sailing Series Muscat, part of the Muscat Festival, remains the headline act with the boats racing in ‘stadium’ format close to shore over the public days. “The windier it gets, the faster these boats go and the more out of control they get but that’s the fun part and that’s why everyone is sailing Extreme 40s, and that’s what everyone want to see,” said Mirsky.
The latest weather forecast from WetterWelt predicts 5-9 knots of breeze for the first day of racing but Monday may bring 12-15 knots with gusts over 17 knots. “Looks like Monday there could be some pretty good breeze,” said Dean, “nothing like going straight into the fire – looking forward to that!”
Extreme Sailing Series Muscat, Act 1 Schedule:
Sunday, 20th to Monday 21st February, open-water racing starts 14h00 local time
Tuesday, 22nd to Thursday 24th February public days Rave Village open 11h00-18h00, racing starts 14h00
Local time in Oman GMT+4hrs