Alinghi secured their second Act win of the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series™ in an electrifying final race showdown in St Petersburg.
The Swiss crew began the deciding day of Act 5, presented by SAP, in pole position with the narrowest of margins over closest rivals and overall series leaders Oman Air, but by the time the final race came round Morgan Larson’s men were on equal points with Alinghi.
The winner of Act 5 was to be decided by which of the two crews beat the other in what turned into one of the most thrilling climaxes of the five Acts so far this season.
A dominant start from Alinghi, helmed by 27-year-old Swiss sailing star Arnaud Psarofaghis, saw them get the jump on Oman Air and lead the fleet into the first mark with a small margin. Larson’s Omani-flagged crew chased hard downwind but crucially got into trouble when they couldn’t find a clear route through the fleet to the bottom gate. Psarofaghis’s crew put the throttle down and never looked back, pulling away from the chasing pack to take the race win and secure the Act 5 victory.
The Act saw 24 spectacular races held over four days just metres from the shores of the Neva River. The SAP Sailing Analytics show that Alinghi were the best starters, sailed the fewest manoeuvres and posted 15 podium finishes including eight wins on their way to glory.
“I feel great for the team and myself – we had a great day,” Psarofaghis said.
We are really confident – we’ve proved we can win an Act again and shown we can be strong in all conditions. Oman Air are now the ones with the pressure on them – we don’t have anything to lose but they do.”
We said to ourselves ’let’s go for it’ and we got a great start. We led the whole race from the start, and we saw Oman Air struggling with the rest of the fleet, so from that point we never looked back.
We were a bit nervous because we wouldn’t have won the Act if the racing had ended there, but luckily for us the wind returned just in time. We were unlucky in Hamburg where we won the final race but still missed out on winning overall, so this time it was our turn for things to go our way.
“It was full-on because we were tied on points with Oman Air before the last race and then the wind died.
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Gracious in defeat, Larson paid tribute to his closest rivals but vowed his team would come back firing on all cylinders when the Extreme Sailing Series resumes later this month in Madeira.
“Alinghi executed a great start, had a little extra speed, got ahead of us and didn’t look back, so credit to those guys,” he said.
“Arnaud is a rising star and a big talent in these boats, and his team is solid. But I know how they work, and I know what it’s going to take to beat them. We feel like we sailed really well today and we know that if we keep sailing like that we will come out on top next time.”
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The drama continued further down the fleet as Red Bull Sailing Team tussled with SAP Extreme Sailing Team for a place on the podium, but it was the Austrians that eventually came away with the spoils leaving their Danish opponents to finish in fourth overall.
“We are one of only two teams which have finished on the podium in every Act which is a great achievement, but we still need to get everything sorted on all four days,” Red Bull Sailing Team skipper Roman Hagara said. “If we do that I think we can beat Oman Air and Alinghi, and that’s the goal for the next event.”
With three Acts still remaining, just five points separate Oman Air from Alinghi in the overall standings, with Red Bull Sailing Team just one point further adrift.
A podium finish in the final race saw Land Rover BAR Academy jump up the leaderboard into fifth place overall. Home crew Gazprom Team Russia pleased the watching crowds by finishing second in the last race, while last place for Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira saw them slip to seventh.
The Extreme Sailing Series action resumes on the Portuguese islands of Madeira from September 22 to 25.
Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 5, St Petersburg, presented by SAP, standings after Day 4, 24 races (04.09.16)
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Timothé Lapauw, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 255 points.
2nd Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 249 points.
3rd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Jérémy Bachelin 226 points.
4th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi De Felice, Renato Conde 223 points.
5th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Neil Hunter, Chris Taylor, Will Alloway, Sam Batten, Adam Kay 209 points.
6th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Phil Robertson, Will Tiller, Shane Diviney, Alexsey Kulakov, Victor Serezhkin 207 points.
7th Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira (POR) Diogo Cayolla, Frederico Melo, Nuno Barreto, Antonio Fontes, João Matos Rosa 206 points.
Extreme Sailing Series™ 2016 overall standings
Position / Team / Points
1st Oman Air (OMA) 58 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) 53 points.
3rd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 52 points.
4th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 43 points.
5th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) 39 points.
6th Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira (POR) 33 points.
7th CHINA One (CHN) 29 points.
8th Team Turx (TUR) 11 points.
9th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) 7 points.