Swiss sailing stars Alinghi snatched the Act 5 lead from arch rivals Oman Air on the penultimate day of the Extreme Sailing Series™ in St Petersburg to set up a thrilling finale.
Crowds lined St Petersburg's Neva River, from in front of the Peter and Paul Fortress, to watch the action as Alinghi stormed to the top of the leaderboard with an impressive five podium finishes in six races.
Alinghi helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis was more than happy to capitalise on the misfortunes of Morgan Larson's Omani-flagged crew, who missed the podium in all but two races as St Petersburg dealt its most challenging day so far.
The sun shone but with it came a light, unpredictable breeze that, coupled with a strong tide, tested the seven international teams as they tried to coax every last bit of speed from their GC32 catamarans.
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Alinghi slowly reeled Oman Air in throughout the day, and a runner-up spot in the last race of the day was enough to secure their new place at the top of the table of Act 5 presented by SAP.
“It is great to take the lead from Oman Air on the third day,” Alinghi's Psarofaghis said. “We sailed really simply today and everything went our way. A few times we got into situations at the top mark but each time everything came together.
“We're always happy when a few boats can get ahead of Oman Air because that doesn't happen very often. Everyone has good and bad days, and today was a good day for us and a bad day for Oman Air.
“Tomorrow we will try to do the same as today - get good starts, sail away and find a good lane. It's the last day and what happens on the water will decide the final result.”
Alinghi were the day's top performers but not far behind were the Austrian crew of Red Bull Sailing Team, who, in an echo of yesterday, shot out of the blocks as racing got underway.
The team, led by Roman Hagara, won the day's opening two races and added another two podium finishes to move within striking distance of third-placed SAP Extreme Sailing Team.
Meanwhile Oman Air scored their worst result of the Act in the third race of the day when they were handed a 45-second penalty for obstructing wildcard crew Gazprom Team Russia. They were automatically relegated to the back of the pack, and the punishment ultimately proved too much to come back from.
In the fourth race home crew Gazprom Team Russia blasted across the finish line in first place. The result helped move them within four points of closest rivals Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira, who currently sit in fifth.
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Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 5, St Petersburg presented by SAP standings after Day 3, 20 races (03.09.16)
Position / Team / Points
1st Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Timothé Lapauw, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 200 points.
2nd Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 196 points.
3rd SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi De Felice, Renato Conde 188 points.
4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Jérémy Bachelin 180 points.
5th Sail Portugal - Visit Madeira (POR) Diogo Cayolla, Frederico Melo, Nuno Barreto, Antonio Fontes, João Matos Rosa 169 points.
6th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Phil Robertson, Will Tiller, Shane Diviney, Alexsey Kulakov, Victor Serezhkin 165 points.
7th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Neil Hunter, Chris Taylor, Will Alloway, Sam Batten, Rob Bunce 162 points.