Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira face a race against time to get their GC32 catamaran back into action after it was damaged in a wet and wild penultimate day of Act 7 on their home waters of Lisbon.
With a fresh breeze gusting more than 20 knots blowing across the River Tagus the Portuguese capital rewarded the Extreme Sailing Series™ teams with some of the most gripping racing seen so far this season. The testing conditions saw the nine-strong fleet blast round Lisbon’s Stadium Racecourse at blistering speeds of up to 35 knots, flying high above the water on their hydrofoils.
The world-class sailors were pushed to the limit as they battled to keep their their cutting-edge GC32s under control right in front of the crowds watching from the Race Village. The action-packed racing provided plenty of thrills and spills in what the sailors described as the best day of the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series so far.
But in the fifth race of the day Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira were unable to avoid a collision with American-flagged Vega Racing, and the home team were left with a large hole in the side of their boat. The Extreme Sailing Series’ safety team were on scene within moments, quickly confirming that none of the sailors were hurt, before the stricken GC32 was towed to the dock and craned out so repair work could begin.
Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira’s boatbuilders jumped straight into action to mend the damage but now face a long, sleepless night of work if they are to get the boat race ready for tomorrow’s Act 7 finale.
“We knew today was going to be foiling conditions and it was great, tight racing”, said skipper Diogo Cayolla, whose crew were forced to miss the last two races. “It was one of the best days we’ve had so far this season. Unfortunately, we ended up with a big hole in the side of our boat after a collision with Vega Racing. No-one was injured but the boat had to come out of the water straight away.
“We have a great shore team and they were working on the boat as soon as it was lifted out. They’re going to be working right through the night but I know they will do a good job and tomorrow we will be ready to race again.”
Swiss crew Alinghi once again proved themselves to be the most consistent team on the water with two race wins and four more podium finishes in the day’s seven races. Crucially they managed to stay ahead of arch rivals and overall 2016 Series leaders Oman Air in all but one of the races, and now go into the final day with a healthy 19-point lead over their closest competitor, the French wildcard team NORAUTO. Oman Air trail Alinghi by 28 points in third, leaving Morgan Larson’s crew with a lot to do tomorrow to make up the deficit.
“It was pretty wild and windy out there today,” Alinghi co-skipper and helmsman Arnaud Psarofahgis said. “The downwind was really nice, we had great fun. We hit 35 knots of boatspeed and we knew we were getting close to the edge but we made sure we didn’t go over it. It’s good for us that we didn’t lose too many points today. Conditions were perfect and if it’s the same tomorrow we will be up for it.”
Long-serving Extreme Sailing Series crew Red Bull Sailing Team scored their first win of the Act and clocked another two podium finishes to go into the final day in fourth place, well within touch of the podium. Despite his wealth of top-level experience, tactician Hans-Peter Steinacher said it was the most thrilling racing he’s ever done.
“I’ve been sailing for nearly 40 years and I’ve never done things like this,” he said. “Normally we have control but today it was so extreme - you just can’t imagine how quick it is.
“We made some mistakes, and this is why we’re not on top of the leaderboard. We need to train more in these conditions and be calm, and then the communication will be a lot better.”
SAP Extreme Sailing Team bagged their second race win of the Act to go into the final day in 5th place, ahead of Land Rover BAR Academy in 6th and Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira in 7th. Vega Racing finish the day in 8th just one point ahead of Thalassa Magenta Racing, the Extreme Sailing Series’ first all-woman crew.