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Dinghy ace Funk gets slice of Madeiran action on Extreme Sailing Series™ debut

He’s been a member of the USA’s national sailing team since he was 17 and won numerous world championships in the Laser and 49er dinghy classes. But despite his wealth of top level experience, Brad Funk admits his first outing in the Extreme Sailing Series™ in charge of his own team was something of a baptism of fire.

Funk made his Extreme Sailing Series debut in May as part of Team Turx during Act 2 in the Chinese sailing city of Qingdao, and was so impressed by the event that he has spent the last six months putting together a campaign to lead his own team in the 2017 Series.

His fledgling crew, named Vega Racing after the brightest star in the night sky, joined the regular Extreme Sailing Series fleet as a wildcard team as Act 6 got underway on the waters of Madeira. Four days of intense competition ensued, pushing Funk and his Vega Racing to the limit mentally and physically as they got to grips with their cutting-edge GC32 catamaran.

Despite finishing seventh, Funk said he couldn’t have been happier to make his Extreme Sailing Series debut as a skipper.

“I’m really happy – I couldn’t ask for anything more after this week,” Funk said. “We knew it was going to be a baptism of fire because the other teams are full of really good sailors who have spent hours and hours figuring out how to sail these boats efficiently.

“The level of sailing they’re at is something we’re all trying to get to, and we’ve learned a lot from them as the event went on. It’s been up and down because my competitive nature is so strong.

“No-one wants to have races where you’re just sitting at the back – it’s so frustrating – but then we had to keep reminding ourselves that our opponents have had vastly more time in the boats than us. If you have enough talent on board and the motivation you’re going to improve, and that’s what happened.”

For his team’s inaugural outing Funk picked a crew that included British Olympic sailor Nick Thompson and Portugal’s Jose Costa, also fresh from Rio 2016. The final day of racing gave a glimpse of what Vega Racing are capable of when they crossed the line in second place during the first race.

“By the final day we got to the point where we felt like we could actually compete,” Funk said. “We felt like we were getting round the course at similar speeds and we could actually start playing the game with the others. That showed in the first race of the final day when we crossed the line second. It was pretty cool.”

For Funk, his team’s debut appearance marks an important step in the journey to becoming a fully-fledged Extreme Sailing Series crew, and they will now go on to compete at the penultimate Act of the year in Lisbon in less than two weeks.

“We want to compete in the Extreme Sailing Series next year and so being able to get onto a boat now means if we can get everything together then we won’t be starting 2017 from scratch,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to be on the start line when the Extreme Sailing Series begins again next year. Our story is perfect for me at this point. I’m excited about how far we’ve come in such a short time, and about what lies ahead.”