Peter Lester: “Foiling is the future of the Extreme Sailing Series™ - and it’s exciting.”

If you’ve ever watched sailing on television, the chances are that you’ve heard the unmistakable voice of Peter Lester before. A two-time Yachtsman of the Year in his native New Zealand and three-time America’s Cup competitor, Lester is known as one of the world’s authorities on top level racing.

A sailor first and foremost, when the Spanish team he was coaching at the 1992 America’s Cup was knocked out early he was asked to provide television commentary – and the rest is history. Lester has been one of the main voices in sailing ever since, as well as lending his expertise to numerous national and international sailing campaigns.

Now he is bringing his wealth of knowledge and instantly recognisable style to the Extreme Sailing Series, commentating on all the action from Act 2 in Qingdao. We sat down with Lester to ask his thoughts on the future of foiling, stadium racing and who’s looking hot this year.

What’s it like to be here in Qingdao with the Extreme Sailing Series?

For me it’s a real privilege to be here. I don’t do all the regattas so to be able to come along and reconnect with such a good circuit that’s very well run is brilliant. Plus the event has had a refresh with the new boats, and they’re looking exciting.

What are your thoughts on the new GC32 foiling catamarans?

The GC32s are fantastic. They’re modern and they look good. From what I saw from the racing in Muscat they can be incredibly exciting, especially when there’s a good amount of wind. Foiling technology is becoming more and more popular in sailing and it is the future of our sport at all levels, I have no doubt about that. If you’re a young kid getting into sailing you want to be in the foiling generation.

What challenges do the crews face with the GC32s?

With the GC32s being new to the Extreme Sailing Series this year it’ll be interesting to see how the crews adapt to the new technolgy. I think by the end of the season, at Act 8 in Sydney, we’ll be seeing different techniques being used by the sailors as they get to grips with these boats.

How has top level racing changed since you started competing back in the 1970s?

Competitive sailing has changed entirely. As an an older sailor I still miss the crew work component of traditional monohull boats – gybe sets, tack gybe sets, the complex manoeuvres. Those things aren’t as prominent now but the sheer exhilaration and excitement of the new boats, especially the GC32s, is unquestionable.

What does the Stadium racing format of the Extreme Sailing Series bring to the sport?

Stadium racing is all about the spectator. The foreshore here in Qingdao has been packed each day and that’s because the race course is literally 50 metres from the shore. It’s the future of the game – bring the racing to the crowd, and explain to the audiences what’s going on in the racing. The Stadium racing format of the Extreme Sailing Series is one of the key components for modern yacht racing.

What are your predictions for the 2016 season?

I think Morgan Larson and Oman Air look really strong. They were very, very good in Act 1 in Muscat. They’ve battled a bit here in Qingdao but they’re still knocking on the door. Sail Portugal and Alinghi have also been pretty dominant, and that’s no surprise to me. Keep an eye on those two teams this year, but for me I like the look of Oman Air.

You can hear Lester commentating live from the finale of Act 2 of the Extreme Sailing Series today at www.extremesailingseries.com from 15:15 (GMT+8).

Peter Lester commentating at Act 2, Qingdao in China