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Swiss stars Alinghi lose mast in collision in action-packed day in Madeira

The Extreme Sailing Series™ lived up to its name on the penultimate day of Act 6 in Madeira as a collision between rivals Alinghi and Red Bull Sailing Team resulted in the Swiss crew losing their mast.

Both teams have been pushing each other hard over the first two days of the Act, held on the waters of Madeiran capital Funchal, but as racing resumed on day three the drama ramped up another notch.

As the third race of the day got underway, Austrian-flagged Red Bull Sailing Team screamed across the start line at full tilt but got too close to Alinghi, and the back of their boat clipped the front of the Swiss.

The impact between the two super-fast GC32 catamarans snapped a crucial part of Alinghi’s rigging and moments later the boat’s 16.5-metre carbon fibre mast and sails slowly fell to one side into the water.

Within seconds the Extreme Sailing Series’ safety team were alongside the stricken boat to ensure the sailors were safe and to minimise any further damage. All the sailors and guests were wearing helmets and buoyancy aids, and no-one was injured.

Alinghi’s GC32 was towed back to the dock where their shore crew began work repairing it but they face a race against time to get it ready for the Act 6 finale tomorrow. Alinghi were awarded redress for the incident, which sees them retain the overall lead ahead of Oman Air, Red Bull Sailing Team and SAP Extreme Sailing Team.

“During the third start we were sandwiched between Red Bull Sailing Team and Sail Portugal - Visit Madeira,” skipper Arnaud Psarofaghis said. “Red Bull Sailing Team popped up onto their foils then came down on us, and we couldn’t really avoid them. This all happened really quickly and unfortunately they hit us and we lost the rig, but no-one was hurt and that’s the main thing.

“We need to assess the damage and see if we will be able to sail tomorrow. It’s going to be a long night for us but we have the greatest shore crew and they will do everything they can to get us back on the water.”

The on-the-water umpires judged Red Bull Sailing Team to have been at fault and handed them a 15-second penalty for the start of the fourth race but they came back to scoop a third place behind SAP Extreme Sailing Team and Oman Air.

Morgan Larson’s Oman Air and Jes Gram-Hansen’s Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team made the most of Alinghi’s misfortune, each claiming two wins. With the breeze building to around 12 knots, more than enough for the GC32s to ‘fly’ on their foils and provide a real show for the watching crowds that lined the shore.

Oman Air go into the finale trailing Alinghi by five points, with Red Bull Sailing Team a further four points back. And with the last race of the Act counting for double points, the leaderboard is still wide open.

“The team did a great job today,” Larson said. “I missed a few little things but we achieved what we wanted. It was fun, tough racing and tomorrow we will go out to get a lot more firsts.”

The final day of Act 6 commences at 1400 local time (1300 GMT). Fans following the racing around the world can watch live from 1530 local time (1430 GMT) on the Extreme Sailing Series website.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 6, Madeira Islands standings after Day 3, 12 races (24.09.16)

Position / Team / Points

1st Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Timothé Lapauw, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 130 points.

2nd Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 125 points.

3rd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Brad Farrand 121 points.

4th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi De Felice, Renato Conde 119 points.

5th Sail Portugal - Visit Madeira (POR) Diogo Cayolla, Frederico Melo, Nuno Barreto, Luís Brito, João Matos Rosa 103 points.

6th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Neil Hunter, Elliot Hanson, Will Alloway, Sam Batten, Rob Bunce 95 points.

7th Vega Racing (USA) Brad Funk, Tom Buggy, Nick Thompson, Zé Costa, Mac Agnese 88 points.