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Tensions high ahead of penultimate showdown

  • 01st October 2014
Tensions high ahead of penultimate showdown

The 2014 Extreme Sailing Series™ is nearing its final stages with just one European Act left on the global tour, taking place this week in Nice, Cote d’Azur, before the final in Sydney, Australia. For the 11-strong fleet, it’s crunch time, and Freddie Carr gives his predictions on the leaderboard battles, at this pivotal point in the Series.

The whole event in Istanbul (Act 6) for me had a bit of needle about it, and to be honest, it really picked up from the double points final race in Cardiff, Wales at Act 5. We predicted Istanbul to step up a level in terms of aggression, and it really did. Going into the final race in Turkey where Morgan Larson’s Alinghi had third position pretty much locked in, the team turned it around and basically sailed The Wave, Muscat to the back of the fleet, doing all they could to make sure the Omani team didn’t win, and ensuring Emirates Team New Zealand did. Tensions were running high. I’ve known Leigh McMillan (The Wave, Muscat skipper) for 20 years and I haven’t seen him as emotional and as upset as he was after that double points final race in Turkey. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that we’re going to pick up from where we left off in Nice for the penultimate Act of the 2014 season.

What happened in Istanbul – it was always going to happen. Especially when you have two teams that have been dominating the circuit like The Wave, Muscat and Alinghi have. But what was really interesting in Istanbul was that it was a complete role-reversal for the two teams. The Wave, Muscat got out of the blocks on the first two days scoring points like nobody’s business, and Alinghi - who usually lead the regattas from the start, had two stinkers. However, the Swiss team were in ninth position halfway through day two and went on to sail phenomenally well in the second half of the regatta; ‘A’, to be able to get onto the podium and ‘B’, to go and ruin The Wave, Muscat’s regatta by sailing them off the top spot. I’ve noticed in the last two regattas that The Wave, Muscat have lead from the off, and have been really dominant going into the final race. Although The Wave, Muscat have scored more points than Alinghi in the last two Acts, in the double points final race it’s Alinghi who have had the psychological advantage, as they’ve almost come out on the better side of the race. These final races aren’t only massive in terms of the overall positioning of the teams but they’re psychologically huge as well.

In my opinion, Peter Burling (Emirates Team New Zealand skipper for Act 7) right now, along with Giles Scott (British Finn sailor) is the best dinghy sailor on the planet. He’s come in to the 2014 circuit and finished in the top three in every Act he’s done this year, and he’s recently just sailed away with the ISAF 49er World Championship title alongside teammate Blair Tuke. To be honest, I’m expecting Emirates Team New Zealand to come out of the blocks and be contenders again, and if they do that in Nice I’m pretty sure they’ll lock in third place overall this season.

Right now, there’s about six or seven teams that will all be saying, “OK, what is done is done - let’s have a good last two Acts and we could finish fourth”. Every team out there wants to reach the top three on the overall podium this year, but if you come away with a fourth – that’s really respectable. If you come away with a fourth in this year’s Extreme Sailing Series, you’ve just done a great job as a team. So Nice is going to be a big, big regatta in terms of that mid-leaderboard shootout. If you’ve any chance going into the final Act in Sydney where it’s double points, you have to come out on top of the pile in Nice to try and get that fourth spot.

My predictions for Act 7: Alinghi and The Wave, Muscat will be there or thereabouts. However, there is potential that the two teams could get too involved in each other, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle each other early on in the regatta. We know they’re going to engage down the line, but it would be interesting to see if they start sailing each other a little bit earlier on in the regatta.  Maybe try and put a bit of pain on the other when one’s in a bad position.

I think Peter Burling on Emirates Team New Zealand will come out firing. He’s on fire at the moment, and at the ISAF World Championships in Santander, Spain recently, it was one of the most dominant wins in the 49er World Championship we’ve ever seen – and you don’t lose form like that over night. Also that mid-leaderboard battle is just wide open and like we saw with Oman Air in Istanbul, any one of those teams can go and absolutely dominate a day and put themselves right in the mix. It’s going to be a really big regatta.

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