Inconsistency leads Max Bulger's team on Oman Air at Act 3 of the Extreme Sailing Series to quote Ricky Bobby more times than they can count.
You didn’t need to be on board an Extreme 40 for the first three days of this event to figure out it’s been an emotional rollercoaster. The Series, and sailboat racing in general, is often like that. But it’s usually like a high-tech, shiny, new rollercoaster: fast as a bat out of hell and makes your stomach drop, but in a way you can somewhat anticipate.
Max Bulger reports back from the action on the first day of Act 3 of the Extreme Sailing in Istanbul. Is wearing a Celtics jersey enough to win races?
Act 3 has arrived: Our team, boatbuilders, and containers all made it to Istanbul (relatively) intact. After a couple days of snapping everything together and knocking the rust off on the water, we have six races in the shadows of the Blue Mosque under our belts. As always with this fleet, things are happening quickly. It’s out of the frying pan that is the unpacking circus (not made easier by the rainstorm and lack of light that dominated our clean-up in Qingdao) and into the fire of racing.
Whether you're making your living in the kitchen or on the water, it's all about the prep work.
Despite what some of my friends (and parents, and professors) seem to believe, I only spend a fraction of my time traveling for sailing. Most of the time I’m here in Boston, doing regular 22-year-old things: going to school, and going to work. I’d imagine that most SW readers are familiar with the undergraduate experience. Something I’ve been reflecting on a lot this year, that you may be less aware of, is the relationship between my job and the racing I do.
Max Bulger heads back to school for finals and reflects on Act 2 of the Extreme Sailing Series.
Act 2 in Qingdao was a whirlwind, by any competitor’s account. In Oman, most teams (including all of us on Oman Air) had a week or two to get settled on the boat, overcome jetlag, and let our bodies adjust to the new atmosphere. We had more than enough time to establish a daily rhythm. China was a whole different ballgame. Due to league rules, no program had access to their boats until two days before the event. This gave everyone 48 hours to empty their containers, set up shop, and build their boats.
The first day of Act 2 in Qingdao didn't go as Oman Air had planned, but the team is ready to do some climbing.
The first day of Act 2 brought some of the closest racing I’ve seen so far in the Extreme Sailing Series; a trend that I’m sure will continue in Qingdao. Light air, current, and geographic shifts kept things incredibly tight. Just when it appeared obvious that coming off the pin and hugging the seawall on the left side of the course was a surefire recipe for success, someone would get bounced off the line and come out of the right in the lead. A boat penalized at the weather mark would split from the fleet on the run, catch a puff, lift a hull, and take off.
I will say that, if it wasn't for these posters (which are plastered all over the airport and city) I might still be sitting on the curb at the airport, failing to give directions in incredibly broken Mandarin to a confused looking cab driver.
Oman Air's Max Bulger reports back on the fast first day in Qingdao, China, for Act 2 of the Extreme Sailing Series.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons during Act 1, but apparently few of them had to do with departure. While I did manage to pack a little further in advance this time (not much of a feat considering most of my gear was shipped with the boat from Oman to China), I still found myself escaping to the airport in a flurry of mid-term exams, dissertations and papers. I guess that’s what happens when you’re an undergraduate moonlighting as a bartender to pay rent moonlighting as an international sailor moonlighting as a… you get the point.
Max Bulger looks back at the last race of Act 1 in Muscat, Oman: "As I slid, belly-down, out to the bow of the leeward hull to call our final approach to the line, the media boats caught me with a big grin on my face."
In a fleet as tight as the Extreme 40s have proven to be this year, being in contention for the podium entering the final day of racing is as good as it’s going to get. The races are short, and there are as many as 10 each day. Every team is well trained, focused and stacked with top talent. It’s a one-design fleet. And the final race of every Act is worth double points. When you combine all these factors with the inevitable unpredictability of sailboat racing, the idea of any team pulling away from the fleet before the final day is close to laughable.
Flying into the finish in front of the race village.
In-shore venues and short courses make for great spectating, but more stress onboard Oman Air during Act 1 of the Extreme Sailing Series.
Will, our headsail trimmer and resident X40 vet, continually warned us about the tight nature of the short course racing in store for us during the regatta. Despite a couple weeks of training and hours watching footage from previous seasons, I had no idea just how close the racing would be until the first day of the event was over.
Despite falling off the cat during light-air racing, Max Bulger recovers, and the Oman Air team brings a strong record at the first Act of the Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat, Oman.
After such a great event, and overall experience, those two words are at the top of the pile. A victory here in Muscat leaves me indebted to talented and fun teammates, unbelievable shore support crew, phenomenal competitors, the great folks at Oman Sail, and, of course, the legs that run all my adventures: amazing family and friends back home in Boston, at Tufts, and around the world. Cheers.