A high-speed collision with Red Bull Sailing Team yesterday resulted in the 16.5-metre mast of Alinghi’s GC32 catamaran falling down. The damage, in the third race of the day, forced the veteran crew to retire from the remaining four races and threatened to keep them off the water for the final day of Act 6.
But thanks to the heroics of their shore team Alinghi were back in action when racing resumed today. The sailors then repaid their land-based teammates by sealing the Act 6 victory with wins in both races, which were held in light winds.
Red Bull Sailing Team claimed the runners up spot for the third time in six Acts as Madeira made its debut in the Extreme Sailing Series, with overall Series leaders Oman Air completing the podium.
The result sees Alinghi narrow the gap in the overall rankings to Oman Air to just three points with just two more Acts left of the 2016 season – Lisbon in less than two weeks and Sydney in December.
Alinghi helmsman Arnaud Psarofaghis dedicated the victory, the crew’s second in succession after triumph in Act 5 in St Petersburg, to their shore team who worked tirelessly through the night to repair their stricken boat and keep them in contention.
“We’re really happy to win here in Madeira,” Psarofaghis said. “After the breakdown yesterday the shore crew did a fantastic job putting the boat back together and getting us back on the water. This win is for them. Overall we’re not far behind Oman Air now so it will be a fight right until the end.”
Red Bull Sailing Team faced their own race against time overnight to repair damage to the hulls of their GC32, but they too were able to resume racing and rounded off the Act in style with two podium finishes – including second in the final double points-scoring race. Roman Hagara’s Austrian-flagged team will go into the penultimate Act just two points behind Alinghi overall, and well within shot of their first ever Series win.
“The goal has been to beat Oman Air for a long time now and we have managed to do that here,” Hagara said. “This second is great for the team and a great effort from everyone after yesterday’s crash with Alinghi. To get the boat on the water and then fight back to beat Oman Air is brilliant. We know now we can beat Alinghi and Oman Air so we’re really looking forward to the next event in Lisbon.”
Despite Oman Air’s grip on the overall lead loosening, skipper Morgan Larson said the team would regroup for Lisbon and come back stronger. “The team sailed really well but our results didn’t show it,” he said. “I gave up quite a few points in the starts and that’s something I need to tighten up. Going forward we’re going to have some more light air and we need to take the lessons that we have learned here and apply them.”
Thousands of people, both locals and tourists, turned out to watch the four days of action which took place just metres from the shore on Funchal’s turquoise waters with the city’s mountainous landscape providing a stunning backdrop. It was the first time that Madeira, which lies around 250 miles to the north of the Canary Islands in the north Atlantic, has ever hosted the Extreme Sailing Series.
After 14 races Danish Team SAP Extreme Sailing Team just missed out on a podium finish despite four race wins, one second and three thirds, ending in fourth ahead of home team Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira in fifth and Land Rover BAR Academy in sixth. Wildcard team Vega Racing from the USA finished in seventh but a second-place result in race 13 was enough to prove what skipper Brad Funk and his rookie crew are capable of.
There is little time to rest as the Extreme Sailing Series heads to Portugal’s capital city Lisbon for the first time in its 10-year history for the penultimate Act of the year from October 6 to 9.