If You’re Not First, You’re Last

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.

Sailing World
Istanbul ESS
-Vincent Curutchet/Dark Frame

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. Act 3 has been like the rickety, wooden rollercoaster, complete with peeling paint, that goes way faster than it should and has you gripping your seat with white-knuckles, forcing your eyes to stay open just so you can see when the car finally does separate from the track, or the structural support does snap underneath you. Basically, in Kiwi parlance, we’ve had a bit on.

We’ve pushed the boat into smaller spaces than ever before on the starting line. We’ve narrowly avoided some major collisions. (Unfortunately, inconsistent and lax umpiring has encouraged all competitors to push the limits of the rules, and contact is becoming increasingly regular.) We’ve raced up and down the Bosphorus River in as much current as wind (see some awesome helicopter footage, courtesy of OC Third Pole, below).

We’ve had come-from-behind victories (see Day 2’s Race of the Day video below) and blown large leads. We’ve had 10-race days, which I’ve noticed are a bit more tiring on a 40-foot cat than in an FJ. We’ve quoted Ricky Bobby more times than I can count: What else do you say after posting an 8-1-7 score line in three races? If you’re not first, you’re last.

Despite glaring inconsistency, we’re in fourth with 12 points between us and the top of the podium. It’s not as tight as hoped, but Act 3 is still up for grabs, especially with the double-point final race. And after our finish in Qingdao, Team Oman Air is hungry. With the fifth-man rule always up in the air, and some discussion of switching to bigger crew amongst the Omani teams, I have to consider the possibility that this is my final day racing Extreme 40s for awhile, as well.

In other words, it’s all on.