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Intact in Istanbul

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?

June 9, 2012
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Sailing World

Bulger Act 3 Blog 1 b

Unpacking the boat at a fishing port in Istanbul. Max Bulger

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.

Team Oman Air is still fighting that constant sailboat racing urge to overcomplicate things, espousing simplicity and whatever it takes to get to the starting line feeling calm and collected, as opposed to frenzied. It may sound obvious, but it is a philosophy that informs many of our smaller operational decisions and is often very different than some of our competitors. You can spend an extra hour in the sun debating which lead reduces friction on one line more efficiently, but when you’re sailing eight 5-minute races in a day, it probably is not going to be a deciding factor. We remind ourselves regularly that the goal is simple efficiency and not chasing our own tails too much during the build. The days are long enough.

Photo: Vincent Curutchet/Dark Frame

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Starts were, again, the key on Day 1. I omitted a little bit of team kit in the first race, instead rocking on a Boston Celtics Rondo jersey (above). I think Morgan took the Celtic luck to heart, and our first start was a port-tack flyer at the pin, resulting in us crossing ZouLou by an inch or two, and the rest of the fleet comfortably. We defended our lead for the remainder of the double windward-leeward, and added another bullet in the second race. After opening with snake eyes, we had a little more trouble in the second half of the day. Morgan summed up our problems succinctly in the team debrief: “In an eight boat fleet, you can’t start in the middle.” To add a little context, the conditions were 2-12 knots with 4 knots of current, and a long seawall along the upwind left side of the course. That meant that stalling on the line was easy, and, even if you timed a starboard start perfectly, you only had 45 seconds before the wall approached and bounced the fleet back towards the middle of the course. Lessons in hand, we’re looking to keep finishes more consistently in the top four.

Rumor also has it that Istanbul is a beautiful city. We are sailing out of a somewhat ramshackle fishing port. (Concrete docks complete with rusted iron bars poking out at odd angles, fishing boats parking in our slips, locals playing cards on the ground amidst our containers … The French even used the floor of a fish-packing area to pack a gennaker. We’ll see how that works out for them … ) But it looks nice from the water so far! Hopefully we’ll get to check a little more out before flying out. For now, our focus is on the racecourse.

Follow Max on Instagram: @maxbulger

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