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Off to the Races

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.

April 18, 2012
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Sailing World

Bulger Act 2 Blog 2

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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. There was no such thing as a lead big enough to relax: the weather kept us all on our toes. (And despite the sun, the weather also kept us frozen solid. Yes, Mom, I’m wearing a hat, and gloves, and a few pairs of socks-—it’s cold up there on the bow.)

Team Oman Air did not have the opening day we were hoping to. Just before leaving the dock, I got a message that the Boston Bruins beat the Washington Capitals to take a 2-1 lead in their NHL playoff series. To borrow a hockey metaphor, the puck just didn’t bounce our way yesterday. Our coach counted upwards of 10 situations (in six races) where five degrees of shift or a half-knot of puff made the difference between top three and bottom three for our squad. It was a day of close ducks and tight roundings. This is sailboat racing, and, like in any class, that’s the nature of the game. Morgan did a great job of keeping the team relaxed and focused on gaining every single point we could, even in the back half of the pack. Oman proved the obvious: every event this year will come down to the wire. The difference between a fifth and a sixth on day one will undoubtedly play into the final standings. Extreme 40 regattas aren’t won on the horizon jobs when a good start and big shift helps you leg out from the competition, they are won on the tight mid-fleet finishes that every team experiences often.

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We were happy to end with a first place finish and are anything but downtrodden. As has become the hallmark of the Air, nobody’s head is in the gutter. After reviewing the film, debriefing, and taking away some important lessons, Nasser, Morgan, Charlie, Will, and I are looking forward to a fresh day of racing. Last night our Chinese hosts blew all the sailors away with a huge opening ceremony in Qingdao. Fireworks, Mongolian pop stars, sword-and-staff Kung Fu displays, and gift exchanges—all televised from a massive stage on the waterfront. It was sensational to be a part of it from backstage; I can only imagine what it looked like to the local crowd. It is always phenomenal to see local participation in events and feel a warm welcome.

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The rest of the event will be stadium racing: even tighter quarters, shiftier breeze, and more bouncing pucks. The forecast is light and will undoubtedly be challenging. Still, the boys are rearing to go. Fifth is not the top of the leaderboard, but, with most of the event still ahead of us, Oman Air is ready to do some climbing.

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PS- Go Bruins!

For more frequent updates, follow Max Bulger on Twitter.

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