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Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 5, St Petersburg - Day 1

by Extreme Sailing Series 1 Sep 2016 20:53 BST 1-4 September 2016

The Extreme Sailing Series™ once again lived up to its reputation for the most exciting Stadium Racing today as Act 5, presented by SAP, got underway in St Petersburg with trademark high-octane action.

The latest stage of the global tour picked up where it had left off in Hamburg, Germany, just a month ago as seven crews made up of the world's best sailors resumed battle in the heart of Russia's second largest city.

It is the third time St Petersburg has hosted the Extreme Sailing Series following its debut on the circuit in 2014.

But the city had not enjoyed the spectacle of race boats 'flying' more than a metre above the water on special hydro-foils – until now.

The cutting-edge GC32 catamarans were in their element as winds between nine and 12 knots combined with the flat waters of the Neva River to provide perfect conditions for lightning-quick racing.

Determined to make amends for an uncharacteristic last place finish on Russian waters in 2015, Denmark's SAP Extreme Sailing Team shot out of the blocks in the opening race, overhauling home team Gazprom Team Russia to open their scorecard with a win.

In a display of their boat-handling skills on the river racecourse, Jes Gram-Hansen's men went on to notch up another two victories and a third place finish over seven nail-biting races.

Despite a late charge from Swiss rivals Alinghi, who also won three races, SAP Extreme Sailing Team top the overall leaderboard by one point going into day two, the first time they have enjoyed an overnight lead at an Act this season.

SAP Extreme Sailing Team co-skipper Gram-Hansen said: "It was a great day for us; we sailed really well, pushed it a bit in the starts, pulled off some good comebacks and had some really nice boat-handling.

"There were some good gusts coming down the racecourse and although they weren't super powerful you have to be careful because room to manoeuvre is very limited.

"I saw there were a few close capsizes but we had a reasonably trouble-free day. If you can stay away from the traffic you can stay out of trouble, and I think we were pretty lucky with that today. We're pretty happy but of course there's still a long way to go."

Overall 2016 Extreme Sailing Series leaders Oman Air go into day two of Act 5 in third place with three podium finishes under their belts, despite suffering minor damage to their rudder when they hit a metal river mark.

Among those struggling to tame their GC32s in Neva River's testing conditions was Diogo Cayolla's Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira crew.

The team, racing in the Extreme Sailing Series for the first time this year, scored an impressive set of results that included two seconds and a third to finish the day in fourth. But they nearly came undone on several occasions during racing when they were caught out by gusts blowing through the racecourse.

"It was very difficult out there today," Cayolla said. "We knew the course would be challenging but we still had some risky situations because of the gusts. Thankfully we managed not to do any damage to our boat and our crew, and in the end we sailed quite well.

"We had some podium finishes and that's not bad at all, but if the conditions are going to be the same tomorrow we need to be prepared."

Roman Hagara's Red Bull Sailing Team were fifth after a mixed bag of results, and despite a strong start in the opening race Gazprom Team Russia were forced to settle for sixth overall, just one point ahead of Land Rover BAR Academy.

Racing resumes at 1400 local time tomorrow with a forecast for similar conditions.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 5, St Petersburg presented by SAP standings after Day 1: (7 races)

1st SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi De Felice, Renato Conde 71pts
2nd Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Timothé Lapauw, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 70pts
3rd Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 69pts
4th Sail Portugal – Visit Madeira (POR) Diogo Cayolla, Frederico Melo, Nuno Barreto, Luís Brito, João Matos Rosa 62pts
5th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Jérémy Bachelin 60pts
6th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Phil Robertson, Will Tiller, Shane Diviney, Alexsey Kulakov, Victor Serezhkin 55pts
7th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Neil Hunter, Chris Taylor, Will Alloway, Sam Batten, Rob Bunce 54pts