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Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 8, Sydney - Day 1

by Extreme Sailing Series 10 Dec 2015 14:17 GMT 10-13 December 2015

With everything to play for, the Extreme 40s came out all-guns-blazing on Sydney Harbour today, for the much-anticipated final Act of the 2015 Extreme Sailing Series™ championship.

On a day of costly penalties for some crews, and race-ending collisions that reduced the fleet of nine boats to just six, it was SAP Extreme Sailing Team and Oman Air that shone through finishing the day first and second respectively.

In the morning press conference Oman Air's skipper Stevie Morrison threw down the gauntlet, saying his aim for the week was to give The Wave, Muscat a "run for their money" and, with three race wins and two second place finishes, Morrison certainly held his word.

"We came out of the blocks and we were fast, it's been an absolutely great day on the harbour. It's our last event in an Extreme 40 so we are certainly going to try and give it everything we've got to go out with a decent result – and of course try to stop The Wave catching a few cheap points on us," a delighted Morrison said.

But others weren't so lucky. First to fall foul of the full-contact racing was Australian wild card 33 South Racing, who were T-boned on the start line of race three by Lino Sonego Team Italia.

Despite the gaping hole in the back of her boat, skipper Katie Spithill heroically finished the race in a respectable fifth place, before limping back to the dock for overnight repairs.

"The Italians tried to duck us and misjudged it. We finished the race thinking we could tape up the hole but it turns out it's a lot bigger than that," explained Spithill. "It's really frustrating but our results so far are promising. Today we just wanted to stay upright and not cause any issues. But what can I say – we're competitive."

The Italian team soon got their just deserts as GAC Pindar, in another collision, damaged their steering mechanism at the back of the boat in race seven, resulting in both teams retiring from the day.

But probably the most significant incident of a hectic day – and maybe even the year – involved Red Bull Sailing Team. A coming together with Gazprom Team Russia seemed at first to be just a scrape, but on further inspection after racing it was found that the damage covered 30% of the boat's structure.

A repair can be made and the team will be on the water tomorrow, but for a crew gunning for the championship title anything less than 100% could be costly.

In the overnight standings SAP Extreme Sailing Team top the leaderboard on 67 points. A confident start for the Danish crew who need the Act win to challenge for the overall Series title.

"The only thing we can do over the next couple of days is try and put as many points on the table as possible," said co-skipper Rasmus Kostner after racing.

In second place Oman Air is on 63 points joint with Extreme 40 heavyweights The Wave, Muscat in third. Team Turx, in fourth, had an outstanding day with local hero Mitch Booth on the helm posting six podiums out of a possible eight.

Racing continues tomorrow from 14.30 (GMT+11). For fans who can't make it down to the Race Village, they can watch live on Fox Sports Australia, and followers around the world can watch the live on the official event website or homepage.

Standings after Day 1, 8 races:

1st SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Mads Emil Stephensen, Brad Farrand 67 points.
2nd Oman Air (OMA) Stevie Morrison, Nic Asher, Ted Hackney, Ed Powys, Ali Al Balashi 63 points.
3rd The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 63 points.
4th Team Turx (TUR) Mitch Booth, Edhem Dirvana, Selim Kakis, Diogo Cayolla, Pedro Andrade 59 points.
5th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Lionel Vaucher, Shaun Mason, Stewart Dodson 53 points.
6th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Pavel Kalinichev, Pavel Karachi, Alexander Bozhko, Aleksey Kulakov 36 points.
7th 33 South Racing (AUS) Katie Spithill, Matthew Chew, Stacey Jackson, Henry Kernot, Luke Payne 32 points.
8th Lino Sonego Team Italia (ITA) Enrico Zennaro, Pierre Pennec, Nevio Sabadin, Stefano Rizzi,Tom Buggy 32 points.
9th GAC Pindar (GBR) Adam Minoprio, Seve Jarvin, Jeremy Lomas, James Wierzbowski, Tyson Lamond 23 points.

Update from Oman Sail

With an 11-point series lead going into this final Act, Leigh McMillan and his crew including recently crowned ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Sarah Ayton, on The Wave, Muscat were keen to retain their momentum at the top of the fleet and indeed they did, ending the day with three impressive wins.

However, it was team mates on Oman Air who really stole the show with two opening wins and a concluding star performance in the closing race of the day (race 8).

Stevie Morrison and his super-hot team including Nic Asher, Ed Powys, Ted Hackney and Ali Al Balushi sailed with the same passion they possessed in the previous Act in Istanbul, where consistent good performance resulted in a place on the podium alongside stable mates The Wave, Muscat.

A delighted Morrison said today was all about team work: "One of the things we set out to do at the beginning of the year was to form a strong team with a bunch of guys willing to push to the limits and back each other up. I think days like today make us realise that has happened.

"This year has been a great experience for me. It is an honour to be part of the Omani team. It has been a steep and huge learning curve because it has been a change of style of sailing for me and I have really enjoyed it."

Despite the Omanis' remarkable performance, it is the Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team who clocked up the most consistent results today to take the overnight lead. With a scoreline that includes two wins and two second places, the team – co-skippered by Rasmus Kostner and Jes Gram-Hansen – are pushing hard and are determined not to make McMillan's life easy. They finish the day four points clear. For the SAP Extreme Sailing Team to win overall however, they will need to win the final, with The Wave, Muscat in 7th place or lower.

"It is great to have both Omani teams fighting on the podium because that's what we've been trying to achieve all year. The idea now is to try to keep putting pressure on whoever is in the lead. SAP are out in front so we need to try to reel them in," said McMillan, reigning two-time Extreme Sailing Series champion.

"We got into the swing of things after the first two races today, with a couple of bullets, which put us back in the hunt. Like everyone really, it didn't go all our own way and it was a bit frustrating in the last race when we got a penalty, which cost us a second as well. All in all, it wasn't a bad first day and hopefully we can improve on that and get into the lead tomorrow."

With an impressive Sydney bridge backdrop, a racecourse set between the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Sydney Opera House, thousands of spectators will be back again tomorrow for the racing spectacle and to visit the Oman Tourism Pavilion that is set to throw open its doors at 0900 local time to the Australian public. It will be a voyage of discovery for visitors to Farm Cove who will learn about what the Sultanate of Oman has to offer the discerning traveller.

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