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Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 3, Cardiff - Day 1

by Extreme Sailing Series 23 Jun 2016 23:21 BST 23-26 June 2016

Baptism of fire for Land Rover BAR Academy young guns in Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 3 opener

The young guns of Land Rover BAR Academy got their first taste of how intense the Extreme Sailing Series™ can be today as Act 3 got off to a sensational start in Cardiff.

With the 2016 season resuming in the Welsh capital after two thrilling events, a fresh crop of talented British sailors were handed the chance to represent Sir Ben Ainslie's youth development squad against the tour's more seasoned teams. But there were no warm welcomes for Land Rover BAR Academy on the notorious Cardiff Bay racecourse as they were treated to a baptism of fire from both their rivals and the weather gods.

Over the four years Cardiff has hosted the Extreme Sailing Series previously it has become renowned for delivering big breeze – and today was no exception, with gusts of up to 20 knots blowing across the course. It made for testing racing as the crews struggled to tame their superfast foiling GC32 catamarans, but a fantastic show for the spectators lining the shore of the famous stadium venue.

"It definitely got hairy out there – it was a real eye-opener," said 19-year-old Land Rover BAR Academy helmsman Owen Bowerman, whose team go into day two in sixth place overall. "There was one point when Alinghi crossed right in front of us and it all got a bit sketchy.

"There were times when we made mistakes but the energy and effort from the team was what really mattered. It was an awesome day with the team, a great experience – we learned a huge amount.

"This is an event you can only dream of being part of and to be able to steer one of these boat around one of the world's most competitive racecourses is unbelievable."

The only senior member of the crew onboard was Paul Campbell-James, drafted in from Ainslie's America's Cup team to mentor his young team mates. "It was certainly exciting – we really threw the boys in at the deep end," Campbell-James said. "It doesn't get much harder than what we had today. The results weren't the best but we were really fighting and with every race we got better."

Meanwhile it was the familiar faces of Oman Air and Red Bull Sailing Team once again showing their dominance at the front of the fleet. "It just felt good today," said Oman Air skipper Morgan Larson, whose crew top the Act 3 standings thanks to five race wins. "The course was short and things happened fast and furiously, but the guys onboard did a top job."

Talking about the value of experience, Larson continued: "When the wind blows it shows which teams have spent more time in these boats. If we get a few lighter races we'll see the newer teams right back in the mix."

Roman Hagara, skipper of second-placed Red Bull Sailing Team, added: "It was full on today but the crew did a really god job around the course keeping everything together which is really important on these short courses. Alinghi and Oman Air are doing a great job and we will have to push hard all day long if we want to keep up with them."

Danish crew SAP Extreme Sailing Team finished the day in third place, scoring podium finishes in six races, while Act 2 winners Alinghi go into day two in fourth. CHINA One, Land Rover BAR Academy and Sail Portugal round off the rankings.

The Extreme Sailing Series action resumes tomorrow at 2pm, with a similar breeze forecast.

Standings after Day 1: (8 races)

1st Oman Air (OMA) Morgan Larson, Pete Greenhalgh, James Wierzbowski, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 85pts
2nd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Stewart Dodson, Adam Piggott, Brad Farrand 83pts
3rd SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Mads Emil Stephensen, Pierluigi De Felice, Renato Conde 79pts
4th Alinghi (SUI) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Charbonnier, Timothé Lapauw, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 77pts
5th CHINA One (CHN) Taylor Canfield, Shane Diviney, Hayden Goodrick, Garth Ellingham, Luke Payne 71pts
6th Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Neil Hunter, Owen Bowerman, Paul Campbell-James ('CJ'), Oli Greber, Adam Kay 55pts
7th Sail Portugal (POR) Diogo Cayolla, Javier de la Plaza, Luís Brito, João Matos Rosa, Sam Bell 54pts

Oman Air dazzle on opening day of Extreme Sailing Series in Cardiff (from Oman Sail)

Oman Air turned the focus in Cardiff from tough test to tough team after launching their Welsh campaign with a string of successes to end the opening day at the top of the Extreme Sailing Series leaderboard.

A fresh but shifting breeze that held its strength throughout the eight races made for some eye catching action as the GC32s flew across the water at full tilt on their foils.

They were conditions ideally suited to Morgan Larson's powerful crew on Oman Air, who are well-known to excel in big breeze.

The result was a stunning victory in the opening race followed by four further outright wins and an additional podium place bringing their score to 85 points, two points ahead of second placed Red Bull with Alinghi in third trailing by six points.

Consistent breeze has been forecast for the rest of the week and that came as good news for Pete Greenhalgh and other crewmembers Nasser Al Mashari, Ed Smyth and James Wierzbowski.

"We would love it if it is the same again for the rest of the week because we really like this venue," said Greenhalgh, who has gathered family and friends from his home in Hampshire to lend Oman Air some special support.

"It's renowned for nice breeze, it is a very boat handling oriented course and very changeable in terms of direction and strength. It's exciting and we are just trying to sail to our full potential. Today we got into our stride and sailed round the course pretty tidily.

"These GC32 boats are very physical especially in these winds so we are always out of breath. Every time we tack and gybe, we have to drop and hoist these great big boards and that is really hard work because they have all the weight of the boat and crew on them.

"They require a serious bit of handling so on a small course like this, timing is everything, which is fine if you have the time but in these winds, you rarely do. But it's brilliant."

The close contest between the top three boats makes the remaining three days a thrilling prospect, added Nasser, Oman Air's bowman.

"Red Bull and Alinghi are both very strong competitors but we have learned to concentrate on our own performances and not look out for anyone else so we will focus on our starts, boat-handling and teamwork and hopefully the results will come," he said.

"Today was tough but we sailed well. Our teamwork was great. So far so good."

Oman Air, who also lead the 2016 overall leaderboard by two points, continue racing on Friday June 24 through to Sunday June 26. Fans can watch the racing live on the official YouTube channel on 25-26 June, 1530-1700 BST daily. In the UK, they can also watch it live on BT Sport on the final day.

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