Back to open waters…

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After a shifty, tricky, and ultimately nerve-racking Act 5 in St Petersburg, the Extreme Sailing Series trades backdrops, from the grandiose architecture of the River Neva, to the rugged volcanic coastline and open Atlantic waters of the Madeira Archipelago. 
Four tiny dots of paradise, 500 kilometres west of Morocco, Madeira boasts a warm sub-tropical climate, famed for its winemaking, spectacular landscapes, and ancient World Heritage forests. The islands are gaining momentum as a world-class sailing destination, and rightly so. For the sailors, the pristine Atlantic waters around the islands will set the perfect stage for Act 6 to unfold, where the keys to success will likely lie in the crews’ abilities to draw on the raw power and speed of the GC32, and to combine it with solid strategy.

Act 6 will kick off at 1400 on September 22, as the fleet of eight foiling CG32 catamarans hit the warm waters adjacent to the islands’ capital, Funchal, for 4 days of racing. The clean, open waters and stable, light-to -moderate, sea breeze will be welcomed by the series’ crews who last saw similar racing conditions during Act 1 in Muscat. Since then, racing has invariably been served in tight battlefields, wrought with tricky conditions, where roll-of-the dice tactics have have won or lost podium positions. The crews’ mental games have been pushed to the limit. In Madeira, the longer racecourses will likely see a break away from high-pulse, split-second manoeuvring, in favour of clean sailing and raw speed. The opportunity for the tacticians to think long term will also come as a breath of fresh air.

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A few days ahead of Act 6, Helmsman, Jes Gram-Hansen offered his thoughts; “I think we’ll be looking at conditions in 6-14 knot range – true wind speed – and more foiling time than seen in St. Petersburg. We’re also expecting the trend to shift back towards reaching starts; narrow courses usually get too squeezed to do reaching starts, but at Madeira we will see them be back”.

As SAP Sailing Analytics have revealed that the performance margins between the top four boats, are extremely small, SAP Extreme Sailing Team can afford to be quietly optimistic.

Jes continues, “We knew Alinghi and Oman Air were a year ahead of the rest of the teams in the GC32 and, not surprisingly, had an edge going into this season. At this point, we’re right on their heels, and we’re continually improving our game; on the first day at St. Petersburg we were best of the day, and on the third day we were  second, separated by only one point to the leader – it’s that close”.

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Tactician, Rasmus Køstner, added. “Act 6 will be a little more drag racing than we’ve seen in the past few acts. Speed, trim and long term decisions will be more of a factor in Madeira. The boats will get more time to find their own paths and rhythms – the results won’t be decided by heavy traffic positioning, but merely by the the team’s ability to sail fast and in the right track. Stability and keeping a constant high pace is the key.” 

Rasmus continues: “The consequences of this kind of racing is that the passing lanes – and therefore position changes – are substantially fewer than on sites like rivers and canals. This essentially means that the first leg will have tremendous impact on the end result. The boats getting away ahead have more room to consolidate; the rich get richer…”.

With this in mind, it seems the Team’s marching orders are clear. Act 6 will see up to eight races sailed each day, and will feature a tantalising mixture of open water racing and the Series’ signature Stadium Racing. The action begins on Thursday 22 September with fantastic viewing opportunities from and around Funchal Marina. While live video coverage will not be on the cards for this event, we’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date via Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram.

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