Juanpa Cadario: Mundial de Extreme 40, día de práctica

Mundial de Extreme 40, día de práctica

Fuente info Sailworld

Extreme 40 World Championship in Portoroz - The stage is set

Extreme 40 World Championship.

With the sun blazing down, a fresh breeze blowing through the beautiful bay at Portoroz, Slovenia, and a host of international sailing stars, the stage has been set for the inaugural Championship, hosted by The Ocean Racing Club.

Six teams made up of some of the world's best ocean racers, dinghy sailors and America's Cup veterans assembled at The Ocean Racing Club at the Kempinski Palace Hotel today for the opening Press Conference for the gathered international media.

The event, the first ever World Championship for the Extreme 40 class, will see the six state-of-the-art catamarans go head to head in up to 15 breathtaking Olympic-style races over the course of the week.

Today five of the six teams got a chance to test their skills against each other as they took the water for a series of practice races under the watchful eye of the gathered Slovenian media.

Part of the rules of the Extreme 40 class stipulate that each boat must carry a 'fifth man', typically a member of the media or a VIP, so they can experience the thrills of racing the high-performance boats.

Local freelance journalist Wolfgang Zilz spent the afternoon racing as fifth man onboard home team boat The Ocean Racing Club.

'Sailing on the Extreme 40 was absolutely great,' he said. 'It was so exciting and The Ocean Racing Club team were so professional. It was an experience I will never forget. The World Championship is a great event for Slovenia and the setting of Portoroz is perfect. It is such a beautiful location and to be hosted by The Ocean Racing Club at the Kempinski Palace is a real bonus.'

There were two practice races this afternoon and it was double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson, at the helm of Team Kempinski/Great Britain, who took line honours in the first of two 45-minute practice races, dramatically stealing glory from home side The Ocean Racing Club at the last minute.

Robertson, a veteran of the Extreme Sailing Series, backed at this event by an experienced Extreme 40 crew, said: 'We have a new boat, a new team and a new place and so you never quite know how it is all going to come together, but it was good. It was great to do longer legs and explore the bay a little bit and when you were behind you had opportunities to come up to the leaders again. We were really chuffed to win the first race, and we are looking forward to plenty more.'

It wasn't just the other boats which skippers had to cope with - despite the breeze, temperatures on the water hit a blistering 30 degrees.

'Upwind it is fine because we are going so quickly it is great, it’s like air conditioning,' said Robertson. 'But downwind it is quite hot, you feel a bit out of breath, but I’m sailing with athletes, they are used to it!'

Also out to prove his talent on the water was Mitch Booth, a former Tornado world champion and Extreme 40 class co-creator, who led The Ocean Racing Club to victory in the second practice race. Australian sailing star Booth boasts 10 world championship titles as well as two Olympic medals.

Reflecting on the day's racing, Booth said, 'Of course as soon as the racing started, it wasn’t a typical breeze. There was thunderstorm activity behind us and it was pulling the breeze in different ways, but great practice. The bay is just perfect - we can set a course in any direction without there being any restrictions and we had a good day so we are pretty happy.'

As well as giving teams a chance to perfect their manoeuvres, the practice races also served as an opportunity to size up opponents.

'Red Bull Extreme Sailing is pretty strong team,' Booth said. 'They came back from a long way in the second race to pass us, but Shirley and her team are doing a good job and we have yet to see Pim and his team [who were still preparing their boat]. It is going to be great racing, even with a small fleet, it is very very tight, good fun.'

Joining Roman Hagara and his crew on Red Bull Extreme Racing was fellow Austrian Sigi Grabner, world champion snowboarder and Olympic bronze medallist.

Grabner said: 'I’ve known Roman and Hans Peter [Steinacher, Red Bull tactician] for years.
They are really cool guys and we spend a lot of time together in the summer training together and I’ve already joined them on their Tornado. But this is a different league altogether. It’s one of the most incredible and scary things I’ve ever done.'

Taking the helm of an Extreme 40 catamaran for the first time was former Tornado class world champion Roland Gaebler on Team Nokia/Hungary.

'It was a great learning experience for us,' Gaebler said following racing. 'We treated it more as a training session than a race and we are still developing our practices. It was nice to see the wind was shifting in the bay so racing will be very tactical and interesting.'

Racing kicks off tomorrow at 11am, with three windward-leeward races scheduled each day. The event runs until Sunday July 18.