Starting in only two weeks time, Act 3 of the Extreme Sailing Series will be hosted once again by historic, modern as well as traditional city of Istanbul – the European Capital of Sport 2012. Running from 7-10 June, with one day of open water competing followed by three days of stadium competing at the juncture where the Marmara Sea meets the Bosphorus, this popular race will offer the perfect natural amphitheatre for its spectators.
The teams last met six weeks ago in the Chinese city of Qingdao, and have since gone their separate ways while the boats have been shipped the 9,625 nautical miles to Istanbul. Many of the sailors have used this time to hone their skills in other sailing disciplines – some have ventured into the world of America’s Cup sailing, including ZouLou skipper Loick Peyron who won the America’s Cup World Series Venice with Energy Team.
Alinghi won the opening event of their Décision-35 season at the Grand Prix les Ambassadeurs in Geneva, while Ian William’s GAC Pindar still have time to cram in one more event before Istanbul, heading back to Asia for the Korea Match Cup in the week leading up to Act 3.
There will be some new faces on the start line hoping to shake things up in Istanbul, including an all-new line-up for Alinghi. Offshore sailing legend Alain Gautier, who boasts an impressive 23 Atlantic crossings, three circumnavigations and is a winner of the Vendée Globe will make his Extreme Sailing Series debut as he takes over from regular helm Ernesto Bertarelli.
Gautier commented: “I feel very happy to have the chance to discover the Extreme Sailing Series as this is very new to me, especially since my first event with the whole fleet is at Istanbul, which is a great city and it´s flattering that Alinghi thought of me to take the helm for this Act. We know we will face crews which have raced several seasons in the Series so racing will be tough, but we will be in Istanbul with no pressure. I will race with a great team who are determined to get the best possible result.”
Gautier is joined by an impressive line-up of French sailors. Six-time world champion Jean-Christophe Mourniac will be calling the tactics, while America’s Cup sailor Christophe Lassegue returns to the Extreme 40 for the first time since sailing with Groupe Edmond de Rothschild in 2009. Former world number one-ranked match racer and America’s Cup sailor François Verdier will be on the bow, while Morgane Gautier will make it two women on the start line for the third event in a row, alongside The Wave, Muscat’s Rachel Williamson. World Match Racing champion for two years, Morgane was previously part of the Extreme Sailing Series umpire team, and her knowledge of the race course will surely be a valuable asset to the crew.
Nick Rogers, Britain’s double Olympic silver medallist in the 470 dinghy from both the Athens and Beijing Games will make an interesting addition to GAC Pindar in place of Mark Ivey in his Extreme 40 debut. Also new to the roster is Mikkel Røssberg, an experienced match racer and America’s Cup sailor who will join the Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team, while French Olympian Christophe Espagnon returns to Groupe Edmond de Rothschild for one Act only.
On board ZouLou, Frenchman Erik Maris will take the reigns back from sailing legend Loick Peyron, who skippered the all French-team for the first two events. No stranger to Extreme 40 sailing having skippered his team LUNA to fourth place in the 2009 Series, Maris was eager, but ever realistic, about stepping back on board an Extreme 40.
“I believe the general level of the teams has risen since we last entered the circuit, but the fun and the excitement remain as high as ever. The Extreme Sailing Series is the most innovative sailing competition of the last decade. Once you have tasted it, everything else in racing seems a bit boring. My personal objective, being the only amateur in the fleet, is to not be too much of a burden for the team, have fun, get some good results and then we will see.”
The action on the water will be complemented by the first event of NeilPryde Racing Series featuring the new, ISAF universal one-design windsurfing class, the RS:One with US$3000 for the taking by the winners.