Last weekend's big sailing news comes from Muscat, Oman, where Act Two of the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series just wrapped up at the Almouj Golf Club. After four days of sailing that began with close-fought racing in light conditions before the breeze finally arrived, 'The Wave, Muscat' took top honors on their hometown racecourse, followed by 'Emirates Team New Zealand' (ETNZ) and 'Alinghi', where former American Olympic great, Anna Tunnicliffe, was calling tactics.
'It was too close for comfort, that's for sure,' said Leigh McMillan, 'The Wave, Muscat's' skipper. 'Today we had a fight on our hands, we knew we had to be exceptional and raise our game. I was just enjoying the sailing, the challenge of it, the situations that were tight and it all worked out for us. The wind came in and it was absolutely amazing sailing out there, absolutely perfect for the Extreme 40s.'
As for Dean Barker and his ETNZ crew, the Kiwi team seemed pleased with their performance in Muscat, which was a marked improvement over their experiences at Act One, which was held in Singapore.
'We wanted to improve on Singapore; we wanted to sail well and get on the podium,' said Barker. 'We've achieved that. There's still a lot of room to improve but, in saying that, every team struggled with the conditions here. Our crew stayed very positive throughout, even when it didn't feel like things were going our way.'
Meanwhile, in offshore sailing circles, word has emerged that the Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) has left their home base at Serenity Marina, Sanya, China, for their first real taste of ocean sailing as a team as they perform a shakedown cruise to Auckland, New Zealand (5,264 nautical miles). The team is lead by skipper Charles Caudrelier and is populated by a mixed-nationality crew that includes six Chinese nationals.
'You can only do so much preparation for this onshore,' explains crewmember Jin Hao Chen. 'There comes a time when you just have to get on and do it. When I watch videos of this leg during the last edition of the race I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared, but if you ask me if I think I'm capable the answer is yes.'
Charles Caudrelier ahead of departure for Auckland - Volvo Ocean Race Dongfeng Race Team
While these are still early days, Caudrelier echoed similar thoughts, especially considering that the shakedown cruise will be the longest offshore leg that many of these sailors have ever experienced. 'The six Chinese sailors onboard will be pushed to their limits during this training leg,' reported Caudrelier. 'Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race is one of the toughest legs of all and although these sailors are incredibly talented inshore sailors, sailing offshore for 21 days on a leg like this is a whole different story. Some guys will naturally cope very well and others will not. I already have a good idea of who will do well from our training in Sanya but you can never be too sure which is why training legs like these are essential!'
ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía - Mallorca 2014
And in Olympic class sailing circles, the pre-regatta buzz is rapidly building for the Trofeo S.A.R. Princesa Sofía, which is being held in Palma de Mallorca from March 29 to April 5. Inside this issue, be sure to check out the pre-regatta interview with Iker Martínez and Tara Pacheco, who are representing Spain in the Nacra 17 class. According to reports, Martínez and Pacheco have been sailing together for a year and have been getting quicker compared to their rivals-no doubt a function of their former Olympic experience in other boats.
'It is very similar in downwind legs, maneuvers and not so much in the beats to windward because the two hulls slow down the boat in the transitions and therefore you have to sail it differently,' said Martinez when comparing the Nacra 17 to the 49er, where he has previously collected two Olympic medals. 'Every day you train your best, but right now we're not training for Rio, we have a lot to learn before starting a specific training towards the Olympic Games.'
Race winners - J/24 North American Championship 2014 Christopher Howell
Meanwhile, on the North American continent, skipper Mike Ingham (USA) and his 'Digger' crew (Tim Healy, Enrique Pirez-Cirera, Marianne Schoke and Max Holzer) took top honors at the J/24 North American Championships, which just wrapped up racing in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico. According to reports, the 'Digger' crew finished well-ahead of their nearest rivals, despite having never previously sailed together before.
'When this regatta was announced, I didn't have to look at my calendar. No matter what else was on it, I wouldn't miss this,' Ingham said. 'I've probably sailed 60 days in Mexico, and we've never missed a day of racing, and I've never worn a spray top. I love the 1:00 p.m. starts, with the thermal every day.' Get the full report, inside.
Also inside, don't miss the latest news from the Clipper Round the World Race and the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta and Rendezvous 2014, and be sure to check out the preview reports from Antigua Sailing Week (April 26-May 2).
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