Extreme Sailing Series 2014: Boisterous conditions prove unrewarding for Great Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie as America's Cup campaign continues


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The Independent Online

Boisterous conditions proved unrewarding for Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie on the Olympic sailing waters of Qingdao, where the quadruple gold medallist is racing in the Extreme Sailing Series as part of his bid to mount an America’s Cup challenge in 2017.

That was the halfway point and his BAR/JP Morgan team, which includes fellow gold medallists Paul Goodison and Pippa Wilson, was still lying 10 out of 12. Just ahead of him, Paul Campbell-James was also struggling with the newly-formed Gazprom crew from Russia but a third Briton, Leigh McMillan, was second with The Wave, Muscat, one of two Oman Sail entries. “We like it when the breeze is up,” he said.

Twenty four hours later, Sir Ben had moved up, but by just one place, as had Campbell-James, but McMillan had slipped a place in gentler conditions as a second Swiss team moved into second, 10 points behind Alinghi.

McMillan’s Middle East stablemate and fellow-Briton Rob Greenhalgh, skipper of Oman Air, had missed the first day, having been knockout at the start of the regatta when hit and badly damaged by David Gilmour on the Australian America’s Cup team-crewed GAC Pindar, languishing in last place. He then was awarded average points for the second day and the third saw him push up to seventh.

But still striding ahead in first place was the Swiss-owned but largely American-crewed Alinghi, where skipper Morgan Larson has another Olympic gold medallist, Anna Tunnicliffe, playing a major role. They have a lead of 10 points, clearly relishing winds gusting over 30 knots and made unpredictable by the city’s ring of tall buildings.

Said Paul Goodison, tactician for Ben Ainslie: “Great to win our first race today. We also had a couple in the middle and a few at the end so a mixture of results for us. At the times when you are at the front, you are happy with how you perform. But, obviously when things aren’t going quite so well and you find yourself at the back it’s a struggle.

“All in all, a bit of a frustrating day but it was good to be at the front at times so we are pleased that we could claw back some points. It’s a big challenge for us, we are very new to it, but every day we are learning more and taking things in, but it’s a big hill to climb.”

The fleet of 12 catamarans raced in Fushan Bay with Qingdao in the background in the Land Rover Extreme Sailing Series in China.

Also enjoying the event was an Olympic silver medallist, Peter Burling, taking the helm of Emirates Team New Zealand in rotation with Dean Barker and going in  to the final day in fourth place just one point behind McMillan.

ETNZ had less good news at home, where managing director Grant Dalton announced that they would not be taking part in the Volvo round the world race, which starts in Alicante in October.

That means there are just five confirmed entries so far. Seven of the new 65-foot designs have been built and it is expected that Spain, which is contracted to do so, will have an entry. The seventh entry remains a mystery, and time is running out.