Extreme Sailing Series 2014: Fickle winds and frying temperatures can't prevent thrilling battle between Leigh McMillan and Morgan Larson

Larson's Alinghi leads the Extreme Sailing Series by just four points as the top four begin to pull away at the top

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The Independent Online

Fickle winds and frying temperatures made for tough racing conditions on the second day of the Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat but, at the end of it, the battle between the British Olympian Leigh McMillan on The Wave and the American Morgan Larson’s Alinghi was just as hot.

Reigning 2012 and 2013 champion McMillan, with British Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton calling tactics, and Larson, skippering for Ernesto Bertarelli and with British-born American gold medallist Anna Tunnicliffe doing the same job, had to go to a count-back to decide the 2013 crown.

That experience showed, despite the fleet of 40-foot catamarans being joined this year by America’s Cup challenger aspirants like Sir Ben Ainslie’s J.P.Morgan/BAR, Franck Cammas’ Groupama, Team New Zealand’s Dean Barker, and Seve Jarvin representing 2017 Challenger of Record, Team Australia, aboard GAC Pindar.

Ben Ainslie claimed three-second place finishes, moving from eighth to sixth overall, and headsail trimmer Pippa Wilson, a gold medallist from Beijing, was positive after racing. “It was a good day for us today,” she said. “We had some really good starts, and then some really bad ones, but overall a really good and positive day for us. We worked well together as a team and it was really nice for us to be at the front of the fleet.”

Except for the final race of the day when they hooked the port rudder around the anchor rope of an inflatable racing mark and yet another Olympic gold medallist, Paul Goodison, had to use a knife to free the yacht.

But it was McMillan and Larson who lead, and the top four have now opened a small gap from the chasing four.

Watching was Hilary Lister, a quadriplegic sailor who has just completed, with Omani sailor Nashwa al Kindi the trip from Mumbai to Muscat, the first time for a quadriplegic and for an Omani woman.

Extreme Sailing Series 2014 – Muscat: standings after day 2 (13 races)

1: Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 89 pts

2: The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Kinley Fowler, Nasser Al Mashari 85 pts.

3: Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Dean Barker, Glenn Ashby, James Dagg, Jeremy Lomas, Edwin Delaat 82 pts.

4: SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Peter Wibroe, Nicolai Sehested 77 pts.

5: Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Sophie de Turckheim, Tanguy Cariou, Thierry Fouchier, Devan Le Bihan 66 pts.

6: J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Goodison, Pippa Wilson, Matt Cornwell 64 pts.

7: Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans-Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Nick Blackman, Stewart Dodson 60 pts.

8: Oman Air (OMA) Rob Greenhalgh, Tom Johnson, Will Howden, Hashim Al Rashdi, Musab Al Hadi 59 pts.

9: Realteam (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wassem, Nils Palmieri 58 pts.

10: Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Paul Campbell-James, Alister Richardson, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 57 pts.

11: GAC Pindar (AUS) Seve Jarvin, Troy Tindill, Ed Smyth, Sam Newton, David Gilmour 33 pts.