Extreme Sailing Series 2014: Sydney sunshine masks testing conditions as Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi closes in on victory

Leigh McMillan needs to win Down Under and hope Morgan Larson skippers Alinghi to no better than sixth in order to hold on to his title

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The little southerly buster and squally downpours which put paid to the opening day of the Extreme Sailing Series 2014 finale alongside the Opera House in Sydney gave way to sunshine and softening but still testing conditions on day two.

Missing is Emirates Team New Zealand, saying it had to concentrate on its America's Cup challenge. The no show will cost them tens of thousands of Euros in penalties and prompted speculation about just how tight finance is as team boss Grant Dalton juggles the competing wishes of commercial sponsors and taxpayer politics.

ETNZ was in line for a third place overall, the podium effectively now handed to Switzerland's Realteam, unless Ben Ainslie can mount a late charge in the double points scoring regatta.

And top spot should go to another Swiss boat, Ernesto Bertarelli's Alinghi, skippered by the American Morgan Larson. Last year he was equal on points with defending champion Leigh McMillan but lost on the tie break count back.

McMillan's defence this year faltered in both St. Petersburg and Nice, meaning that he has to win in Sydney and Larson has to be sixth or worse for the British Olympian, who skippers The Wave, Muscat for Oman Sail, to work the miracle.

"We have been hunting Leigh down for three years," said Larson."Ernesto has told us 'if you don't win don't come back'."

But come back next year they will, as will the two Omani boats, the second, Oman Air, being skippered by Aussie Olympic gold medallist Tom Slingsby in the absence of Rob Greenhalgh, who has joined Spain's Mapfre on the second leg of the Volvo round the world race from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi.

The Extreme plan involves one change of country venue for the 2015 series, and there could be a further experiment with additional racing for the new M32 catamarans, seeking to establish a number of regional circuits. With four America's Cup World Series events already in the bag and up to two more expected there will be no shortage of thrills and spills on the menu.

Meanwhile, Extreme organiser, Mark Turner's OC Sport, in which the French Groupe Telegramme , which owns both the Route du Rhum and the Solitaire du Figaro, has taken a majority stake,  also has its eyes on the Volvo. Managers of China's Dongfeng team, it is in the top three going into Abu Dhabi fighting it out with Holland's Brunel and the local entry Azzam, skippered by Britain's Ian Walker.

In Sydney, the usual suspects topped the leader board.

Extreme Sailing Series™ Act 8 Sydney presented by Land Rover standings after Day 2, 10 races (12.12.14)

Position / Team / Points

1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Sarah Ayton, Pete Greenhalgh, Ed Smyth, Nasser Al Mashari 75 points.

2nd Realteam by Realstone (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bruno Barbarin, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wasem 74 points.

3rd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Stuart Pollard, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 70 points.

4th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Mark Bulkeley, Shaun Mason, Stewart Dodson 61 points.

5th J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR) Ben Ainslie, Nick Hutton, Paul Campbell-James, Bleddyn Mon, Matt Cornwell 61 points.

6th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Thierry Douillard, Christian Kamp, Brad Farrand 49 points.

7th Groupama sailing team (FRA) Franck Cammas, Tanguy Cariou, Romain Motteau, Thierry Fouchier, Hervé Cunningham 49 points.

8th Gazprom Team Russia (RUS) Igor Lisovenko, Phil Robertson, Matt Adams, Pete Cumming, Aleksey Kulakov 41 points.

9th GAC Pindar (AUS) Nathan Wilmot, Seve Jarvin, Matt Mitchell, Tyson Lamond, James Wierzbowski 40 points.

10th Oman Air (OMA) Tom Slingsby, Ted Hackney, Kyle Langford, Joey Newton, Ali Al Balashi 30 points.