Nip and tuck and all to play for, Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team BAR was still holding third place at the halfway point of the Extreme Sailing Series regatta in Cardiff as the top two places were taken over by Switzerland’s Alinghi and Oman’s The Wave, Muscat. Just two points separate these fierce rivals.
Morgan Larson and Leigh McMillan had fought it out to the bitter end last year. McMillan snatched his second consecutive championship on a countback with his Omani team which has stablemates Oman Air on the track, skippered by Rob Greenhalgh, whose brother Peter crews for McMillan.
Conditions on Cardiff Bay were their usual tricky selves and even the best had to count a bad result – Larson scored last in the final knock-out race of the day. As is inevitable in such close quarters racing in so little space, there were further collisions, the worst forcing Emirates Team New Zealand out of a couple of races with a broken rudder, and one of Sir Ben’s rival America’s Cup challengers, Franck Cammas, had to sit out the whole day as repairs were made to a Groupama t-boned by GAC Pindar in the last race of the opening day on Friday.
“It is very, very tight, so we have an exciting challenge for the final two days,” said McMillan, who has double Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton contributing to the tactics. “We will be looking for consistency of results, improved starts, and trying to build a gathering momentum.”
Sunday was forecast to be a bit lighter, which could shuffle the pack a bit more as opportunities for big gains and losses expand and the final races on Bank Holiday may see wet and windy conditions persuade race officer Phil Lawrence reach into his oilskins for a plan B of splitting the fleet into two because of the confined space in which the 40-foot catamarans operate.
After two days: 19 races and four knock-outs:
1 - Alinghi - 141
2 - The Wave, Muscat - 139
3 - BAR - 131
4 - SAP - 120
5 - Realteam - 113
6 - Oman Air - 105
7 - Red Bull - 91
8 - Team Russia - 87
9 - ETNZ - 75
10 - GAC Pindar – 67
11 - Groupama - 33