Act 3 in Istanbul goes right to the wire

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Going into the 43rd and final double points race three boats were in strong contention – Sweden’s Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and the French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. Dean Barker’s Emirates Team New Zealand trailed Terry Hutchinson’s Artemis Racing by just 5 points and Pierre Pennec’s team by 3 – just 3 places beween 3rd and 1st with double points up for grabs.

The pressure was on and Barker kept his nerve to steer the Kiwis to a convincing race win. They then had an agonising wait only to see Artemis Racing climb up to 3rd place on the final gybe of the final downwind leg to win Act 3 by the smallest of margins – 1 point out of 307. Terry Hutchinson was ecstatic with his team’s first Act victory: “We knew around the last lap that we had one opportunity and we needed to pass one boat to win the regatta and we passed one boat. I jumped up to the first spreader when I heard Seb say that we had won the regatta!” explained Hutchinson. “I can’t say enough about how great the guys are on the job. I’m over the top about how we sailed and how we handled ourselves on the boat in really tough conditions. I hate losing with an absolute passion but these moments make it all worth it.” Pennec’s team finished the race in 7th to complete the podium here in Istanbul, but are compensated by retaining the overall lead in the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series championship – but also by just one point.

Act 3 has been another ‘stand-out’ event in terms of its location in the bustling centre of Istanbul, home to 13 million on the boundary between Asia and Europe. The first three days delivered challenging and gusty conditions for the 11 Extreme 40 teams, racing at the limit, over the short courses laid out on the Halic estuary. The most dramatic moment came in the fourth race of day 3 when Alinghi careered into the side of Team Extreme throwing a crewman from each boat into the water. The impact of was heard clearly in the race village over 500m away, and Team Extreme left with an un-repairable gaping hole in their port hull. A total of 43 races were staged over the 5 days, a record number for the circuit. Act 3 was covered live by Turkey’s national TV broadcaster TRT and streamed live online for the first time.

Today the race village was buzzing with VIPs and an estimated 15,500 spectators. Ten races were staged on the final day with Emirates Team New Zealand keeping their grip at the top of the overall rankings whilst Artemis Racing and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild fought to stay in touch. Artemis Racing’s perseverance paid off and by the 8th race went into the overall lead but it was very nearly lost in the very final race. An incredible and emotional finish for this team who are new to the Extreme Sailing Series circuit this year.

The Wave, Muscat skippered by the youngest helm on the circuit Torvar Mirsky, had a great battle with Max Sirena’s Luna Rossa, helmed by Britain’s Paul Campbell-James who just happened to skipper The Wave, Muscat to victory last year. Luna Rossa appeared to be in control but in the penultimate race of today Mirsky’s crew went into fifth gear to snatch 4th place. Red Bull Extreme Sailing skipper Roman Hagara plagued by flu, struggled to find his form but the team held it together to claim 6th place overall ahead of the Swiss team Alinghi who did an amazing job to get their Extreme 40 back racing the next day after the dramatic crash with Team Extreme.

Next stop on the 9-venue global tour is Boston – the first time the Extreme Sailing Series has taken in the USA. But first some time for recovery: “We are looking forward to the next one in Boston,” said Barker. “In the meantime I’m looking forward to a bit of rest as it feels like I took a bit of a whipping.”

Overall standings after Day 5:

1st Artemis Racing (SWE), 307 points
2nd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 306 points
3rd Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), 296 points
4th The Wave, Muscat (OMA), 274 points
5th Luna Rossa (ITA), 272 points
6th Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), 254 points
7th Alinghi (SUI), 245 points (ahead on countback)
8th Oman Air (OMA), 245 points
9th Team GAC Pindar (GBR), 237 points
10th Niceforyou (ITA), 212 points
11th Team Extreme (EUR), 188 points

Overall Standings Extreme Sailing Series 2011:

1st Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), 29 points
2nd Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 28 points
3rd Artemis Racing (SWE), 27 points
4th Luna Rossa (ITA), 25 points
5th Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), 23 points
6th The Wave, Muscat (OMA), 18 points
7th Alinghi (SUI), 18 points
8th Oman Air (OMA), 11 points
9th Team Extreme (EUR), 8 points
10th Niceforyou (ITA), 6 points
11th Team GAC Pindar (GBR), 5 points