Published: Friday, 22 July 2016

After three action-packed Acts in Oman, China and Wales, the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series season is now approaching the halfway mark. The fleet of GC32s will take to the waters of Germany’s “Gateway to the World”, the Port of Hamburg for Act 4 July 28-31.

Extreme Sailing Series Fleet To Compete In Hamburg 3

(Photos: Extreme Sailing Series - Act 3 Cardiff)

With around 10,000 vessels paying a visit to the Port of Hamburg each year, the fleet of seven hydro-foiling GC32s will race in one of Europe’s busiest ports on the waters of the River Elbe for the second time in the Series’ history.

To accommodate the introduction of the new fleet of boats, the race area has been expanded slightly, allowing more room for manoeuvre in the GC32s. But, with the harbour walls enclosing the course, racing will still be at close quarters.

“The GC32s performed well in the close confines of Cardiff stadium setting last month, but the crews will face the additional challenge of strong tidal currents in Hamburg. I am expecting very close racing, with the mixed conditions throwing up some surprising results,” says Race Director Phil Lawrence.

Extreme Sailing Series Fleet To Compete In Hamburg 4

(Act 5, Hamburg 2015)

One team that knows better than most the impact that the shifty conditions on the River Elbe can have is SAP Extreme Sailing Team. Caught out by a gust midway through a gybe last year, the Danes took the plunge with a dramatic capsize, on a day which saw thunderstorms and winds of up to 30 knots (56 km/h).

“Despite the drama of a capsize and a huge collision, we still finished on the podium and there were lots of things about our performance that we will try to repeat this time. We are getting more experienced in the GC32 and look forward to some close racing,” comments Co-Skipper Rasmus Køstner.

“In Cardiff we proved we could put four days of good performances together and we are getting more and more of the small details right. We will keep pushing and keep improving,” continues Køstner, whose team pocketed its first podium finish in Cardiff last month, and currently sits in fourth on the leaderboard.

Extreme Sailing Series Fleet To Compete In Hamburg

Oman Air and Red Bull Sailing Team have both secured podium spots at every Act, and heading into Hamburg, Oman Air maintain their lead, but Red Bull Sailing Team, skippered by double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara, is snapping at its heels.

Due to an injury putting him out of action, Hagara did not compete in the 2015 Hamburg Act, making this his Series debut at the venue, but the Austrian Skipper already has plans to dominate the weekend.

“We plan to sail on the limit, constantly progressing and not making any mistakes. Oman Air may be the season favourites but we, along with the rest of the fleet, will put up a fight,” says Hagara, whose team currently sits only three points behind Oman Air.

Extreme Sailing Series Fleet To Compete In Hamburg 1

“Hamburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe but at the same time, for a sailor, it is a very challenging venue. The course itself is very narrow, particularly for the use of high-speed foiling boats, and the shifting wind conditions, caused by the tall buildings along the shore, add to the challenge,” adds Hagara.

With this being the second time Hamburg has hosted the Series, the venue is still relatively new to all of the teams, which levels the playing field between stalwarts and newcomers.

“A new or less well-known venue makes it difficult to prepare, to set your strategy and to execute it. You need to put an effort into understanding the racecourse during racing. A good coach, and a set-up where new information can quickly be adapted into the race strategy, really helps,” comments Køstner.

Land Rover BAR Academy once again sees a reshuffle in the team roster: as British Academy trialist Elliot Hansen makes his debut, Neil Hunter, the youngest Skipper in the fleet at 21, remains in charge. 

Extreme Sailing Series 2016 results

1. Oman Air (OMA) 35 points

2. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) 32 points

3. Alinghi (SUI) 30 points

4. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) 25 points

5. Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) 25 points

6. CHINA One (CHN) 21 points

7. Sail Portugal-Visit Madeira (POR) 20 points

8. Team Turx (TUR) 11 points