Swiss team Alinghi has become Extreme Sailing Series champion. The crew of Arnaud Psarofaghis managed to beat their nearest rivals Oman Air in the last leg of the regatta in Sydney and win the series for the third time in its history. Alinghi won the Extreme Sailing Series in 2008 and 2014, the current victory is the first on the new GC32 winged catamarans.
By the start of the final leg of the Extreme Sailing Series, Morgan Larson's Oman Air team came up with a slight 2-point lead in the overall standings. Alinghi knew they had enough confidence to bounce back in Sydney for Oman Air to lose their fragile lead.
By the final day of competition, the Swiss were 19 points ahead of the Omani team. By the middle of the day, Oman Air had narrowed the gap to a minimum with a hard-fought display. The winner of the series was not revealed until the penultimate race, when Alinghi managed to come in fourth, pushing Oman Air to fifth place and thus denying their rivals a chance to win the top prize of the competition.
«We are not only very happy but also relieved," admitted Arno Psarofagis at the end of the long final day of the Extreme Sailing Series. - It was a really intense day. We started really well but then we had some bad starts. Oman Air forced a game on us that we didn't want to play. Midway through race day Oman Air was still able to regain the lead, but then we started racing easy again. When we stopped looking back at others, we were able to accelerate and this was the deciding moment».
In the first half of the season, Oman Air was the series leader, forcing Alinghi to play catch-up. By the middle of the season, the Swiss had found their game and began to show surprisingly consistent results, winning the last four stages in a row. Overall, Alinghi have won just over a quarter of the 169 races run this year.
Oman Air finished third in the final round of the Extreme Sailing Series and took silver overall in the competition.
«Unfortunately there was too big of a gap between our teams for us to make up for it," commented Morgan Larson on his team's second place finish. - Alinghi were two steps ahead. We forced them to earn some penalties, but they responded decently to our attempts».
Larson said his team needed to secure a bigger lead over Alinghi so they needed to outrun their opponents by several corps to win.
«We are not too disappointed," added the Oman Air skipper. - Taking a podium spot in these competitions is always an honour».
Extreme Sailing Series 2016 is the tenth anniversary season of the regatta. This is the first season in which Extreme 40 catamarans have replaced the super-fast GC32s. For Extreme Sailing Series Director Phil Lawrence, these races were his last in six years on the job. He is leaving the Extreme Sailing Series to lead the Volvo Ocean Race circumnavigation. The 2017 Extreme Sailing Series will be under new leadership. Lawrence's successor is John Craig. The series will start March 8-11 in Muscat, Oman.