Sailing: Swiss outfit wins Singapore leg again

Overall winner of the Extreme Sailing Series, Alinghi from Switzerland (far left) sails ahead of the competition at the Promontary@ Marina Bay on 23 February 2014. The team who won the Singapore leg, felt they had an edge over their rivals since they fielded the same side from last year.

SINGAPORE - Something about the Marina Bay waters just agrees with Team Alinghi after the Swiss outfit won the Singapore leg of the Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) for the second year running.

They were uncatchable by the 11 other teams, winning the opening leg of the eight-stop circuit with 217 points after 29 races. The Wave, Muscat were runners-up (193) while Team Realstone, another Swiss side, were third (178).

So commanding was Alinghi's lead that despite coming in last in the penultimate race, the team with the striking black, red and white sail had the win in the bag with one race - which counts for double points - to go.

Said American skipper Morgan Larson: "It's a special place and we get really excited to come here.

"We took the approach a little more casually and stayed relaxed.

"We knew that if you take it too seriously, you'll drive yourself crazy because the winds shift so much here."

But an average day of sailing - by their standards - meant the team's lead was threatened at one stage by last year's Series champion The Wave, Muscat, who notched two first-place finishes on Sunday.

But as the only team to be fielding the same side from last year, Larson felt Alinghi had the slight edge.

"It's challenging coming into a first event with new people.

"The other guys are going to get better so we have to keep working hard," he noted.

While a lack of wind in the Marina Bay area last year meant some races failed to be started, there were no such issues this year, with gusts going up to 25 knots on Sunday.

The unpredictable winds meant the lead often changed hands within each race while the tight 700m by 250m course accommodating 12 catamarans resulted in a lot of needle-threading from the boats.

Emirates Team New Zealand, who sat in fifth place after three days of racing, made a late surge with two race wins on Sunday and had a good chance of pipping The Wave, Muscat to second spot.

However, in a bid to gain a lead, the America's Cup runners-up were given a penalty after attempting to tack in front of the side led by Briton skipper Leigh McMillan.

The mistake cost the Kiwis with the team ceding even a spot on the podium. They finished fourth.

Realstone's third-place finish marks a remarkable comeback after missing a whole day of racing on Saturday due to a crash.

They were awarded an average of points from their races before the crash.

Said Realstone's Swiss skipper Jerome Clerc: "It was hard for us to get back in the game in the beginning today.

"But we knew we had to give it a push because we had a chance to make the podium."

Team Aberdeen Singapore, the local invitational side, posted a creditable 11th-place finish.

The side, who included local sailors Justin Wong and Scott Glen Sydney, finished last out of eight teams last year.

The team even managed a runner-up finish in the last race of the leg.

Said Wong, 27: "It was really a different ball game this year, with more boats and more winds and a really high calibre of sailors."

But there was disappointment for the J.P. Morgan BAR team, skippered by Briton Ben Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor of all time with four golds and 11 world-championship titles.

Making their debut in the Series, the all-British team finished seventh with 152 points.

The next leg of the circuit will take place next month in Muscat, Oman.

maychen@sph.com.sg


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