The last day of Act 5 in 2016’s Extreme Sailing Series delivered tension, drama and a win for Alinghi in some of the most exciting of racing that the year has seen thus far. Heading into this final day, the team had a buffer of four points over their rivals, Oman Air. But with this small, tight course and with a final race that counted for double-points, things were far from certain for the Swiss. As it turned out, it was a real nail-biting finale. Four races were sailed and Alinghi got off to a flyer, winning the first. However, Oman Air pegged the team back, winning the second and third races. That meant that the last race double-pointer would be a classic match race, as the two teams were level on points. Whoever finished ahead of the other would take the Act. Arnaud Psarofaghis and the team sailed a brilliant race, finding the breeze when it mattered to secure the points and the Act. With the victory, Alinghi have narrowed the gap between them and Oman in the overall Series leaderboard to five points. Next up, the beautiful Madeira Islands, where Alinghi will be trying to repeat what was a great four days of competition. Before then, the team will, next weekend (9th – 11th September), be doing battle in the GP Alinghi in Crans-près-Céligny on Ernesto Bertarelli's Decision 35.
Three wins on the first day in St Petersburg, two on the second day and one today, the penultimate day of racing in Russia. And yet the team's highly impressive consistency across the other six races, including two second place finished in the last two races, meant that the Swiss have leapfrogged their rivals from Oman into first place on the leaderboard, with a cushion of four points. That's exactly where they want to be ahead of the finale tomorrow and today's performance will give them a lot of confidence. Perhaps it was a pre-racing meeting with the Swiss Consul in St Petersburg that inspired the team today, but whatever the reason Alinghi took full advantage of a penalty for Oman Air in Race 17 to secure a win, with their rivals back in seventh. That result moved the team to the top of the leaderboard and it was there they stayed, even extending the gap by a further two points. So, all very much in play for tomorrow.
Matching the performance of yesterday’s opener to Act 5 in St Petersburg, in which Alinghi notched three wins, was always going to be challenging, but the team gave it a good shot, recording two victories out of the day’s seven races. Those two maximums, couple with a second place in race two meant that they retained their overnight position of second overall, albeit now behind leaders Oman Air, with SAP Extreme slipping back to third place. It might have been even better for the Swiss had they not broken their jib sheet in the final race, meaning that they had to settle for sixth, and that only after having passed the Sail Portugal team in a tight final mark rounding. With two days of racing left only five points separate Alinghi from first place and so there will be plenty of interest for the spectators on the Neva river over the weekend. Join us for live updates. Allez Alinghi!