On February 2nd the SAP Extreme Sailing Team headed for Singapore to compete in the first event of the 2015 Extreme Sailing Series. We knew it was going to be difficult opening the season in Singapore, a tight, hectic and demanding circuit with 9 teams and 3 new skippers, there is no margin for error on a race course, which is just 300 meters wide at its narrowest point.
We had a bit of work to do and needed to approach every race with the mindset of turning every point into a podium win. The key to setting the scene for the season, to be scoring our averages, it isn’t good enough getting firsts and lasts across the ten races every day, we needed to be posting top 4 results. And we delivered.
The level of intensity of the racing on Marina Bay is relentless and mentally very challenging, you can’t count on your position, until you cross the line. It’s hard to spot the wind on the water and whenever you are leading on the course you know that every other boat is using you as a reference, to see if you hit a light patch. The wind is unpredictable and shifty as the breeze funnels through the surrounding buildings at the heart of the financial district. It’s monsoon season so it’s tough going as the wind constantly shifts and the fleet tends to compress and disperse quickly, and due to the stop start nature of this racing the teams are going from zero to 12 knots between marks. But we found our form.
For the opener of this series, we were in the hunt for the overall lead. The team preparations this year, combined with our experience from 2012 resulting in our podium finish, all paid off. Our sports Performance Director, Michael Hestbæk, kept us on our toes, reinforcing our focus regardless of each race outcome - after 3 hours of racing we found ourselves in the second spot on day 1. The following day was a tight battle with Red Bull and the Wave, but we dominated the closing races and beat back the competition in the knockout races for the Aberdeen Challenge Qualifier and Final. This took us to the top of the leader board.
Conditions changed from the outset of day 3 and it took us a couple of races to get the consistency back. We pushed really hard and despite our onslaught Red Bull Sailing narrowly denied us - through faultless sailing. Going into the last day it was even at the top of the leader board, and we were determined to dominate. It was a difficult day but we kept cool, under pressure, and even with a gap to Red Bull managed to keep it open until the final upwind of the last race. It was a great result for us to finish second, and a great start of the new season.
Now we’re back in Europe and preparing for the next event in Muscat, Oman. It all starts with solid preparations by making the best of our video debriefs and reviewing SAP Sailing Analytics to set our priorities and anticipating weather scenarios, trim settings of the boat, tactical decision, positioning and boat handling.
In Oman, the challenges on the water differ greatly from Singapore, the wind is consistent and strong, our preferred conditions for optimum performance so it will be more about the getting the small things right. Our position on the start line and throughout the course
We’re determined to deliver just as exciting racing and keep fighting in Muscat to hold our position and capitalise on our energised and focused team. The desire to win is the lifeblood of the team now it’s time to focus. And continue the rush of winning.
Blog by Rasmus Kostner, Co-Skipper, SAP Extreme Sailing Team