Finally, back on the podium!
What a 4th day of drama, ups and downs and a conclusion in Shakespearean proportions. After 29 races SAP Extreme Sailing Team finally got on the podium to end Act 3 in Cardiff, UK, at third place overall.
It couldn’t have ended in a better way considering 4 boats were on almost equal points before that last medal race where the points even count double. The team did a nice start in the middle of the pack and simply sailed like from a text book and lead from start to finish, extending all the way. The race also provided a chance of a shake up, since the overall leader Oman Air made a premature start with 2 other boats and suddenly the medal race was a matter of calculating whether SAP Extreme Sailing Team could actually gain enough to pass Red Bull and jump in to 2nd place. For the live viewers, it was suddenly not about the win but about the ranks among the other boats in the fleet left behind.
All through the event there have been periods of both hardship and joy, which is basically the normal in this fleet. But in the light of the two previous acts leaving the team outside the podium with a sense of being struck by misfortune, it takes a deep dig mentally to once again determine the outcome by a nail biter with a very possible outcome similar to the previous acts, hence cruel disappointment and weeks awaiting before yet a chance to redeem.
So when the ‘pedal hit the metal’ in the last race and the podium place was secured, there was a sense of relief and a feeling of bits falling in place at the right time for once this season.
After the race, tactician Rasmus Køstner, wasn’t shy from padding the team on the back: “We dug deep and knew collectively we had to give our all knowing what was at stake; Yet another disappointing outcome despite the feel and stats backing us up on the great progress we have made through the months. But the guys just stepped up at the right time and place to haul in that much needed podium place… That was really a relief!”
The race course in Cardiff is in many ways slightly different in many ways. You start from deepest down in the inner basin, reach a long straight-line way out to the first mark and then very short courses, high calorie outbursts, up and down to take the long straight line back to the finish line from where you started. In essence, the start is crucial to the final outcome and there are few passing lanes. That said, there were plenty of occasions this weekend where the winner of the start got overrun by other boats due to sudden patchy lulls, throwing yet another factor of excitement (or stress) in to the mix.
Helmsman Jes Gram-Hansen puts it very clear: “Good starts always give the best possible view and position for taking the tactical path the way you like it. But in these boats it changes so rapidly with small differences in breeze along the course, that essentially you can never trust that privilege as a security blanket. So when you have a long straight line to the first mark anything can still happen and thats where you have to keep pushing because you never have a second of safe haven in this fleet until you cross the finish line”.
The team now resides on 4th place overall in the series after 3 acts have been concluded and 5 left still, so there is a long stretch to both improve and catch up with the leaders. But the Cardiff event feels like getting a breakthrough that has been way long under way since the series started in the foiling cats format. Watch the final scoreboard here