The formula one of the sea.
Now in its ninth year, the Extreme Sailing Series[TM] comes to Sydney, transforming the harbour into a thrilling, competitive arena with the kind of spectacular sailing that has earned this series a nickname --The Formula One of the Sea.
There are near-misses, collisions, penalties, changing weather conditions and old-fashioned good luck that all come into play influencing the world's greatest sailors in their quest to win the ultimate prize.
From December 10 to 13, hardcore sailing enthusiasts and the general public can get up close and personal to all the racing action on the water due to the 'stadium sailing experience' according to the Extreme Sailing Series event director, Andy Tourell and event organisers. Brand Dimensions' managing director, Kris Willand.
How did the event start in 2007?
ANDY TOURELL: It was the brainchild of the company these days known as OC Sport and Mark Turner, founder and current executive chairman, as a way of changing the way sailing is seen and enjoyed. The Extreme Sailing Series is all about bringing it to the public so we pioneered the concept of 'stadium sailing.' Historically, sailing is something that happens over the horizon and is not easy to understand so stadium sailing is about putting it in a short, sharp racing format. It's more than just watching it, it's about experiencing it--being close enough to hear the shouts of the sailors and being almost within touching distance of the boats.
Sydney hosted the grand finale of the 3014 season and this year hosts Act 8 of the 3015 series where the season champion will be awarded the Perpetual Extreme Sailing Series Trophy. Brand Dimensions in Australia has been appointed by OC Sport, the event organizer to help the series in Sydney. Managing Director Kris Willand says there are several Olympic champions, America's Cup winners and record holders on teams to watch and cheer onto victory.
Kris Willand: Leigh McMillan, skipper of The Wave, Muscat is looking to secure his third consecutive Extreme Sailing Series title this year. Currently leading the series, Leigh is a former Olympian in the Tornado multihull class. Sarah Ayton is the only female in the Series at this time and tactician on The Wave. She's also a dual sailing gold medalist for Britain at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
Pete Greenhalgh (UK) and Ed Smyth (AUS/NZ) are both accomplished America's Cup sailors and also members of The Wave, Muscat team.
GAC Pindar is a team to watch from an Australian perspective. While it is sailing under the UK flag, three of the five crew are Australian including Seve Jarvin--18 foot Skiff World Champion and co-skipper of the GAC Pindar squad.
Roman Hagara, skipper of the Red Bull team is a six time Olympian, winning two gold medals and one world championship in the Tornado class.
What can the hardcore sailing fan expect as well as those new to stadium sailing?
Kris Willand: It's not only the proximity to the spectator and the fact that the whole racecourse is in view that defines stadium racing.
The race format is simple to understand--whoever crosses the finish line first is the winner. The individual races are short--between 10 and 20 minutes, which makes it easy to follow a race from start to finish and get caught up in the action. Lastly and very importantly, OC Sport are providing fabulous race commentary that will be heard throughout the Race Village and along the shores of Farm Cove. This is supplemented by the race analysis system developed by SAP Sailing Analytics, the official event technical partner providing real time 3D visuals of the race status.
There's also an introduction to cutting edge sailing technology as boats pull up in the 'pit lane' right in front of the spectators.
How would you describe the festival experience people can look forward to around Mrs Macquarie's Chair?
Andy Tourell: We have our VIP hospitality suite called the Extreme Club situated as close to the water as physically possible. At each event, we host 600 to 800 guests over three days. We have corporate sailing slots in the morning where four people can go out on the water with a sailing team in a non-competitive environment. Then we have the guest sailor spot, which is an award-winning experience where we put one guest on every boat in every race--obviously subject to the sailing conditions. It's like being on Jenson Button's car bonnet hurtling around the Formula One track. It gives the guests an insight into how the crew communicate and what it's like being a fully professional pro-racer.'
Kris Willand: The heart of the festival will be the Race Village, which will be made up of a number of exclusive corporate chalets and entertainment zones. This Race Village will be used for brand activations aimed at the general public, corporate hospitality for the partners and VIP viewing all integrated seamlessly with the on-water action. To the visitor, access to the Race Village and viewing areas will be free of charge. Corporate partners in the Race Village will have access to the coveted guest sailor spots, the spectator spots on the RIBs and access to the Extreme Club to meet the sailors for an extended VIP experience. We are looking to create the 'Bird Cage of Sailing' referencing the popular exclusive brand zone at the Melbourne Cup. In addition, we are engaging with sailing clubs around New South Wales to develop a fringe event program before and after the main event.
In keeping with OC Sport's mission of 'changing the way sailing is seen/ what is the impact of On Water Umpiring?
ANDY TOURELL: Sailing historically has jury hearings after the events and the results can change. But with On Water Umpiring, any penalties are issued on the spot. These include penalty turns, manoeuvres or delayed starts so it's as simple as first across the finish line, wins.
SAP helps non-sailors understand why boats are going in different directions yet are all heading for the same point by providing data about where the boats are going, who is in the lead and the impact that's having on the racecourse.
So Stadium Racing is more than just bringing the boats close--it's making sailing strategy and racing easy to understand while giving enough depth and gravitas for the hardcore sailing fans to be engaged as well.
What are the logistics of getting the Extreme on the water spanning multiple continents?
KRIS WILLAND: Similar to the FIA F1, this is an international circuit that travels the globe to allow teams to compete in several locations to establish a champion of each year. Containers arrive in Sydney early December, carrying 10 Extreme 40 catamarans, as many RIBs, thousands of spare parts, fully equipped workshops and even the catering and hospitality set-up. The technical area looks like the paddock and pit area in F1, and during the time the boats are assembled, this is a crazy and perfectly organised hub of activity.
Andy Tourell says Sydney is one of those rare venues in the world that meets all five of OC Sport's criteria for the Extreme Sailing Series:
1. it's iconic
2. it has a stadium-feel waterway
3. there are suitable weather conditions to ensure sporting integrity
4. the location has commercial viability and is attractive to stakeholders
5. it has the capability to host public engagement
ANDY TOURELL: I'm personally looking forward to seeing the event come to life. You can feel the buzz developing around the CYCA, which is providing berthing for the sailing teams. It's the culmination of 18 months work with the final day in Sydney and the big winner decided on that final day. I'm sure they're will be a bit of an end-of-Series party to look forward to as well.
KRIS WILLAND: Without a doubt, it is the action on the water that is the highlight and the sailors who are the heroes. It was no different last year. The racing is in close quarters and more intense than in other regatta formats. There are thrills and spills to excite even non-sailors, and for those who are lucky enough to be invited into the Extreme Club, there are wonderful opportunities to meet the sailors.
The 2015 Extreme Sailing Series[TM] Act 8, Sydney presented by Land Rover takes place from December 10 to 13.