Foiling test

After a successful debut Act in 2016, the Extreme Sailing Series™ will return to Portugal’s Madeira Islands for the third round of the 2017 season.

Photography by Extreme Sailing Series™ and Lloyd Images

27 June 2017


The fleet of seven super-fast GC32 catamarans, including wildcard Team Extreme skippered by Portuguese Olympian Mariana Lobato, will race off the coast of the island’s capital, Funchal, from 29 June – 2 July.

Alongside the main GC32 Stadium Racing action, for the first time in the Series’ history, the Flying Phantom Series will take flight as part of the on-water line-up, promising a festival of foiling for locals and tourists that is not to be missed. Twelve two-man teams will compete in the first stage of their 2017 season, which will continue at each of the European Extreme Sailing Series Acts throughout the year.

The Extreme Sailing Series crews return to the field of battle following a two-month break since Act 2, Qingdao, China, where 2016 Swiss champion Alinghi took the regatta win and leap-frogged SAP Extreme Sailing Team to take the overall season lead. With the likelihood of some tactically testing lighter conditions in Madeira, Alinghi should benefit from its experience on Lake Geneva.

“I think it is easy for us to sail in light wind conditions because we do most of our sailing in less than 10 knots on the lake in Geneva,” said co-skipper and helm, Arnaud Psarofaghis, who helmed Alinghi to its seventh Bol d’Or regatta victory last weekend.

“We feel really confident that we can win the Act again this year but it’s going to be a great battle. We need to be stronger than before because the other teams have started catching up,” added Psarofaghis, whose squad defied the odds at this venue last season, claiming victory despite a dismasting due to a collision with Red Bull Sailing Team.


Qingdao saw the two youngest crews, Land Rover BAR Academy and NZ Extreme Sailing Team, starting to shake things up. The British squad, who claimed their best result to date with a second, will return fresh from a win in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in Bermuda.

“There is no training like racing and we have seen some quite light and changeable conditions here in Bermuda so this could be quite similar to what we might face in Madeira,” said skipper and bowman Rob Bunce, whose team finished in sixth place at the Portuguese venue last season.

“We have got a bigger bank of knowledge and experience a year on, so we will be pushing for a good result,” added a confident Bunce, whose crew line-up includes a new addition for Madeira, Matt Brushwood, and sees Owen Bowerman return to the helm.

With the on-shore support of multihull legend Mike Drummond as coach, and the recent successes of Emirates Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup to spur them on, NZ Extreme Sailing Team could be set to achieve great things. However, with light to moderate breeze forecast, co-skipper and mainsail trimmer, Graeme Sutherland, is also aware of the difficulties his team will face.

“Fast and foiling is where we have excelled in the previous events so lighter conditions will be a challenge for us, as they are for all teams,” explained Sutherland, whose crew line-up features three new faces; Harry Hull, Aaron Hume-Merry and Olympic medallist Sam Meech. “Boat speed and mode changing is going to be a bigger factor at this event and these are the areas we will be focussing on.”

Groupama Team France’s America’s Cup back-up helmsman, Adam Minoprio, will return to the helm of SAP Extreme Sailing Team for the third stage of the year-long contest, having helmed the team to victory in the first stage in Muscat. The roster also includes a change in bowman to Minoprio’s Groupama teammate, Nicolas Heintz.

The Danish-flagged crew currently rank second in the overall standings, one point ahead of third-placed Oman Air and four ahead of fifth-placed Red Bull Sailing Team.

The regular crews will be joined by Portuguese-flagged wildcard Team Extreme. Female Skipper Mariana Lobato, who competed in the 2012 Olympics, will be joined by Team SCA crew member Élodie Mettraux. Both sailors raced on board the all-female wildcard Thalassa Magenta Racing in Lisbon last season.

Paulo Manso, who is from Madeira Islands, will also join the team to compete on his home waters. Manso was part of the Portuguese-flagged ROFF Cascais Sailing Team that came third in the first edition of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in San Francisco in 2013.

Kiwi sailor Olivia Mackay will helm the boat, with her regular teammate Micah Wilkinson by her side on mainsail trim. Together the pair won the 2016 Red Bull Foiling Generation. Owen Siese and Peter Dill, who just days ago competed on home waters for TeamBDA in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup, will be the first Bermudians ever to race in the Extreme Sailing Series. With more than two females in the crew line-up the rules allow the team to have a total of six sailors on board, one more than its rivals.

Racing begins on Thursday 29 June and fans can follow the action online via the live website blog and social media channels.

Australia is represented by the bowman on Oman Air, James Wierzbowski.

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