Muscat: Oman Sail is gearing up to host the opening Act of 2016 Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) from March 16 to 19. With the ESS heading into its tenth year, some of the world’s top sailors are preparing to take-off on a new fleet of GC32 catamarans as the Series welcomes a new generation of foiling boats. A full line-up of eight world-class teams, from eight nations were confirmed last month by the organisers.
Event Director Andy Tourell commented on a landmark year: “2016 marks the tenth year of competition for the Extreme Sailing Series and it is going to be a milestone year for us in more ways than one, not least the change of racing platform to the GC32 which brings with it a whole new dimension to the racing and public experience.
"We have a chance to diversify our format, combining tradition-breaking and award-winning Stadium Racing with the incorporation of match racing, plus the chance to open up the racecourse in some venues, allowing these boats to really stretch their legs – starting with a 20km coastal race to start the season in Muscat”.
The competition on the water promises to be fierce and action-packed with America’s Cup legends, Olympic heroes and world champions preparing to do battle at close quarters. Among the crews will be veterans of 13 Olympic campaigns and 22 America’s Cup campaigns. Between them they also hold 27 World Championship titles, 27 European Championships and 106 National titles.
2008 and 2014 Extreme Sailing Series champions from Switzerland and two-time winners of the America’s Cup Alinghi will return to the circuit armed with foiling expertise after coming second in the 2015 GC32 Racing Tour, following the Ministry of Tourism’s “Sultanate of Oman” GC32 boat which took a rightful overall lead in the Tour.
Alinghi’s former helmsman Morgan Larson will head up the Omani entry, Oman Air, alongside Nasser Al Mashari who sailed to Series victory last year aboard Almouj Muscat (The Wave, Muscat). Oman Air’s team is supported the national carrier of Oman, Boeing and EFG Bank.
On the grid for the new season are 2015 runners-up SAP Extreme Sailing Team co-skippered for a fifth year by Jes Gram-Hansen and Rasmus Kostner from Denmark, who have boosted their on-board talent with Italian Pierluigi De Felice, a multiple World Champion and three-time America’s Cup sailor.
SAP’s 2015 sparring partners, Red Bull Sailing Team, skippered by Austrian double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara with Hans Peter Steinacher calling the tactics will also return to the starting blocks.
The Land Rover BAR Academy squad announced that they will be led for the first two Acts by the 2015-winning skipper and most successful sailor in Series history, Leigh McMillan, who will mentor the Academy sailors alongside experience Extreme 40 crew Bleddyn Mon, Ben Ainslie and the Land Rover BAR senior team.
Edhem Dirvana, skipper of Team Turx, returns for his second year on the circuit, and for the first time, a Portuguese team led by three-time Olympian and 2015 Team Turx crew Diogo Cayolla, will make its debut.
In the next 10 months of global touring, the 2016 Extreme Sailing Series will visit eight urban venues spanning three continents. Maintaining the highest level of sporting integrity, the global tour includes a mix of iconic cities, established sailing venues and new markets of strong commercial value. The series offers a variety of sailing formats, from open water to the tradition-breaking and award-winning Stadium Racing format. Over the last ten years, the series has attracted more than one million spectators, and Oman has been a venue host multiple times.