The demand for New Zealand sailors is sky-high, with Kiwi accents everywhere on the tiny island of Madeira for this weekend’s Extreme Sailing Series.
The Extreme Sailing Series is sailed on GC32s, a foiling catamaran, and made up of eight regattas scattered around the world. This weekend’s instalment, the third of the year, will be sailed off the north-west coach of Africa.
The series features America’s Cup, Olympic and round-the-world sailors as well as world champions and not only are four Kiwis helming the seven boats this weekend but 13 of the 40 sailors are also from this country.
“It’s fantastic to see so many of our sailors involved and is recognition of their skills and professionalism in the sport,” Yachting New Zealand acting high performance director Ian Neely said.
Chris Steele (NZ Extreme Sailing Team), Phil Robertson (Oman Air), Adam Minoprio (SAP Extreme Sailing Team) and Liv Mackay (Team Extreme) will helm their respective teams.
The inclusion of Mackay is notable. The 21-year-old is the only female helm and is regarded in some circles as the world’s best female helm of foiling catamarans. She’s aiming to compete at the 2020 Olympics in the Nacra class, which will be a foiling catamaran in Tokyo.
Mackay is campaigning with Micah Wilkinson, who was recently part of the NZL Sailing Team who finished runner-up at the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup and who will be alongside Mackay in Madeira.
The pair are part of the Portuguese wildcard entry Team Extreme, who are supported by the Magenta Project which aims to increase opportunities in professional sailing for women. Four females will be on their boat, which allows them to have six crew - one more than the other teams.
“When I found out I was doing the Extreme Sailing Series I jumped at the chance,” said Mackay, who won the 2016 Red Bull Foiling Generation alongside Wilkinson. “I watch it when it’s on and never thought that at this age I would be doing it. I’m absolutely stoked at the opportunity.
“I’d say that there are a lot of similarities between the Extreme Sailing Series and the Red Bull Foiling Generation. The way the boat works is very similar and I definitely think that winning the Foiling Generation has really helped me get recognised by Magenta.”
Also featuring for the first time is Olympic Laser bronze medallist Sam Meech, who will share the bowman duties for NZ Extreme Sailing Team with Aaron Hume-Merry.
The NZ Extreme Sailing Team sit in sixth after two rounds of the series but showed good improvement at the last round in Qindao where they were second going into the final day before slipping down the standings on the back of a crash.
Minoprio’s SAP Extreme Sailing Team are second in the standings, only two points behind Alinghi, with Robertson’s Oman Air a further point behind in third.
The Extreme Sailing Series has been on a two-month hiatus since Qingdao to break for the America’s Cup. Racing gets underway tonight (NZ time) in Madeira and run through until Sunday night.
Crew line-up for Extreme Sailing Series Act 3, Madeira Islands
Alinghi (SUI) Co-skipper/helm: Arnaud Psarofaghis (SUI) Tactician/mainsail trimmer: Nicolas Charbonnier (FRA) Headsail Trimmer: Nils Frei (SUI) Bowman: Yves Detrey (SUI) Floater/foil trimmer: Timothé Lapauw (FRA)
Land Rover BAR Academy (GBR) Skipper/bowman: Rob Bunce (GBR) Helm: Owen Bowerman (GBR) Mainsail trimmer: Will Alloway (GBR) Headsail trimmer: Oli Greber (GBR) Floater: Adam Kay (GBR)/Matt Brushwood (GBR)
NZ Extreme Sailing Team (NZL) Co-skipper/helm: Chris Steele (NZL) Co-skipper/mainsail trimmer: Graeme Sutherland (NZL) Headsail trimmer: Harry Hull (NZL) Foil trimmer: Josh Salthouse (NZL) Bowman: Aaron Hume-Merry (NZL)/Sam Meech (NZL)
Oman Air (OMA) Skipper/helm: Phil Robertson (NZL) Mainsail trimmer: Pete Greenhalgh (GBR) Headsail trimmer: Ed Smyth (NZL) Bowman: James Wierzbowski (AUS) Bowman: Nasser Al Mashari (OMA)
Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Skipper/helm: Roman Hagara (AUT) Tactician: Hans Peter Steinacher (AUT) Mainsail trimmer: Stewart Dodson (NZL) Headsail trimmer: Adam Piggott (GBR) Bowman: Will Tiller (NZL)
SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Co-skipper/coach: Jes Gram-Hansen (DEN) Co-skipper/tactician/mainsail trimmer: Rasmus Køstner (DEN) Helm: Adam Minoprio (NZL) Headsail trimmer: Pierluigi de Felice (ITA) Bowman: Nicolas Heintz (FRA) Trim assist/grinder: Mads Emil Stephensen (DEN)
Team Extreme (POR) - Wildcard Skipper: Mariana Lobato (POR) Helm: Olivia Mackay (NZL) Mainsail trimmer: Micah Wilkinson (NZL) Trimmer: Owen Siese (BER) Bow: Élodie Mettraux (SUI) Foil trimmer: Peter Dill (BER) Floater: Paulo Manso (POR)