With the sun blazing down, a fresh breeze blowing through the beautiful bay at Portoroz, Slovenia, and a host of international sailing stars, the stage has been set for the inaugural Extreme 40 World Championship, hosted by The Ocean Racing Club.
Six teams made up of some of the world’s best ocean racers, dinghy sailors and America’s Cup veterans assembled at The Ocean Racing Club at the Kempinski Palace Hotel today for the opening Press Conference for the gathered international media.
The event, the first ever World Championship for the Extreme 40 class, will see the six state-of-the-art catamarans go head to head in up to 15 breathtaking Olympic-style races over the course of the week.
Today five of the six teams got a chance to test their skills against each other as they took the water for a series of practice races under the watchful eye of the gathered Slovenian media.
Part of the rules of the Extreme 40 class stipulate that each boat must carry a « fifth man », typically a member of the media or a VIP, so they can experience the thrills of racing the high-performance boats.
Local freelance journalist Wolfgang Zilz spent the afternoon racing as fifth man onboard home team boat The Ocean Racing Club.
« Sailing on the Extreme 40 was absolutely great, » he said. « It was so exciting and The Ocean Racing Club team were so professional. It was an experience I will never forget. The World Championship is a great event for Slovenia and the setting of Portoroz is perfect. It is such a beautiful location and to be hosted by The Ocean Racing Club at the Kempinski Palace is a real bonus. »
There were two practice races this afternoon and it was double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson, at the helm of Team Kempinski/Great Britain, who took line honours in the first of two 45-minute practice races, dramatically stealing glory from home side The Ocean Racing Club at the last minute.
Robertson, a veteran of the Extreme Sailing Series, backed at this event by an experienced Extreme 40 crew, said: « We have a new boat, a new team and a new place and so you never quite know how it is all going to come together, but it was good. It was great to do longer legs and explore the bay a little bit and when you were behind you had opportunities to come up to the leaders again. We were really chuffed to win the first race, and we are looking forward to plenty more. »
It wasn’t just the other boats which skippers had to cope with – despite the breeze, temperatures on the water hit a blistering 30 degrees.