Extreme 40s Leave their Mark in Boston

In Boston Harbor, all eyes were on American skipper Terry Hutchinson this past holiday weekend as his Team Artemis Racing entered the final day of Extreme Racing with an 8-point lead. From July 30 through July 4, Artemis competed in a top-notch fleet of 11 Extreme 40 catamarans racing in Boston for Act 4 of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series.

Over the course of the weekend, Boston served up a myriad of sailing conditions, with the wind vacillating from strong gusts to dead calm, and the weather bringing both clear skies and the threat of thunderstorms. Skippers quickly learned that winning the start never guaranteed a strong finish, as current and patchy breezes made each race a challenge.

Those very challenges ultimately toppled the American favorite Hutchinson, who entered the final race of the final day in the lead, hugging the right side of the upwind leg. Though it had been favored minutes before, a sudden puff built from the left and propelled four teams past a stalled Artemis, who watched their lead slip away. Among the passing boats was Emirates Team New Zealand, who had a strong start but then stalled while tacking on the first beat, and then caught the shift to secure the win. “Shifty,” as it turned out, was the word of the day. As Hutchinson said on Sunday, “I don’t take anything for granted because I know how good the people around us are and how tricky the conditions can be here, so we have to keep on fighting the fight.”

Dean Barker, skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand agreed. “The sailing has been very challenging. Artemis Racing showed us the way the whole week, but racing here was so tight, with potentially four boats able to take the title going into the final race.” Emirates’ victory in Boston was their first in the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series. As Barker said, “It’s never over until it’s over. We had a tight finish with Artemis in Istanbul and it’s nice to come out on the right side of this one.”

Hutchinson and Barker’s shared sailing history goes back to the 2007, when they both sailed with Team New Zealand against Alinghi in the 32nd America’s Cup. But among the illustrious cast of characters at the Extreme Series village, they weren’t the only two whose paths had crossed before. Leigh McMillan, skipper of The Wave, Muscat, had been the trainer for Oman Air before substituting for the competition at the last minute in Boston. When asked if the competition was friendly or fierce, Sidney Gavignet, skipper for Oman Air, replied, “It has to be friendly. There’s no other way to do this.”

If Hutchinson was disappointed in his finish on the final day, the crowds at Fan Pier in Boston certainly were not. Each day saw more than 10,000 wide-eyed spectators lining the grand stands of the race village. Sailors in the crowd were entranced by quick acceleration, tight maneuvering and pure athleticism on board. Big names like Cam Lewis, Dawn Reilly and Brad Van Liew enjoyed the scene from the VIP tent, and everyone agreed it was a sight worth seeing.

After the boats doused their sails, a rousing round of “God Bless America” complimented Independence Day fireworks and live music, transforming a sailboat race into an event, which is exactly what these boats are trying to do. Already, Boston cannot wait to get the Extreme Sailing Series back in town.

For more on the Extreme Sailing Series, which stages is next regatta August 6-12 in Cowes, England, click here.

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