MUSCAT: Two wildcard entries are set to join the fray at Act 1 of this year’s Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat, alongside six full season squads, organiser and owner OC Sport announced on Thursday.
Following their participation in the inaugural GC32 Championship — also being staged in Muscat — the GC32 Racing Tour teams ENGIE and Team Tilt will compete in the Extreme Sailing Series season opener in Oman in less than two weeks’ time.
Headed up by highly experienced offshore sailor, Sebastien Rogues, ENGIE come with valuable experience in the GC32 as a crew, having secured fifth place in the GC32 Racing Tour last season. Rogues is accompanied by a solid roster of French sailors who are all fellow GC32 Racing Tour team-mates.
“I am very happy to take part in the first Act of the 2017 Extreme Sailing Series,” said skipper Rogues, whose other sailing exploits include four Atlantic crossings.
“I think the Series is a very good event but I don’t know how we’ll get on. For us it is preparation for the GC32 Racing Tour. We are going there to prepare but we will do the maximum to win races and get a good result overall,” added Rogues, whose team will face a fleet of some of the world’s best catamaran sailors as it lines up in Muscat.
Filling the role of tactician on ENGIE is former Olympian Gurvan Bontemps, a foiling catamaran ace who has experience in the F18 and the Flying Phantom, the boat that will feature on the undercard at the European Acts of the Extreme Sailing Series this year.
On mainsail trim is talented Laser sailor, Jean-Baptiste Gellée, and on headsail is Antoine Joubert, an F18 master who has prior experience in the Extreme Sailing Series, having competed on board Loick Peyron’s ZouLou in 2012. Rounding off the roster is former Spindrift racing crew member Benjamin Amiot on bow.
The second of the two wildcards is Swiss-flagged Team Tilt. Like its French counterpart, Team Tilt enters the starting blocks with valuable GC32 experience from the Racing Tour.
At the helm is 49er Rio Olympian Sebastien Schneiter, who skippered Team Tilt to second place in the 2016 GC32 Racing Tour, alongside Alinghi’s co-skipper Arnaud Psarofaghis.
“We are looking forward to going to Oman, it’s great to have the two events so close — timing-wise this doesn’t happen often,” said Schneiter, who claimed second place in last year’s Red Bull Foiling Generation alongside Grégoire Siegwart.
“We think that the Extreme Sailing Series will be more difficult for us than the championship as we aren’t used to these kind of regattas, with a very intense rhythm and a lot of manoeuvres. It will be good training for us, but we know result-wise it might be tough.”
“But we’re looking forward to sailing with the rest of the fleet who don’t compete on the GC32 Racing Tour, including our friends from Alinghi, who we race against in the D35 on Lake Geneva,” added Schneiter.
Joined by a talented bunch of young Swiss sailors, Team Tilt will hit the ground running. Trimming foils is familiar face Jéremy Bachelin, who has competed on board Red Bull Sailing Team in several Acts over the past two seasons, while on bow is Arthur Cevey, who raced with Team Tilt in the 2016 GC32 Racing Tour.
The young Swiss team will rotate sailors throughout the Act, with Nils Theuninck, a Laser and Finn Swiss champ, and Rigot Guillaume, who came second in the 2015 European Youth Match Racing Championship, on mainsail trim. On headsail will be three-time Optimist Swiss champion Jocelyn Keller and Florian Trüb a German Open champion in the Melges 24.
With just one team still to be announced, the stage is set for an epic opening Act to the eleventh season of the Extreme Sailing Series.
The event will run from March 8-11 in Muscat, Oman, with live streaming of the racing on the official Facebook and YouTube channel on race days three and four and a live TV broadcast for the final 90 minutes of racing on day four.
Wildcard crew line-ups
for Act 1, Muscat
Skipper/helm: Sébastien Rogues (FRA)
Tactician: Gurvan Bontemps (FRA)
Mainsail trimmer: Jean-Baptiste Gellée (FRA)
Headsail trimmer: Antoine Joubert (FRA)
Bowman: Benjamin Amiot (FRA)
Team Tilt (SUI)
Skipper/helm: Sebastien Schneiter (SUI)
Foil trimmer: Jéremy Bachelin (SUI)
Mainsail trimmer: Nils Theuninck (SUI)/Rigot Guillaume (SUI)
Headsail trimmer: Jocelyn Keller (SUI)/Florian Trüb (SUI)
Bowman: Arthur Cevey (SUI)