When you mention water, wind and speed, then you can certainly assume that it comes to something spectacular. Extreme Sailing Series is one of the most interesting water sports and therefore each year draws more interested athletes and spectators as well.
When they ask me what I love the most in photography, certainly in some form one of my responses shall contain the word “WATER”! Water and underwater sports are always my biggest challenge. As a professional underwater photographer and scuba diving instructor for more than 20 years it is obvious why my answer includes water.
So far I have had several opportunities to take photos of sailing, but never of Extreme 40 series. That time has come! Saint Petersburg and taking photos with Red Bull Extreme Sailing team during the fourth Extreme Sailing Series race of the season. Experience was more than great! Here’s some advices on how to come to the photo you’re looking for when it comes to this sport. Opportunities for photographying are huge, you just have to find the simplest way. Support boat is one of the good options because with it you can get a multitude of angles that you can not get from the shore. On the other hand, the coast can be very interesting because you get also the location for something different.
Certainly one of the most exciting segments of the shooting is from the boat, because you are part of the action that happens during the race. Emotions, energy, water drops and a fantastic atmosphere are guaranteed part of every race. If the wind is stronger all that previously was said is expressed even more.
Underwater housing is a good option to use on the ship, because rest assured that you will not stay dry, neither your equipment, if you want stunning photographies. Photos from the water level can also be very attractive, but what you need to know though is that the safety and distance from the ship must be at a secure level. You should consider the right choice of lenses. In any case it is worth getting wet!
The last option is helicopter, and though it is not available to everyone I have to mention it. No matter what I say the bird’s eye view always brings some spectacular photos. The quality of your images depends on the location in the air! In my case, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Saint Petersburg is sufficient by itself to make your background even more spectacular. If I had to choose one of the options previously offered, it would certainly be staying on the boat… maybe a little less for photographing, and more about the feeling and the excitement during the stay at this spectacular sailing boat.
My overall satisfaction was much higher because I got the opportunity to work with people who have spent their whole life in this sport, which are twice Olympic champions and who won everything that can be won in this sport. Great people and brilliant athletes who represent the Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team are Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher.
I am convinced that this is just another beginning for me and for a completely new and different photoshooting. I believe that I will be part of some next race and that the experience and understanding of the sport next time will bring a lot more spectacular and attractive photos. Until then, I wish to these great competitors and athletes a lot of wind and rough sea – to go faster and to push the boundries of this great sport even further with their knowledge and dedication!
RED BULL SAILING TEAM
Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher have won almost everything there is to win on the sea with two Olympic titles and countless world and European champions to their credit. In addition to those accolades come the Austrians’ two-time Team of the Year titles and their distinction as the most successful Austrian summer sports athletes in modern history. But are they done? Far from it. With their participation in the big boat scene the Austrian duo is preparing for their speed machines and the competition with the world’s best sailors. The serial champions will be up against tough competitors and that is why they are meticulously planning their preparation and leaving – as usual – nothing to chance. Since winning Olympic gold in Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) the world class sailors have been putting their focus firmly on their next big challenge since 2009: the big boat scene. The hugely successful pair has been travelling the world, facing off with the world’s best teams across spectacular locations. Apart from Hagara and Steinacher, the five-man crew also comprises three more professional sailors from the big boat scene as well as one guest per race (in the Extreme Sailing Series).
Hagara and Steinacher also competed for the first time in the America’s Cup World Series in 2013. That was a further milestone for the pair which also was installed as sports directors for the Youth America’s Cup.
CATAMARAN FIVE TIMES FASTER THAN THE RC44
200 square meters sail area, 20 meters tall, 13 meters wide and reaching speeds of up to 75 km/h, these are the stats for the 40-foot catamaran which was transported from the factory in Amsterdam straight to Asia.
Despite the pair’s vast experience, Steinacher is fully aware that racing in the big boat scene is a notch more challenging in all aspects than anything that has come before. “The huge challenge is the enormous dimensions of the boat,” he said. “We are not racing long distance regattas but rather arrive with our boat in the city and sail in very tight and confined racing courses near the coast and in front of thousands of spectators.”
For Hagara such racing represents the future. “Racing like that is the future of the sport of sailing and we want to be a part of that,” Those who know the Austrians are well aware that these are no empty words.
Now in its eighth season in 2014, the award-winning and adrenaline-fueled global series has given the sport of sailing a healthy dusting-off. Bringing the action to the public with Stadium Sailing, putting guests at the heart of the battle and dramatically increasing the pace on the water, the creators of the Extreme Sailing Series™ have set new standards, both in terms of high level competition and sporting entertainment.
Those magnificent men!
It’s a sport, helming state-of-the-art multihulls on very demanding courses with the most respected skippers lining up to do just that, competing so fiercely that heart-stopping close encounters always feature on the menu. It’s also a spectacle, and the public has full access to the action from the shore in carefully chosen venues, combining challenging sailing conditions and spectator-friendly configurations. It’s a VIP experience, and “hot seats” are available onboard, a guest sailor being able to join the five-man crew in order to get a firsthand experience and feel the excitement. Not willing to compromise, organizers OC Sport have created a formula where serious competition and spectacle go hand in hand, the rapid success of the Extreme 40 series proving how well balanced the recipe is. Since 2007, the Extreme Sailing Series has become a benchmark in the sailing world, steadily growing and attracting the biggest names in the sport whilst proving to be an extremely efficient partnership opportunity in these uncertain economic times.
IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES!
Capable of reaching speeds usually reserved to motorboats even in medium wind conditions, the Extreme 40 has been designed by Olympic champions Yves Loday and Mitch Booth, with the aim to provide the international sailing arena with a visually stunning and 100% performance-focused multihull. Flying a hull in as little as 8 knots of breeze (15 kph), the 40-foot (12m) long carbon speed machine requires coordination, finesse but also sheer muscular power from the crews who battle it out on short courses during races that do not exceed 15-20 minutes – and there can be up to 8 of them per day! Tricky wind conditions combined with the level of competition inevitably lead to some spectacular crashes, capsizes and other hair-raising near misses as the previous seasons proved! Logistically, everything is put in place so that teams can resume racing as soon as possible should an incident occur, and the professionalism of shore teams are clearly comparable to that of Formula 1 squads operating in the pit zone.
The start is one of the most exciting parts of any sailing race and with such short races, each race lasts between 10-12 minutes, a good start is a vital part of the winning tactics. Generally, it will be more advantageous to start at one end of the line (either nearer the committee boat or the buoy), due to factors such as the wind direction, the tide, and who has right of way. The more aggressive crews may be fighting to start at their chosen end of the line, while more conservative crews may start further away from the jostling boats — but they are likely to have the benefit of ‘clean’ undisturbed wind.
The starting procedure
The races are started with a four-minute countdown set to music – even the sailors listen to it to time their runs to the start line! Giant flags displaying the number of minutes remaining until the start are flown from the Race Committee platform, hoisted in a 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – and Go!
If the race committee see any part of the hulls are over the line when the starting gun goes then there will be a loud sound signal. In that case the boat or boats judged over the start line have to go back and re-cross the start line again, keeping out of the way of the other teams. Restarting is a substantial penalty, so the teams avoid this at all costs if possible!
Depending on the number of boats, venue, and wind conditions, the race organizers can decide to run racing over different shape courses around a number of large, easily identifiable colored inflatable race marks. The sailors will know which course to sail by the flags flown from the committee boat and announcements over the radio.
When the boats are sailing upwind they will be zig-zagging as they tack towards the first mark, then when they sail away from the wind the crew will hoist the huge gennaker sail at the front of the boat using just man-power alone and their heart-rates will be pumping.
During the racing
The sailors will be shouting at other boats to try and use the racing rules to outwit each other, especially at the mark rounding. If any skipper thinks another boat has infringed one of the racing rules they can wave a yellow and red diagonally striped flag and shout “protest”! Umpires are on the water and work like football referees — they decide if any boats have committed a foul and can give penalties (the boat has to complete a penalty turn, bit like a drive-through penalty in F1 racing). The umpire signifies a penalty by whistling and pointing a red or yellow flag, depending on the type of penalty, at the boat that has committed the foul. If the umpire thinks no foul has been committed they blow a whistle and raise a green and white flag. If there is a really bad foul the umpires can show a black flag resulting in instant disqualification!
First past the post wins – it’s as simple as that! The racing is scored using a ‘high point’ system, so if there are 10 boats racing in an Act then the winner scores 10 points, the second placed boat gets 9 points, the third 8 points and so on. A disqualified team gets zero! As does a boat that does not start or finish a race. The last race of each Act scores double points, putting the pressure on for a great finale. The overall regatta points are also calculated on a high-scoring system regardless of the number of boats in the event is first overall has 10 points. The team with the highest number of points across all the regattas wins the overall Extreme Sailing Series to claim the overall Series trophy.