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Austria’s double Olympic gold medalists are setting sail for another win in Sydney

December 6, 2016 Sports No Comments Email Email

After seven Extreme Sailing Series regattas around the world, the Red Bull Sailing Team’s season all comes down to the big finale on December 8–11, and the crew led by double Olympic gold medalists Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher couldn’t ask for a better location: Sydney, Australia. Iconic Sydney Harbor is where the Austrians won their first Olympic gold medal in 2000 with a dominant performance that set a new

standard for sailing. Now at third place in the Extreme Sailing Series standings, they’ll battle six other teams on the waters they know so well for the Act 8 win and, potentially, the 2016 championship.

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Just as they did when they earned Olympic gold in Sydney and Athens, Hagara (helmsman) and Steinacher (tactician) will be facing off against the world’s finest. But in the five-person GC32 foiling catamarans of the Extreme Sailing Series, they’re joined on the Red Bull Sailing Team by Stewart Dodson (NZL), Adam Piggott (GBR) and Brad Farrand (NZL). The team has gotten where they are by being the most consistent contenders across the season, having finished on the podium in every act so far.

And then there’s the matter of the overall standings. Red Bull Sailing is just six points off current leaders Oman Air, and only four points shy of second-place Alinghi – setting up a breathtaking winner-takes-all double points final. While Oman Air skipper Morgan Larson tries to hold off the charge from his Swiss rivals, can Hagara and Steinacher steal the regatta triumph by enough points to become champions of the Extreme Sailing Series’ 10th season – the first ever on foils? It would be unwise to count out the power of a pair of sailors who have become the biggest summer sport athletes of a landlocked country.

“2016 has been a successful year for us from a sporting perspective. Looking back to Act 1, Muscat, we have improved a lot in boat handling and teamwork,” Hagara assesses. “But the task is not finished yet – our goal is to win the event in Sydney, and then our overall placement will depend on how the other teams finish the act. Australia holds great memories for us, so it’s almost like a homecoming. I think this is going to be a spectacular finale.”

The 2016 Extreme Sailing Series is bringing the action right to the public in eight countries, and the historic season marks not just the introduction of the super-light GC32s – which can reach speeds of almost 40 knots (74 km/h, 46 mph) – but also innovations including a new coastal race and match racing that complement the unique stadium format. Like America’s Cup yachts, the GC32 appears to “fly” as it lifts off the water and rapidly builds speed. Act 8 starts on Thursday, December 8, with a mix of Stadium Racing and open-water racing. Shoreside spectators will be able to watch from Kurraba Point Reserve and Cremorne Point.

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