Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Extreme Sailing Series : SAP Extreme Sailing Team Reflect, Analyse and Evolve prior to Act 2

SAP Extreme Sailing Team. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Extreme Sailing Series.

by Jo Uffendall

The SAP Extreme Sailing Team are currently onsite preparing for Act 2 of the Extreme Sailing Series, taking place in Singapore between 11th and 14th April. Ahead of the second stage of the circuit, co-skippers Rasmus Kostner and Jes-Gram Hansen have been busy analysing and reflecting on their performance during the first Act of the Extreme Sailing Series circuit.
Speaking about their racing in Oman last month, Kostner said:
“Our post act briefings are a combination of gaining feedback from the individual members of the race team coupled with a study of the SAP analytics data so that we can make comparisons between what we all anticipated would happen in a race scenario and what actually occurred out there. It is a great tool as it allows us to re-live races with absolute accuracy.”
Co-skipper, Gram-Hansen added:
“We were pretty happy with the setup of the boat, race starts and timings in Oman so our take out from the racing there is around making small changes. The Singapore act will be about evolution, not revolution.”
As with Oman in Act 1, light airs are anticipated in Singapore and, since this is not an area any of the team has sailed before, they will be making the most of the training days in situ ahead of the racing so that they are able to adapt to the conditions and prepare for the tight race course.

Extreme 40s racing in Act One in Oman. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Extreme Sailing Series.
The Extreme Sailing Series has a highly competitive and experienced fleet and the SAP Extreme Sailing Team look for every opportunity to make gains on their race rivals. One aspect that sets them apart from their peers is the unique structure of their team, with co-skippers heading up the race crew.
When asked if two heads really are better than one, co CEO and skipper, Gram-Hansen explains:
“Our team is quite unusual in the sense that we don’t have one team figurehead. That was a conscious decision on our part at formation stage as we wanted the focus to be on the whole team and not just one individual. Business is moving that way with more level management structures and SAP itself have co CEO’s at the helm, so we feel it is rather apt that we mirror that leadership model. The ethos we hope to instill is that everyone has an equally vital role to play and a voice that is listened to.”
When asked how this works in practice, Gram-Hansen added:
“Communication flow, both on and off the water, is vital and it is this constant flow of information from all team members that feeds into the decision making. On the water, Ras takes responsibility for tactics and I drive but of course we rely on information from the whole crew when having to make decisions.”
Jes Gram-Hansen, skipper, SAP Extreme Sailing Team. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Extreme Sailing Series.

Jes Gram-Hansen - Helmsman Co-Skipper SAP Extreme Sailing Team 

Widely regarded as one of the best match race skippers of his generation, Gram-Hansen secured second position on the ISAF World Match Race Series ranking a decade ago and is no stranger to success at the highest classes of racing. In 2005, following two successful years with the Russell Coutts Racing Team as tactician, Gram-Hansen was named as the starting helmsman of the Italian Mascalzone Latino Capitalia Team, a challenger for the 32nd America’s Cup in Valencia and was joined shortly afterwards by Rasmus Køstner. At the conclusion of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the pair were chosen the best starting team in voting conducted by a group of international sailing magazines.

In 2011, with the shared desire to race high performance multihulls, Gram-Hansen and Kostner announced the ambitious goal of creating and co-skippering a professional Extreme Sailing Series team. The following year, in Qingdao China, the duo introduced SAP GmbH as their entry’s title sponsor.

Rasmus Kostner - Tactician Co-Skipper SAP Extreme Sailing Team

As the Co-Skipper Tactician for the SAP Extreme Sailing Team and with a lifetime of experience competing in practically every class of racing from local premium events to the America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and the Extreme Sailing Series –  Køstner is as formidable a challenger as he is affable in character.

Kostner was 7-years-old when he began sailing his own Optimist. Shortly after, he became a member of the Danish national sailing team, competing both nationally and internationally. After winning several youth national championships, Kostner first partnered with Jes Gram-Hansen. In his role as tactician, and with Gram-Hansen at the helm, the pair sailed toward the top of the ISAF World Match Race Series rankings – finishing as runners-up at the 2002 World Championship.

Another pivotal event in Kostner’s professional career occurred when he teamed up with multiple America’s cup winner Russell Coutts on the Match Race and RC44 circuit. Following this experience, Rasmus joined longtime friend and helmsman Jes Gram-Hansen as the tactician for the Italian Mascalzone Latino Team Capitalia, a challenger for the 32nd America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain.

Taking it to the next level, the duo set their sights on high performance multihulls. They are presently co-skippers of the SAP Extreme Sailing team competing in the Extreme Sailing Series.