With the Extreme Sailing Series’™ long-term race director Phil Lawrence stepping down from the job at the end of 2016 after six years in charge, his successor John Craig was handed the reins for the final day of Act 5 in St Petersburg to get a taste of what’s to come.

We caught up with the Canadian, a world-renowned name on the international sailing circuit, to find out how his ‘first day in the job’ went.

How was your first experience running racing at the Extreme Sailing Series?


“It was great. Phil gave me a bunch of hints and advice leading up to the event so I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into, but it turned out to be a pretty challenging day all the same.”

What sort of challenges did you face?



“We got a couple of races in early which was good, and then we were setting up to meet the television requirements with a start at 3.39pm and the breeze just shut off. At that point we switched to plan B and held an exhibition race in front of the crowds. Then we got lucky – the breeze came in just before the cut-off time for the final race. We had to be racing that last one by 4.30pm and we got the start going at 4.29pm. It was a double points event with Alinghi and Oman Air tied going into it, so to be able to get it underway was pretty cool. It was a challenging race for the sailors but for the spectators in St Petersburg and online it really delivered, which felt good. My first day was a baptism of fire for sure, but that’s what I signed up for.”

How does the Extreme Sailing Series differ from events you’ve done in the past?


“I’ve done a lot of big sailing events and they’re all different, but there are similar elements in all of them. The big challenge for me was delivering so many races, which is what the Extreme Sailing Series is all about and does so brilliantly. Phil and I were able to deliver 24 races over four days in St Petersburg which is amazing, and the quality of the racing was incredibly high. And I have to say on the final day the Extreme Sailing Series team was awesome – everyone got behind me and helped me through. In the end we put on a great show.”

What was it like to be in St Petersburg?


“St Petersburg is a fantastic venue – unbelievably picturesque with a challenging sailing area. Every time I go there I’m blown away by its beauty. St Petersburg was an amazing experience, and one I’m looking forward to recreating in other iconic venues around the world, which is what you get with the Extreme Sailing Series.”

How do you feel about taking over from Phil Lawrence for the 2017 season?


“I get the reins from Phil in January, which is an exciting prospect. There’s some stuff I definitely want to stamp my own mark on, so I’m looking forward to that. The Extreme Sailing Series is already an incredible event and it’s going to be fun seeing where we can take it. It’s a very cool event to be part of. To have the world’s best sailors flying round on foiling boats in the middle of iconic cities in front of thousands of fans is about as good as it gets. These are exciting times.”