Smyth v Mourniac

One point separates leaders at the Extreme 40 Alicante Grand Prix after three days of racing

Wednesday October 8th 2008, Author: Helen Fretter, Location: United Kingdom
It's too close to call in the Extreme 40 Series | Alicante Grand Prix after three days and 22 races. Randy Smyth and Delta Lloyd/Tommy Hilfiger just have the edge, one point ahead of Alicante 2008-09 - but with nearly 20 races still scheduled, it could all change again.

With sudden puffs and shifts coming through the course, as well as some big gusts that had the Extreme 40 catamarans soaring high on one hull into the top mark, and a punishing eight-race schedule, today was a challenging one for all six Extreme 40 Grand Prix entries. "It was pretty epic today, we've had a bit of everything!' said Volvo Ocean Race skipper Hugh Styles after racing.

Delta Lloyd/Tommy Hilfiger were out to avenge some losses, after being disqualified from two races in last night's protest hearings - and they started off by claiming back two first places straight away, taking today's opening and second races from Twins and Holmatro respectively. With the top mark set just off the pontoon where the Volvo 70s are moored, the crowds in the Alicante Darsena basin were treated to some spectacular bear-aways as the eXtreme 40 crews battled to keep the bows from burying, rudders lifting in a cloud of foam!

OrangeB extended away with a large lead for today's third race and went on to take the win. They showed the fleet the way round for much of the next as well, only dropping to third on the final leg. But adding another win in Race 20 and a cluster of seconds and thirds put them in contention for the day's prize.

With an easing, puffy wind there were plenty of place changes in the fifth (Race 19). As the fleet split across the entire width of the course in search of pressures, JC Mourniac and crew on Alicante 2008-09 got in front to win, but Holmatro went from second to last and Orange climbed from back in the pack to second by the finish. It was all to play for on the overall points - Alicante 2008-09 just had it, with Delta Lloyd/Tommy Hilfiger and OrangeB both hard on their heels.

Too close for comfort

Carolijn Brouwer, the only woman in the fleet and skipper of Holmatro, was joined by a fellow Olympic sailor fresh back from the Beijing Games today, when Austrian 470 sailor Sylvia Vogl joined on board Holmatro as 'fifth man'. "I grew up sailing catamarans, but that was the first time in 10 years for me to get back on a cat and it was great - they're really powerful, and quite scary in the big gusts!" said Sylvia afterwards. "This is something completely different, it's a fantastic show and really thrilling!"

But there was bad luck for Holmatro in today's sixth race, when Twins smacked into them at the top mark rounding, damaging the orange Dutch boat so severely they had to retire from the rest of the day.

The penultimate race was a foregone conclusion from the first leg, when Randy Smyth on Delta Lloyd/Tommy Hilfiger lifted all the way to the top mark and developed an unassailable lead. But things got off to a less than ideal start for Delta Lloyd in the last, when they were OCS and returned, rounding the first mark dead last.

With Alicante 2008-09 in front, Randy and crew could see the overall lead slipping away and dug deep to climb through the fleet. When OrangeB was held out past the top mark layline by Volvo Ocean Race, Delta Lloyd/Tommy Hilfiger took advantage to sneak through into third. For the next lap they hung onto second-placed Volvo Ocean Race, finally getting past in the last stages of the final leg, to reclaim the overall series lead by just one point.

Mischa Heemskerk on Delta Lloyd/Tommy Hilfiger explained how they fought back: "We just kept sailing the boat very fast at all times, and since we had so many boats ahead of us we could see the whole course laid out where the pressure was and where shifts were coming from. We just focused on speed, speed, speed to make up the distance we'd lost!

"Our kite handling was really good, and we gained a lot at the sets and drops. On the last downwind we were at full speed, we were sailing deeper and almost on the same angle as Volvo Ocean Race, everyone just kept really focused on smart moves and staying out of trouble. We're really happy - this morning we were facing a six point gap and of course we were not too happy with the protests from yesterday. But today we stayed out of trouble, we have no protests - that's a big smile! - and we're leading!"

But as newly formed teams gain experience in sailing together, Randy and crew can expect some close competition over the next two days of the Extreme 40 Series | Alicante Grand Prix. Volvo Ocean Race is one such team who put in a solid third day, "We're really happy with how the boat is going," said skipper Hugh Styles. "Our boatspeed is been good and we've been getting a bit more punchy on the racecourse and having a bit of a go!"

Racing continues tomorrow from 15.00pm, with some big breezes forecast for the extreme 40 fleet.

Overall results after day 3 (provisional):

1st Delta Lloyd/Tommy Hilfiger (1-1-5-6-3-2-1-2) 62 points
2nd Alicante 2008-09 (6-4-6-4-1-4-2-1) 63 points
3rd OrangeB (3-3-1-3-2-1-5-5) 72 points
4th Twins (2-6-3-5-6-6-4-4) 86 points
5th Holmatro (4-2-2-1-4-5-DNC-DNC) 91 points
6th Volvo Ocean Race (5-5-4-2-5-3-3-3) 93 points.

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