Groupe Edmond de Rothschild edges ahead
The first day of the final round of the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series kicked off today. It was a light and slow start to the competition but the racing burst into life as the wind steadily built over the afternoon. Racing within the strict confines of the Almerian port made for a thrilling spectacle. Six of the teams here are vying for the 2010 overall rankings, four of them – The Wave, Muscat, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, Ecover Sailing Team and Oman Sail Masirah – all hoping to secure places on the podium, while Groupama 40 and Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team are scrapping over fifth. Rumbo Almeria and Emirates Team New Zealand are wild card entries for the Spanish event.
The eight teams took to the water early in the afternoon for two races outside the harbour walls giving them the opportunity to race in open water – Franck Cammas (Groupama 40) and Mike Golding (Ecover) each scoring a win - before heading back inside the port for the ‘stadium’ format of racing as the crowds arrived at the Race Village. The first four short 10 minute races saw the competition unfold as anticipated – a win for Yann Guichard (Groupe Edmond de Rothschild), a win for Paul Campbell-James (The Wave, Muscat), quickly followed by another win apiece. Then suddenly in the penultimate race, with the wind kicking in at over 12 knots, gusting 15, it all went horribly wrong for the young Omani team: “We literally got stuck on the race mark in the penultimate race then a couple of other little jury errors that cost us a penalty in the last race as well. We probably lost 15 points just there – if we’d avoided those errors we’d be on top of the pack,” said Campbell-James. Those ‘errors’ left Yann Guichard at the top of the leaderboard with 45 points, 4 points ahead of Ecover Sailing Team, as the French crew demonstrated just why they are the team to beat.
Mike Golding’s team ensured the Brits kick-started their bid for the podium by finishing inside the top three in all but one of the races – a minor wobble soon put right as helmsman Leigh McMillan explained: “Boycey (Jonathan Taylor) gave us a stern talking to after the first in-port race where we sailed ourselves into 6th place. He told us to sort our lives out and we did! After that we were suddenly in the top three in every race and pulled back up.”
It proved an enjoyable if steep learning curve for Dean Barker’s team on Emirates Team New Zealand who were racing an Extreme 40 for the first time. Barker was clearly taking a pragmatic approach to their participation: "We have to find the balance between controlled aggression and stupidity in the multihull environment! Learning what we can get away with in terms of boat positioning and control.” After today’s seven races his crew had learnt a fair bit...
The whirlwind stadium format of the racing saw the fleet race on courses no longer than 800m and a starting area 200sqm. Each leg taking just over 2 minutes, there is hardly time to think, let alone strategise. “We enjoyed it, although our results weren’t that great,” commented Barker. “It’s hard, and not knowing the boats is a big handicap especially on the courses here. A really steep learning curve but we’re enjoying it.” The Kiwi team came into contact with Rumbo Almeria (Mitch Booth) at the start of the final race as Barker explained: “We were lined up for the start and had a pretty nice position, but then one of the other boats bore off towards us and we were half way through a tack so it was impossible… We had nowhere to go and we couldn’t really avoid it.”
Tomorrow’s racing is expected to be full-on with a strong forecast of 18-22 knots of breeze – inside the confines of the port, it will be a white-knuckle affair: “It’s going to be all on,” said McMillan. “There is not a lot of room to get out of the way and there are brick walls everywhere!” At the same time, the big breeze may come as a gift to The Wave, Muscat: “We’re still in the fight which is key for the first day,” said Campbell-James. “With the breeze on tomorrow, and we know we’re strong in the breeze and Gitana are not, so bring it on. The win is obviously huge in our mind and we’re gunning for the top spot.”
Today played out with numerous close calls and fierce competition and the next few days will not be any different: the Spanish public are in for a thrilling finale. The Spanish round of the Extreme Sailing Series in the region of Andalucia finishes on Tuesday at the end of the long bank holiday weekend in Spain.
Extreme Sailing Series Almeria Results after Day 1
1st Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, Yann Guichard, 45 points
2nd Ecover, Mike Golding, 41 points
3rd The Wave, Muscat, Paul Campbell-James, 38 points
4th Oman Sail Masirah, Loick Peyron, 38 points
5th Groupama 40, Franck Cammas, 28 points
6th Rumbo Almeria, Guillermo Altadill, 25 points
7th Red Bull Extreme Sailing, Roman Hagara, 21 points
8th Emirates Team New Zealand, Dean Barker, 18 points
1st The Wave, Muscat, Paul Campbell-James, 28 points
2nd Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, Yann Guichard, 27 points
3rd Ecover, Mike Golding, 25 points
4th Oman Sail Masirah, Loick Peyron, 24 points
5th Groupama 40, Franck Cammas, 13 points
6th Red Bull Extreme Sailing, Roman Hagara, 13 points
7th The Ocean Racing Club, Mitch Booth, 7 points
8th Team GAC Pindar, Nick Moloney, 3 points
More images from Mark Lloyd/www.lloydimages.com. Click to enlarge