Racing canned for the first time in five years
‘Extreme’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘on the edge’ – these were the skipper’s descriptions of the conditions that led to cancellation of Day 5 of Act 5 in Cowes. It seems even the Extreme Sailing Series does have its limits in a sport powered by nature.
For the spectators amassed ashore at the Extreme Sailing Series Race Village at Egypt Point it was a delightful afternoon under the summer sun, but on the water the wind was blowing a steady 25-28 knots, combined with a strong tide, and several boats competing in Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week were to be seen in the distance limping back to port with broken masts.
Despite the tide turning at around 15:00 BST, coinciding with the anticipated start of racing, the strong wind conditions were showing no signs of abating and the sea state remained strong. Racing Manager Phil Lawrence said he expected the water to flatten out, but the latest forecast he downloaded at 14:45pm BST indicated winds later in the afternoon would be gusting up to 38 knots and a full gale. “We waited for the tide to change, but once we saw the new forecast it was definitely not sailable.”
“We had 25 knots of wind and choppy seas” said Alinghi skipper Tanguy Cariou on coming ashore. “With this kind of boat it can be really dangerous and with the tide the strategy would be to come inshore and with the storm jib it can be really difficult to tack – so the danger would be to end up on the rocks. It was the right decision of the race committee.”
Event Director Gilles Chiorri added that the reason to cancel racing for the day was also due to the local topography. “We have sailed in very rough conditions with these boats, with up to 30 knots several times, but here in Cowes tide and the proximity of the rocky shore, we know we run the risk of a bad tack or a bad bear away and having a boat completely losing it. We have to accept that we have some limits!”
Chiorri added that this was the first occasion in five years and more than 100 Extreme Sailing Series race days, that the organisers have had to cancel completely. Having ventured out on to the race course to be greeted by the prevailing conditions, the Extreme 40 skippers and crew agreed with the race committee’s decision.
Double Olympic Tornado Gold medalist, Roman Hagara, skipper of Red Bull Extreme Sailing, reckoned it was blowing 28-30 knots when racing was cancelled. “It is sailable, but when you are racing you are always pushing really hard and, as we saw the other day, if you push it a little bit too far it is quite easy to capsize. I think today it is on the edge. You can always race, but safety comes first and that is the most important thing.”
Adam Beashel is the newbie skipper aboard Emirates Team New Zealand. Coming from Australia Beashel is used to ‘gnarly conditions’- but in lightweight high performance catamarans? “It is extreme conditions here today,” said the man who has spent much of the last year at the top of the masts of America’s Cup monohulls. “Even though these boats are called Extreme 40s, there is a limit to what you can look at and the race committee have made the right call. You could well have had some breakages and injuries. It is good to keep everyone safe and there are still two more days of racing to go here so hopefully there will be more action tomorrow and the following day.”
As to his Extreme Sailing Series helming debut Beashel added: “It is great fun, a great opportunity. It is a steep learning curve here with this class, but I am totally enjoying it. Two hulls are a bit different. Some of the bearaways in a 49er or a skiff are a little easier than they are in these, but the characteristics are similar and you get the adrenalin rush at the same time. It is all exciting.”
Two more days of racing remain at Act 5 of the Extreme Sailing Series in Cowes, with Live WEBcam from 14:15BST, however there is concern that conditions will be similar or even stronger tomorrow. “We’ll take each day as it comes,” concluded Gilles Chiorri.
Extreme Sailing Series Act 5 at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week
Current overall standings (provisional) after 17 races, Day 5 (10.8.11)
Position / Team / Skipper & crew / Points
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan / Kyle Langford / Nick Hutton / Khamis Al Anbouri 118 points
2nd Luna Rossa (ITA), Max Sirena / Paul Campbell-James / Alister Richardson / Manuel Modena 114 points
3rd Alinghi (SUI), Tanguy Cariou / Yann Guichard / Nils Frei / Yves Detrey 99 points
4th Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec / Christophe Espagnon / Thierry Fouchier / Hervé Cunningham 91 points
5th Team GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams / Mischa Heemskerk / Andrew Walsh / Jono Macbeth 89 points
6th Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Will Howden / Luke Cross 86 points
7th Oman Air (OMA), Sidney Gavignet / Kinley Fowler / David Carr / Nasser Al Mashari 83 points
8th Niceforyou (ITA), Alberto Barovier / Stefano Rizzi / Daniele de Luca / Simone de Mari 66 points
10th Aberdeen Asset Management (GBR), John Pink / Rick Peacock / Greg Homann / John Gimson 59 points
11th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Adam Beashel / Richard Meacham / Andrew McLean / Chris Ward 58 points
11th Team Extreme (EUR), Roland Gaebler / Nahid Gaebler / Benedikt Wenk / Dan Morris 48 points
12th Artemis Racing (SWE), Santiago Lange / Andy Fethers / Michele Ivaldi / Phil Jameson 23 points