Two wins in a row for The Wave, Muscat
It was an incredibly close finish. After 34 races in total, The Wave, Muscat clinched it with 283 points [11pts for a race win], just 9 points ahead of the French team Groupe Edmond de Rothschild on 274, and Oman Air, with Ben Ainslie sailing his first Extreme Sailing Series regatta, in third on 266.5. A mere 3.5 points behind were Max Sirena’s Luna Rossa, and only three points behind them Hagara’s Red Bull Extreme Sailing. The compensation for Sirena and British helmsman, Paul Campbell-James, is that Luna Rossa’s result here elevates them to the top of the 2011 overall Extreme Sailing Series leaderboard, 1 point ahead of Groupe Edmond de Rothshild.
Today’s eight races delivered the best stadium action seen in Trapani with 17+ knots of breeze and the Extreme 40 fleet finish box directly in front of the spectators, generating spontaneous applause from them with the action just metres away. The highlight came at the finish of the fourth race of the day when Red Bull Extreme Sailing, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Luna Rossa charged into the finish area under gennaker, hulls flying, neck and neck fighting for the lead at the ultimate gybe mark to the line. Roman Hagara’s Red Bull Extreme Sailing dived in on the inside and got a nose ahead, the three boats made the tight hand-brake turn launching themselves for the finish line set just 20m away. There was no room for a photo finish – the line was only wide enough for two boats, but Hagara held his nerve and his miniscule lead to cross first ahead of Pierre Pennec’s team. This was the Stadium Sailing that the Extreme Sailing Series is known for at its very best.
Going into the final double-points race, four boats were still in with a chance to claim victory with just 8.5 points separating The Wave, Muscat Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Oman Air – Luna Rossa was adrift by 14.5 points, but mathematically it was still possible. In the end, Red Bull Extreme Sailing claimed the race win, but Leigh McMillan’s team kept their nerve to finish second and clinch victory.
“It has been the toughest week we have had, well one of the toughest weeks I have ever had on the water,” said McMillan. “Everyday we have been grinding it out trying to get some good races, we are thrilled to have won in Trapani and somehow we have won two in a row. I thought it would go to Alinghi or Oman Air. Alinghi started off really well and Oman Air have been incredible all through the week, right on the pace. So to actually have managed to beat both of them as they were pushing us all the way is great.”
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild were struggling in the first half of the regatta, but slowly found their form: “I am happy, much better than in Cowes, as we did a good job. But still we have to improve,” said bowman Hervé Cunningham. “It would be easier for us if we started well and stayed in the top of the leaderboard from day 1 but it’s not happening. We are all really happy we managed to sneak into second position on the leaderboard. We all said this morning that there was no pressure and we would stick to our plan, focus on ourselves and we would see how it goes, and it went well! The level of the fleet is still rising so we must focus and keep improving to sail the best we can.”
Ben Ainslie at the helm of Oman Air once again demonstrated how quickly he has got a handle on these boats and raced strongly throughout the afternoon. Only a poor start in the final race was the team’s undoing: “I’ve have really enjoyed it,” said Ainslie. “We have a lot of improvements to make and I am just learning the ropes, the guys are fantastic and have pulled me through. It’s great to be in the top three for my first event.”
For the Italian team of Luna Rossa, the favourites of the crowd here and positioned as favourites to win by many of the pundits, but Trapani didn’t go the way skipper Max Sirena had hoped. “It is what it is,” admitted a disappointed Sirena. “We are going to spend this week working out what went wrong so we can work out what we need to improve.” A bit harsh on himself perhaps considering how close it was going in to the final race.
In the penultimate race Alinghi, which had led for the first two days and were performing well, was involved in a port/starboard collision with Team GAC Pindar resulting in serious damage to the transom, and requiring a swift haul-out by crane. Tanguy Cariou’s Swiss team was given redress and they retained their sixth place in the overall rankings.
The Sicilian town of Trapani has welcomed the Extreme Sailing Series with open arms for a second year in a row. An estimated 35,000 people enjoyed the top level sporting event on the water, with many more visiting the Extreme village for the evening entertainment. The event also showcased local kids racing in the Optimist Marinepool regatta and two Olympic 49er teams going head to head, the 5th man guests got the ride of their lives today and the Race Village was packed every night to watch the bands and dance acts on the main stage.
Next stop for the Extreme Sailing Series is Nice over 28 September to 2 October. Artemis Racing will be back and Team Extreme will be racing under the colours of the city of Nice with solo offshore ace Jean-Pierre Dick at the helm.
Extreme Sailing Series at Trapani supported by Telecom Italia - overall standings after 34 races
Position / Team / Points
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan / Kyle Langford / Nick Hutton / Khamis Al Anbouri 283 points
2nd Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec / Christophe Espagnon / Thierry Fouchier / Hervé Cunningham 274 points
3rd Oman Air (OMA), Ben Ainslie / Kinley Fowler / David Carr / Nasser Al Mashari 266.5 points
4th Luna Rossa (ITA), Max Sirena / Paul Campbell-James / Alister Richardson / Manuel Modena 263 points
5th Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Matt Adams / Craig Monk 260 points
6th Alinghi (SUI), Tanguy Cariou / Yann Guichard / Nils Frei / Yves Detrey 256.9 points
7th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Adam Beashel / Jeremy Lomas / Richard Meacham / Rob Waddell 206.5 points
8th Team GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams / Pierluigi De Felice / Andrew Walsh / Ed Smyth 171 points
9th Niceforyou (ITA), Alberto Barovier / Stefano Rizzi / Lorenzo Mazza / Simone de Mari 161 points
10th Team Extreme ‘Sailing Seacily’ (EUR), Sebbe Godefroid / Patrick Demesmaeker / Jan Coppens / Vince Thery 145 points
Extreme Sailing Series 2011 - overall standings
Position / Team / Points
1st Luna Rossa 51 points
2nd Groupe Edmond de Rothschild 50 points
3rd The Wave, Muscat 49 points
4th Emirates Team New Zealand 49 points
5th Red Bull Extreme Sailing 43 points
6th Alinghi 39 points
7th Artemis Racing 38 points
8th Oman Air 31 points
9th Team GAC Pindar 17 points
10th Niceforyou 15 points
11th Team Extreme 13 points