Loick the magician victorious in Venice
Loïck Peyron and his crew of Christophe André, Arnaud Jarlegan, Devan Le Bihan and Arnaud Psarofaghis, emphasised in style the form they have shown all week, leading Energy Team to an impresive win on the final day of America’s Cup World Series in Venice.
Winds were exceptionally light on the Canal Grande, conditions where most other classes would have stayed ashore. One got the impression that several skippers thought the race should have been the case today.
Out of the start it was Emirates Team New Zealand which got a nose ahead at the all-important reaching mark as Artemis and Luna Rossa Swordfish were called OCS.
Early on in what seemed to be an interminable run down the Grand Canale the majority of the fleet got stuck going nowhere, making no progress gybe to gybe. And yet somehow Peyron waved his magic wand and found a clear lane through and managed to escape. Several minutes later Oracle Team USA Spithill also managed to break away.
Slowly the bulk of the fleet got going down the course, but came to a grinding halt again as they converged at mark two of the course which they had to leave to port with a narrow gap to harbour wall. The result was a six AC45 log jam as the catamarans gently collided to get through the narrow passage abeam of each other.
Terry Hutchinson’s Artemis Racing popped out in third place, with Emirates Team New Zealand chasing them around the race course – even closing enough to incur a penalty after a slow motion collision – before Artemis regained the advantage to lead the Kiwis across the line.
At around the time of the log jam, Energy Team was approaching the same zone but in the opposite direction with a lead that appeared insurmountable. However on the final run down to the finish the French team was becalmed as Spithill came down with pressure. Sacre bleu - it couldn't be? In the very final moments before the finish line Spithill looked like he might get pass Energy Team, however Peyron covered to take the finisher's horn with just six seconds advantage over the Oracle boat. On crossing, and with Energy Team taking the overall win at the America's Cup World Series Venice, Peyron collapsed on the trampoline of his boat in dramatic relief, while his crew celebrated around him.
"Ooolalalala – our bottoms were burning," explained Peyron in his unique mid-Channel English when the cameras turned on him. "Jimmy and his crew did a tremendous job, but the wind conditions were pretty difficult for everybody."
He added: “I think the lighter conditions were good for us. I’m used to this kind of tricky game, trying to be as cool as possible. The pressure was in the red zone, but it made for an exciting race for sure. This was a big victory for us. We are a small team, and hopefully this is just the beginning.”
And hopefully this will help the French team in their quest to secure 11th hour funding to put an AC72 program together and be ready in San Francisco to compete in the 34th America's Cup.
Spithill paid tribute to the French multihull ace. "I really think over the past few day we improved by watching Loick Peyron. He was the fastest downwind, but we didn’t learn enough off him to get him at the end! What a fantastic result for the Energy Team. Loick is a true legend of the sport. I am really excited for him. Let’s hope this is the catalyst to lock them in for the Cup."
Behind Artemis finished 4:01 after Energy Team, managing to stay in front of a very unhappy Dean Barker on Emirates Team New Zealand who came home at 4:40. Sadly the rest of the fleet was too far back to finish within the time limit and were scored as ‘did not finish’, earning no points on the day. This had the rest of dropping the two Luna Rossa boats that had otherwise had a superb few days down the leaderboard.
Earlier in the afternoon, and for the second consecutive event, Artemis Racing defeated Chris Draper’s Luna Rossa-Piranha to win the Match Racing Championship. In the light, shifty, and tricky conditions, Hutchinson and his crew won the start and protected a narrow lead early before stretching away in the middle of the race for a hard-earned victory.
“We've had a good result in Naples and now here, in quite different conditions,” Hutchinson said. “The nice thing about the match racing at these regattas is we've executed on our game plan. We're starting to feel with the training in the boat that it's paying off for us.”
The results in Venice see Oracle Team USA Spithill gain some breathing room on the overall AC World Series leaderboard over Emirates Team New Zealand. The Kiwis will also now be looking over their shoulders, with Artemis Racing closing in as well, nine points further back.
AC World Series Venice Fleet Racing Championship – Final results
1. Energy Team…74 points
2. Oracle Team USA Spithill…58 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand…54 points
4. Artemis Racing…52 points
5. Luna Rossa Piranha…43 points
6. Luna Rossa Swordfish…43 points
7. Team Korea…37 points
8. Oracle Team USA Bundock…22 points
9. China Team…18 points
AC World Series Venice Match Racing Championship
Final Match: Artemis Racing defeated Luna Rossa - Piranha; 1-0
1. Artemis Racing
2. Luna Rossa Piranha
3. Oracle Team USA Spithill
4. Energy Team
5. Emirates Team New Zealand
6. Team Korea
7. Luna Rossa Swordfish
8. Oracle Team USA Bundock
9. China Team
2011-12 AC World Series Overall Championship results (after five of six events)
1. Oracle Team USA Spithill…84 points
2. Emirates Team New Zealand…80 points
3. Artemis Racing…71 points
4. Energy Team…65 points
5. Team Korea…56 points
6. Oracle Team USA Bundock…53 points
7. Luna Rossa Piranha…34 points
8. China Team…31 points
9. Luna Rossa Swordfish…21 points