Red Bull hangs on to lead
The forecast for the second day of Extreme Sailing Series racing in Cardiff was for lighter winds, but the breeze over-delivered again on Cardiff Bay. If the increase in wind pressure was unexpected, the pressure on the teams as they battled for their position on the leaderboard was exactly as anticipated. The nine boats fought tooth and nail for the best position off the start line and gave no quarter in the close racing that unfolded in front of the public and VIP guests.
Eight races in total were staged on day two and, once again, good starts and slick boat handling were key to success in the gusty conditions – the French team Groupe Edmond de Rothschild came very close to capsizing at the downwind bearaway mark in the sixth race of the day, but escaped unscathed, although the onboard cameraman only just managed to hang on (see today’s Race of the Day below). The eight races produced six different winners including Alinghi, GAC Pindar and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. “If we had more space to play, the wind would not be so much of a problem as we are finding in such a small and constrained environment,” said Alinghi skipper, Ernesto Bertarelli.
The Morgan Larson skippered Oman Air pushed the Austrian Red Bull Sailing Team hard, coming within two points of the leaders after six races today. Despite the close competition, Red Bull Sailing Team remain top of the leaderboard ahead of Oman Air. Overall 2012 Extreme Sailing Series leader The Wave, Muscat is back in contention now lying third overall at the halfway stage in Cardiff: “Maybe we were a little conservative at times but generally we were safe, in control and trying to sail cleanly, so we can’t complain and we’re moving up the leaderboard as we always do after a bad day,” said skipper Leigh McMillan. “We’ve got two more days of getting back into Red Bull’s points, we took a little bit out of them today and we will continue to do that.”
GAC Pindar dropped a place, now lying in fourth overall, but skipper Andrew Walsh is pinning his hopes on his crew’s improving performance: “We had a real rough start to the day with three bad ones shall we say, but then we pulled our fingers out and got back to starting really well. The guys crew work has been brilliant and it’s really puffy wind conditions out there, so if you’ve got good boat handling it just means your tactics become so much easier and it felt like if we weren’t having a good race we could just overtake a few boats through really good crew work.”
Pierre Pennec’s team on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild had the most rewarding day finishing in fifth place, climbing two places from yesterday. “Tonight, we are just 10 points off the podium," said Pennec. "Even if we have the impression that we have sailed under our best level, we still are very close and gained two places overall.”
For the local entry, Team Wales backed by the King of Shaves, which enjoyed the support of the home crowd, the biggest cheer came in the first race when they led the fleet around the tight race course, only being overhauled by Red Bull Sailing Team in the final phase of the race. This came after their boat was repaired overnight after dismasting on Thursday's final race. “The circuit style racing is not what we are used to, but it’s great,” said skipper Dave Evans, who at 26 is the youngest skipper in the fleet here in Cardiff. “Friends and family are down watching, and everyone seems to have a smile on their face. All of us have done our individual sailing, so when we knew our jobs it was a case of just communicating it. The communication sounds easy to do, but actually it is the hardest bit in sailing I think!"
The pace of the Extreme 40 racing is unforgiving, each race lasting just 10 minutes or so, with a few minutes rest in between, then it is full on physicality for the five crew as they throw their 40-foot speed machines around the tight, demanding courses. “It’s all pretty frantic at the front, but it’s been great!” agreed 470 silver medalist Hannah Mills who is the floater on board the Welsh flagged Extreme 40. “The fleet is generally having a right-old battle. It’s just wicked racing – so close and so short, and so exciting all the time."
Tomorrow’s forecast is for 15 knots but don’t be surprised if there is more – it has been the case so far and there will be no respite for the racing crews going into the penultimate day of racingin Cardiff.
Extreme Sailing Series Cardiff results after 16 races
Position / Team / Points
1. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT), Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spencer 102 points
2. Oman Air (OMA), Morgan Larson, Will Howden, Charlie Ogletree, Andy Maloney, Nasser Al Mashari 93 points
3. The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Bleddyn Mon, Hashim Al Rashdi 91 points
4. GAC Pindar (GBR), Andrew Walsh, Anna Tunnicliffe, Mark Bulkeley, Adam Piggot, Richard Peacock 86 points
5. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Christophe André, Romain Petit, Romain Motteau 83 points
6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN), Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Jonas Hviid 80 points
7. Alinghi (SUI), Ernesto Bertarelli, Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 78 points
8. Team Wales, Dave Evans, Torvar Mirsky, Tudur Owen, Hannah Mills, Ed Powys 56 points
9. ZouLou (FRA), Erik Maris, Philip Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Patrick Aucour, Bruno Jeanjean 50 points