Racing cancelled for the second time in five years
‘On the edge, then over it’ – this was Extreme Sailing Series Race Director Phil Lawrence’s description of conditions in Nice today that resulted in the cancellation of the first day’s racing at the penultimate event of the Extreme Sailing Series.
By the afternoon on the Baie des Anges, the wind was up to a steady 25 knots, with gusts of 30 knots throughout the day. Closing on the Nice beach this churn up waves creating difficult conditions for the eight Extreme 40s.
Shortly after the fleet left the dock, Race Director Phil Lawrence made the call to postpone racing by one hour but the strong wind conditions showed no sign of abating, eventually resulting in the cancellation at 1530 local time – only the second time in the six year history of the Extreme Sailing Series that adverse conditions have led to a race cancellation, the last being in Cowes, UK in 2011.
Lawrence explained: “When we arrived on site there was already 20 knots of wind and building fast with large waves rolling through the course. As we were about to start racing, the wind jumped up to 25 to 30 knots with two metre breaking waves, so we postponed and sent the fleet back to the dock. Several boats sustained minor damage in the boat breaking waves, as they sailed in. When we made the final call to abandon racing for the day, the wind was a constant 29 knots with large gusts and the sea state was still worsening. We have added additional morning sessions on Saturday and Sunday to get the racing back on schedule.”
This was in stark contrast to the millpond-like conditions experience here last year.
"We gave it a good shot but when we got out there, it did look pretty windy,” admitted Leigh McMillan, skipper of 2012 series leader The Wave, Muscat. Racing today would probably have resulted in carnage the British former Olympic Tornado sailor added: “We were of the opinion that there was a very high likelihood that someone would capsize in those conditions. We have quite a lot of experience and we were on the edge with it and going downwind with the kite it was pretty difficult to get the gybes particularly in the swell, because it changes the angles and dynamics of the boat. It was disappointing not to go racing, but there is a safety factor and it is nice to have everyone still in one piece.”
In contrast Morgan Larson, skipper of Oman Air – second placed in the 2012 championship, six points behind The Wave, Muscat it should be remembered - believes that today they could have got two or three races in before it got too fresh: “It was probably a borderline decision. I think we were at our limit, but it is a challenge to get these beasts out there and get the sails up, almost more than getting a race in.”
Larson admitted that conditions today were the biggest he had seen since joining the Extreme Sailing Series at the beginning of the year. “I’m sure there would have been a capsize.”
Double Olympic Tornado gold medallist Roman Hagara and his crew on Red Bull Sailing Team are known for relishing the more extreme conditions but even for him, today was one the edge resulting in a snapped halyard.
Local boat Team Extreme Ville de Nice was another that fell victim to the conditions, suffering minor damage as skipper Erik Maris explained: “We blew the track on the way back to the harbour because of the wind and waves and maybe the track itself was weak. It was lucky we were on our way back to the harbour otherwise we couldn’t have raced.” On racing in these conditions, “We’ve done a few training sessions on the Extreme 40 in about as much wind and waves as today, but racing-wise we’ve never competed in these conditions. We don’t normally see these kind of conditions in Nice: waves, wind, sun, so hopefully tomorrow it will be a bit more manageable.” Both the Red Bull Sailing Team and Team Extreme Ville de Nice crews are confident they will make their repairs in time for tomorrow’s racing.
Racing will now get underway on the Baie des Anges tomorrow. To make up for today’s cancellation, over the weekend the schedule has been altered with ‘open water racing’ due to take place each morning over 0800-1000 local time, followed by stadium sailing each afternoon, running over 1400-1700.