Crash and bang in Nice
A long night is in store for The Wave, Muscat after their boat was ‘T-boned’ on the start line of today’s tenth and final race at the Extreme Sailing Series in Nice.
It was an up and down day for Leigh McMillan’s team, as they attempted to avoid disasters hoping to preserve their overall lead in the 2012 Extreme Sailing Series championship. But this proved tricky with a reaching start line positioned within metres of the beach, the boats zooming in on starboard and tacking with little room left to manoeuvre and with the wind both gusty and shifty, peaking at around 25 knots towards the end of the afternoon.
Coming into the start of today’s last race, there was a four boat pile up as the teams attempted to jockey for position on the line. Amid this, Alinghi attempted to duck The Wave, Muscat’s transom but instead ended up driving their bow into the stern of the Omani boat’s port hull, creating a hole from the deck to below the waterline in the delicate area between the aft beam and the rudder. The crash, which could be heard by the gathering spectators on shore at the Promenade des Anglais, also left the Austrians out of racing.
“We spun around really aggressively and we went really hard into Red Bull,” said McMillan of what then happened. “At one point I thought we might do a full spin.”
After pulling back into Nice’s Vieux Port, The Wave, Muscat was craned ashore. Meanwhile the Oman Sail shore team led by boatbuilder Joe Lees is preparing to be up all night in order to repair the giant gash in the carbon/Nomex hull.
“The damage is pretty severe,” says McMillan. “It goes well under the water line and it is a fairly loaded area structurally. I don’t think we’ll have it ready for the morning, but fingers crossed for the afternoon. We have to leave that for the boatbuilders to see what they can do.”
After a jury hearing The Wave, Muscat was awarded average points for race 10, leaving them third overall, while Alinghi was penalised six points. Fortunately tomorrow morning’s racing has been cancelled so if the repair work goes to schedule, The Wave, Muscat should not miss any racing.
Austrian double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara’s team will also be craning out their Extreme 40 Red Bull Sailing Team tonight – and Hagara says missing a day of racing is out of the question. “It was quite a good day for us until that last race. It just came down to one bad race. The boat has a big hole in it and it will be a long night for us as we try to repair the damage. We have to get it fixed by tomorrow, we need to race and we will do everything possible to repair the boat.” Both Red Bull Sailing Team was also awarded average points for the final race they missed, good for the Austrian team leaving them in first place.
Two thirds of the way into the afternoon, the results were looking grim for Oman Air holding sixth place overall in the eight boat fleet. However American skipper Morgan Larson and his team put in a strong finish, winning today’s final two races to elevate them to fourth place overall.
While Oman Air finished the day without damage, it was not without incident. Most alarming was a near pitchpole, when a gust hit during a bear away, causing them to bury both bows deep into the water. “We stood on our nose for a while and got a feel of air under the rudders,” recounted Larson. “There was nothing I could do, but luckily we had enough weight back and the stern fell back down. So it was an exciting day for us and it was just great to get through it without a hole in the boat like the guys on The Wave.”
While they managed to pull it back from the brink, on another occasion they managed to make a swift recovery when their ‘5th man’, New Zealand Olympic Laser sailor Andy Moloney, went swimming. “Andy missed the toe strap coming out of the leeward mark and went over the side,” said Larson. “But it was good – he swam back and got back onboard quickly and we only lost a couple boats.” Otherwise the American skipper praised the crew work of his team mates including Will Howden, Charlie Ogletree and Nasser Al Mashari.
Pierre Pennec seems determined to repeat history and win the Act in Nice for a second consecutive year. That would represent his first win in this 2012 Series. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild rarely finished out of the top three today and two race wins leaves them just 0.7 of a point behind Red Bull Sailing Team in second place. “It’s great sailing in the breeze. This has been the first day of big wind racing we’ve done since the beginning of the season and it really gives the crew a chance to show their physical and technical abilities. Tactically, our goal was to avoiding other boats as much as possible on the start line, and I am thankful that we don’t have any repairs to do tonight.”
The local boat Team Extreme Ville de Nice is another to find itself with a night of repairs ahead after snapping their tiller extension in race eight as skipper Erik Maris explained: “The day was fun – windy, sunny and more manageable conditions then yesterday. The starts were really difficult and race eight was fatal for us as it broke our steering system so we had to abandon that the last few races of the day. We should be back tomorrow.”
GAC Pindar and SAP Extreme Sailing Team showed moments of real brilliance today both claiming race wins throughout the day currently sitting in fifth and sixth respectively.
Racing is set to resume at the Extreme Sailing Series Nice at 1300 CET. Conditions tomorrow are still forecast to be brisk, but a little less than today.