Groupe Edmond de Rothschild gunning for repeat victory
The penultimate day of the Extreme Sailing Series Nice was again held in breeze, the easterly wind blowing along the beach making it challenging for the competitors to read the conditions.
As Oman Air's Tornado silver medallist Charlie Ogletree observed: "There were two breezes – the gradient easterly that was trying to come from the right and there was the land effect coming off the shore. Earlier in the day it was a lot more stable and generally the right easterly were paying but as it got later in the day the offshore got more prevalent, there was an area not much wind in the middle and both edges were really good and it was hard to pick which edge every time."
On the plus side Phil Laurence's race management team gave the boats an upwind start rather than Friday's confined reaching starts directly off the beach that resulted in several collisions.
Nine races were held and at the end of this Groupe Edmond de Rothschild has edged into the lead but with the Oman Sail boats, The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air, four and ten points away from her respectively, while an average day for yesterday's leaders, Roman Hagara's team on Red Bull Extreme Sailing, has dropped them to fifth in the eight boat fleet.
Confident in his teams ability – although all too aware how quickly things can change on the short, sharp Extreme 40 race course – Edmond de Rothchild’s trimmer Hervé Cunningham was reflective after racing: “The last two Acts in Porto and Cardiff have been really dramatic for us so we try to regain some confidence in the crew after those bad results. We are our own worst enemy. For the moment we found a good feeling, we are sailing well and we are really confident for tomorrow. But we know all too well how quickly things can change in this racing and it’s never over until the last round which counts for double points. We will keep a cool head and sail well and intelligently.”
One of the French teams biggest rivals on the water is current Series leader Leigh McMillan whose team The Wave, Muscat have already won three events this year (their Oman Sail teammates on Oman Air winning the other two). A cool and confident McMillan said: “There is nothing in it –it’s very close between the top four and so we have just got to keep plugging away. We felt we sailed well and a few things went against us which was frustrating but we had a good grasp on what was going on considering how tricky it was. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. We just have to hope tomorrow goes our way and keep doing the same things.”
That The Wave, Muscat was racing at all today, came after the all-night effort of her shore crew lead by Jo Lees and his Omani boatbuilders Mohammed al Shukali and Hilal Al Zidjali to repair the damage left after their boat was T-boned by Alinghi on the start line of Friday's final race. The Wave, Muscat was only relaunched at 1030 this morning and you would be hard pressed to spot the repair.
“I’d like to say a big, big thank you to all the shore crew,” said The Wave, Muscat crewman Hashim Al Rashdi. “They finished this morning and the boat is really good.” Leigh McMillan duly went out and won today's first race.
Another person on the team who had little sleep last night was The Wave, Muscat’s ‘fifth man’ Olympic 470 silver medallist Hannah Mills, who jetted back to the UK last night for an RYA awards ceremony, but was back on the dock in Nice this morning.
The Wave, Muscat put in a comparatively consistent performance today to finish second, four points behind last year’s winner here, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. Of today’s racing Mills said: “It was really tricky. We sailed well I thought. A couple of times we got a bit unlucky with the patches of pressure that were tricky to spot and rolled out of nowhere from the land. But we were fairly consistent, which was the goal. Hopefully we are still right in it for tomorrow.”
Leigh McMillan welcomed the more conventional starts to windward: “There was a bit more space on the race course so it was a bit more of a normal kind of race day where you can make a bit of a plan before the start. It was quite nice to have that opportunity.”
Oman Air did well to move up to third position, six points behind their team mates, even though the day was fairly high scoring. As Charlie Ogletree observed: “It was the same as all Extreme 40 racing - you come off the water thinking you had a pretty rough day and then you hear the results. We are in third with a shot of winning and that’s about all you can ask for going into the last day.”
Roman Hagara was understandably frustrated at the end of racing. He and his team struggled in the conditions and slowly his team slipped down the leaderboard. “We need to do better than today," he said. "It was a really bad day, we struggled to make a good start and we made some bad decisions. In these conditions everything goes really quick and you have to pull really hard on the ropes. Some of our maneuvers were not as good as yesterday and all these little things make a difference when you are racing.”
The shape of the leaderboard going into the final Extreme Sailing Series event in Rio de Janeiro in December will be decided tomorrow by 1700 local time. Can Groupe Edmond de Rothschild hold off The Wave, Muscat and win on home waters for the second year in a row?
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Nice, France results after 19 races
Position / Team / Points
1. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Christophe André, Romain Petit, Romain Motteau 109 points
2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Hannah Mills, Hashim Al Rashdi 105.3 points
3. Oman Air (OMA), Morgan Larson, Will Howden, Charlie Ogletree, Andy Maloney, Nasser Al Mashari 99 points
4. GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams, Anna Tunnicliffe, Mark Bulkeley, Andrew Walsh, Richard Peacock 95 points
5. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT), Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spence 87.7 points
6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN), Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Jonas Hviid 74 points
7. Alinghi (SUI), Ernesto Bertarelli, Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 69 points
8. Team Extreme Ville de Nice (FRA), Erik Maris, Philip Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Patrick Aucour, Bruno Jeanjean 42 points