The Wave relishes strong conditions
"Extreme", "on the edge" and "intense" was how the fleet of elite Extreme 40 sailors described an action packed opening day of racing at the Extreme Sailing Series, Nice presented by Land Rover. With 20 knots of breeze gusts to 25 and rolling two metre seas, the eight Extreme 40s hurtle around the Baie des Anges with hulls soaring, bows diving and water spraying.
The big breeze suited Leigh McMillan’s Omani team The Wave, Muscat which came out in empathetic style, winning four of the eight races to stamp an early authority on the Nice leaderboard. But everyone’s eyes were on the Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team today, which skilfully managed to bring its Extreme 40 back from the brink of a pitchpole, but suffered race-ending damage in the process.
In the third race of the day, SAP Extreme Sailing chose to “push it a bit harder” in the words of British mainsail trimmer Pete Cumming… but they pushed it a little too far. While screaming downwind at 25 knots, the bows dug in and their Extreme 40 stopped in its tracks elevating both rudders fully out of the water.
The crew did well to recover, but the impact snapped the front of the bowsprit which ultimately forced them to retire from the following two races. As co-skipper Rasmus Kostner elaborated: “We started really well today and were leading that third race before we nose dived. After we snapped the bowsprit there was nothing we could do. We managed to finish the race, but after we made the repairs just couldn’t find the rhythm again.”
The Danish team returned to the race track for race seven, but suffered further problems with the mainsail, forcing the team to miss the final race of the day and as a result lanquishing in seventh place on the leaderboard.
The Danes were not the only ones for who the French Riviera proved punishing today. GAC Pindar, who have not sailed together in the Series as a unit since Porto - her crew has been competing at the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup - lost the port rudder while lining up to start race seven. Unfortunately for the team of young Kiwis, this meant game over for the day, forcing them to limp back to the dock.
The Swiss teams, Alinghi and Realteam, both came out of the blocks quickly today, securing two race wins apiece. But while Morgan Larson and the crew on Alinghi managed to maintain their form throughout and pushed The Wave, Muscat to finish the open water day in second, Jérome Clerc’s team seemed to lose their edge in the day's final races.
Jean-Christophe Mourniac showed he has lost none of his Extreme 40 prowess, returning to the Series at the helm of invitational entry ALL4ONE, expertly steering his catamaran around the course to secure a string of top three finishes: “We are very happy with our results. In conditions like these it’s really difficult to get the communication right onboard, but for our first day of racing, we’re really pleased with how it went. The fleet is really good this year, we will just have to do the same tomorrow, and just try and progress over the weekend,” he commented.
Another new team to the Series, that impressed today in what is only their second event, was ChinaSpirit. Phil Robertson and his team upped the ante, after what was a baptism of fire in Cardiff just six weeks ago mixing it up at the front end of the fleet, to finish the day an impressive fourth – despite a narrowly avoiding a pitchpole which had everyone on the edge of their seats. “We had a great day today, we’re really happy with our speed around the course and the guys did a really good job of keeping the boat upright in these conditions. We had one hairy moment on the first race but that was a lot fun!”
Tomorrow the Extreme 40 fleet will go into 'Stadium' mode, racing just metres from the shore on the Promenade des Anglais from 1200 UTC. The teams are bracing themselves for another action packed day, with 25 knots on the forecast.
Results after eight races
Position / Team / Points
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 71 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 61 points.
3rd Realteam (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Pierre Pennec, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wassem 58 points.
4th ChinaSpirit (CHN) Phil Robertson, Garth Ellingham, Llang Wu, Louis Viat, Nick Catley 54 points.
5th Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Simon Cooke, Kinley Fowler 54 points.
6th the first club by ALL4ONE (FRA) Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Romain Petit, Stéphane Christidis, Arnaud Jarlegan, Julien Cressant 45 points.
7th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 31 points.
8th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Matt Steven, Harry Thurston, Brad Farrand, Shaun Mason 26 points.