Breeze abates on the Baie des Anges
There was a change of pace on the penultimate day’s racing at the Extreme Sailing Series Nice presented by Land Rover today, where the big winds abated to be replaced with a much fresher breeze that played across the Baie des Anges, testing the teams tactical aptitude. The battle on the water for the eight Extreme 40s was no less tense, with teams not only eyeing the Nice podium, but with a tactical eye on the overall Series results, with the pressure mounting to head to the season finale in Brazil in a strong position.
The Wave, Muscat showed there are very few chinks in their armour, adding two more race wins to their tally this week, showcasing their pedigree in both the light and stronger breeze. Skipper Leigh McMillan, who could be seen from the shore adopting his trademark stance standing up at the back of the boat throughout racing, was modest back on dock: “It was really hard to adjust to the light conditions; we were struggling a little bit to get back into the light wind mode after two pretty exciting windy days. We were fighting hard all the time just to get everything to click into place. We’ve had three solid days so far but we just need to keep doing the same things and not think too much about the overall scores here. The bigger picture is to keep knocking away at the overall points for the season – which is what we’ll keep doing tomorrow.”
If yesterday’s racing was physically demanding on the sailors, today’s was psychologically taxing, with eight races sailed in eight knots of breeze that gradually faded throughout the afternoon. It was all about finding a break on the start, getting off the line in clean air and having the pace to extend and avoid the congestion of the pack, which proved easier said than done for even the most experienced teams. Alinghi found itself deep in the pack on numerous occasions, as a disgruntled Morgan Larson, helmsman here, explained: “It was really challenging – it was light air and bumpy waters. Reaching starts in those conditions are challenging because one boat gets ahead and then it becomes a procession and we just didn’t execute. There is a bit of luck and skill involved and we didn’t have either of those today.”
Red Bull Sailing Team continued its wave of momentum from yesterday with another three race wins and will head into tomorrow’s final showdown six points behind Alinghi in third. The Austrian team, helmed by double Olympic gold medalist Roman Hagara, has its eyes are on the bigger prize of the Series podium where the battle is raging, and the crew will be happy to see its biggest rivals in the 2013 season, SAP Extreme Sailing Team, a little further down the leaderboard in Nice, in sixth.
The Swiss light wind lake specialists on Realteam have struggled at times over the last two days in the bigger breeze, but today they had a new sense of momentum, including a win in race two which has put them well in the hunt of a podium place, just six points adrift of Red Bull Sailing Team. Skipper Jerome Clerc, who has handed the tiller to Pierre Pennec in Nice elaborated: “The conditions suited us today. It was easier for us in the lighter winds, yesterday was quite tough mainly because of the waves. We’re much more used to the conditions we were racing in today so overall we were pretty happy with our performance.”
The newest teams competing in Nice were able to teach the old guards some new tricks today – no mean feat for a team coming into a fleet of this calibre at this stage in the game. The support of the local crowds spurred the invitational team the first club by ALL4ONE to a string on top three finishes, while ChinaSpirit will head into the final days racing on a high after winning the final race of the day and its first since joining the circuit in Cardiff six weeks ago.
“It feels really good (to win their first race), especially as it was the last race of the day!” said an ecstatic Phil Robertson back on the dock. “We got better and better today – we’re still figuring the boat out in the light and tricky conditions. Every day we get thrown new conditions so we are learning from race to race and changing the whole set up throughout the day so overall it was super positive to end the day on a high.”
It was a festival of sailing on the Mediterranean today, with two match racing GC32 catamarans and the windsurfers of the NeilPryde Windsurf Racing Series adding to the high performance racing spectacle and providing a real show for the gathering crowds. The final battle of the Bay will play out tomorrow from 1400 local time with the final Act deciding races including the all-important double-pointer streamed live from 1600-1700 CEST.
Results after 22 races
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 189 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 161 points.
3rd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Simon Cooke, Kinley Fowler 155 points.
4th Realteam (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Pierre Pennec, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wasem 149 points.
5th ChinaSpirit (CHN) Phil Robertson, Garth Ellingham, Llang Wu, Louis Viat, Nick Catley 128 points.
6th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 127 points.
7th the first club by ALL4ONE (FRA) Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Romain Petit, Stéphane Christidis, Arnaud Jarlegan, Julien Cressant 121 points.
8th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Matt Steven, Harry Thurston, Brad Farrand, Shaun Mason 95 points.