Photos © Lloyd Images
Racing on day 4 of Extreme Sailing Series Act 7 at Nice
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild win Extreme Sailing Series Act 7 at Nice
Fine French victory on French waters for Groupe Edmond de Rothshchild
The French team Groupe Edmond de Rothschild ended the day where they started it – at the top of the Act 7 leaderboard in Nice with a win in the penultimate Act of the year on home soil. Spurred on by the cheers of support from an estimated 27,000 strong local crowd over the three days of racing, Pierre Pennec led his men to an impressive four race wins on the final day and with it secured third place on the overall Series leaderboard as the fleet heads to the 2012 finale in Rio de Janeiro.
Going into the final double points race Pennec had to keep three boats between him and McMillan to claim victory and the race was won at the start when McMillan found himself stuck in the second row from which he never recovered. Only a major faux pas would have prevented Pennec from claiming a win that was arguably rightfully theirs after a strong performance over the last three days and 28 races. "I am very happy with the victory, my team has got back for their hard work. The conditions allowed us to indulge physically and tactically we were going fast. Returning to the third place overall is great. We will try again to sail well in Rio and then we'll see the overall standings at the end of the year. Anything can happen until the last moment."
For McMillan, the slight disappointment to finish second and not claim his fourth Act win was surpassed by the fact he has guaranteed his team a podium position in the overall Series standings. The only question now is what position that will be. "We are a bit disappointed not to win. We did our best, second is still good, and the focus is always on winning the overall Series. It's fantastic to be on the podium with one event to go and plenty of points up for grabs; it was pretty unexpected. We are very much focused on winning. That is our goal and has been all year – we've been pushing hard all year and that's what we're going to try to pull out of the bag. Hopefully we can go in and finish the job in Rio."
The second team hailing from Oman completed the Act 7, Nice podium in third place after giving their teammates a run for their money in the final race. Friends on land but definitely not on water, Larson had a tactical eye on McMillan all week. "We managed to put them (Groupe Edmond de Rothschild) under a bit of pressure, but trying to put pressure on them without letting The Wave, Muscat slip through was the challenge because we need to hold our points on The Wave. It's definitely not game over, but with the way they've been sailing it's going to be tough. For us it's going to be a bit more focus on holding second place. We feel like we are on track for achieving the goal of a podium finish and if we have a solid event in Rio then we will have that spot. If The Wave, Muscat makes a big error, then we will be there to take it."
It wasn't all celebrations dock-side this evening in the French Riviera and there was bitter disappointment for Roman Hagara on Red Bull Sailing Team. The team never seemed to recover their stride from their crash on day two and finished in sixth place – but more significantly for the Austrian double Olympic gold medallist they may have put their chances of a podium position in the overall Series in jeopardy falling to fourth overall. "It makes it hard for us to be on the podium now but I think there is still a good chance we can bring it back. We have to be tight in Rio and we have to go out to win that Act to guarantee our place."
The Jaguar NeilPryde Racing Series brought the Act in Nice to a close today with current RS:X World Champion windsurfer Julien Bontemps fighting off competition from 20 of France's top windsurfers to claim victory on the Bay of Angels before taking on Team Extreme Ville de Nice in a head to head battle.
Whilst the frontrunners hold their own private battle for the 2012 podium, the British GAC Pindar and Danish SAP Extreme Sailing Team have their own fight developing mid-fleet with only 5.5 points separating the two teams, and the Swiss Alinghi just 5 points shy of that. With the stage now set for the final in Rio de Janeiro between the 6-9th December it is McMillan's team who lead the overall 2012 rankings by 7.5 points and with four teams capable of a podium place, Rio de Janeiro will be a great battle!
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 7, Nice, France standings after Day 4: (28 races)
1. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Christophe André, Romain Petit, Romain Motteau 173pts
2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Hannah Mills, Hashim Al Rashdi 161.3pts
3. Oman Air (OMA), Morgan Larson, Will Howden, Charlie Ogletree, Andy Maloney, Nasser Al Mashari 159pts
4. GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams, Anna Tunnicliffe, Mark Bulkeley, Andrew Walsh, Richard Peacock 134pts
5. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN), Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Jonas Hviid 121pts
6. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT), Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spencer 120.7pts
7. Alinghi (SUI), Ernesto Bertarelli, Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 102pts
8. Team Extreme Ville de Nice (FRA), Erik Maris, Philip Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Patrick Aucour, Bruno Jeanjean 69pts
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Series Results: (after Act 7)
1. The Wave, Muscat 61.5pts
2. Oman Air 54pts
3. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild 51pts
4. Red Bull Sailing Team 48.5pts
5. GAC Pindar 38.5pts
6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team 33pts
7. Alinghi 28pts
8. ZouLou 23.5pts
Edmond de Rothschild Group wins in Nice and powers up for Rio (from Gitana Team)
France's Côte d'Azur and the city of Nice have undoubtedly smiled on Pierre Pennec and his crew. After winning here last year, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild did it again this Sunday after the three days of competition, which made up the sixth act of the Extreme Sailing Series 2012. Gaining an edge yesterday, the men of Gitana Team were certainly able to take the pressure. With four more race victories today, including the last race of the event which scores double points, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group took victory in the French Grand Prix ahead of Oman Sail. This win has allowed Gitana Extreme to move back onto the podium for the annual championship with one more meeting left to race.
Coloured by light airs in 2011, the Nice Grand Prix was much more breezy this year. Deprived of any racing on Thursday given the strong winds and heavy seas, which made sailing overly perilous, the eight competing crews really made up for lost time later on. For three days, the Extreme Sailing Series fleet delighted the crowds, who were out in force along the famous Promenade des Anglais. On the water, the sailors also relished the racing, as the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group explains: "We've really been spoilt: we enjoyed the season's best weather conditions so far, with a wind of between 15 and 20 knots everyday, sunshine, action and for us a win to boot! I'm massively lucky to be able to sail with such a crew. Conditions were physical and tough, but despite all that they were always just where they were supposed to be and maintained a clarity of mind, which proved indispensible. We sailed carefully and very cleanly. Aboard the boat, the manœuvres linked together effortlessly and this fluidity, associated with our very good speed upwind, made the difference. This speed bonus is the fruit of a collective effort with Arnaud and Hervé. Another very important point was the starts. It was clearly our weak point in Cardiff and here we always managed to pull off some very good starts on the whole."
This victory was an important one for Gitana Team. Having had a rough ride during the last two Grands Prix, which were held in Porto and Cardiff, Pierre Pennec and his men were keen to come back from that and power up again with one event to go till the end of the season: "We are competitors through and through and the minute we hit the water we're keen to put up a good performance. Here, we were at a critical point in the season after two bad results for the team in Porto and Cardiff. From that point, either we were going to crumble or be able to hold our heads high. The crew dug deep and we knew how to sail intelligently and cleanly. Now we're holding the necessary cards to be able to round off the season on a high. Indeed for us Nice was about getting back on track as well as climbing back onto the podium, so as we can set ourselves up for the best possible result in Rio," explained Hervé Cunningham, headsail trimmer on the Gitana Extreme.
During the prize-giving, Pierre Pennec couldn't disguise his delight and thanked those responsible for Gitana Team's existence: "A huge thank you to Benjamin and Ariane de Rothschild, who enable us to enjoy moments such as these on the water. It was a highly emotional Grand Prix and on the last race, given our lead at the final mark, I was able to really make the most of the end of the race. This evening, we'll certainly savour this victory and it is something we share with the entire Gitana Team, Sébastien and Hubert who prepare the boat and the Edmond de Rothschild Group."
Thanks to the performance by Pierre Pennec and his crew, Edmond de Rothschild Group is the only team, which has managed to put a stop to the hegemony of the catamarans from the Sultanate of Oman in this Extreme Sailing Series 2012.
The final event of the championship will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 6 to 9 December 2012. This final stage will be incredibly tense as the provisional overall standing shows that the results aren't set in stone. Indeed, though Leigh McMillan boasts a very comfortable lead with 61.5 points, astern of him there is very little separating his pursuers and Pierre Pennec and his men are adamant that they will move up the leaderboard. Oman Air is currently in second place with 54 points and Edmond de Rothschild Group is now lying in third place with 51 points. Finally, in fourth position, with 48.5 points, we find Red Bull Sailing Team, which has lost ground after their sixth place in the Nice Grand Prix.
Bernard Labro, bowman: "We're really happy to have secured the win here. We're in France and we've got ourselves back in contention for the end of the championship. We couldn't have hoped for better. We've been waiting for this moment since the start of the year and we've stood out in the best way possible way here. We had the bit between our teeth on arriving here in Nice. On a personal level I took some time to digest the racing in Porto as I reckoned the umpires made a wrong decision, which cost us very dearly. After that, Hervé Cunningham and I were absent from Cardiff, as we were involved in another race, and we promised ourselves that we would take a win here. However, this victory is down to a massive amount of teamwork. There are five of us aboard and each of us has given 100% this weekend. We were on the pace from the outset and the confidence has been very important. We need to use the confidence we've racked up here to take us forward to the next Grand Prix."
Cyril Dardashti, General Manager of the Gitana Team: "I'm very happy that Pierre Pennec's crew has scored a win for the second time in Nice. These guys love the breezy conditions and they've proved that throughout the three days of racing. They were able to take the pressure, despite the blatant team racing by the two Omani boats competing on the circuit! At the start of the season, we scored some good podium places, but victory escaped us. It's a done deal now and we're going to have to ride that positive dynamic for the last Grand Prix of the season. The team has experienced some tough times, but it has been able to come back from all that in the most spectacular way and this evening Pierre Pennec and his men have brought a smile to the whole of the Gitana Team. Victory in the annual championship looks to me to be a tough ask as The Wave has a good lead, but with the 1.5 scoring coefficient applied to the last two Grands Prix we are right on the button to go and hunt down a second place with a deficit of just three points in relation to the other Omani boat."
A second and third in Nice for the Oman Sail Extreme 40 teams (from Oman Sail)
Four race wins on the final day was enough to secure Pierre Pennec's team on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild victory at the Extreme Sailing Series Nice for a second year in a row. The bigger picture remained positive though for Oman Sail with The Wave, Muscat coming home second and Oman Air third, enough to leave them respectively first and second overall in the season championship going into the final and deciding event of the 2012 season in Rio de Janiero.
During another day of mixed conditions in Act 7 on Nice's Baie des Anges, The Wave, Muscat didn't make it easy for themselves and after two races today their team mates and chief rivals on Oman Air had taken second place off them.
Skipper Leigh McMillan admitted: "We had three really bad starts - we couldn't quite figure out what we wanted to do and we just weren't on the game."
In the end The Wave, Muscat just managed to recover second place off Oman Air and going into the final 28th race, they still had the opportunity to prise first off Pierre Pennec's team. But this was not to be and while victory in Nice would have been good, the bigger goal is the 2012 championship. In this, The Wave, Muscat now leads by 7.5 points over second placed Oman Air. With Rio counting 1.5 points per position, this means that if Oman Air wins and The Wave, Muscat is sixth, the overall championship will go to Morgan Larson's team.
"We have been trying to beat the boat in second and keep extending our lead at every event and that is what we have managed to do so far," McMillan explained of their technique.
Morgan Larson praised Groupe Edmond de Rothschild's performance, winning on the French team's home waters. "They rose to the occasion and made it happen today."
The battle with their team mates went to the wire. "We need to hold our points on them," Larson said, adding of the final race. "Unfortunately three quarters of the way through we had The Wave, Muscat on points overall, but there was a tangle up at the leeward mark and they slipped through." After the double points scoring final race, Oman Air was left holding third, on 159 points to The Wave, Muscat's 161.3, just 2.3 points separating them after 28 races.
For Oman Air, attention now turns to Rio and the conclusion of the 2012 season. "It's definitely not game over yet," Larson continued.
Nasser Al Mashari agreed that it had been a good day for Oman Sail: "A double podium - we are very happy as long as there is an Omani flag on the podium!"
After Oman Sail teams finished first and third overall with skipper Chris Draper and Loïck Peyron in the 2009 season, this year there is a chance to go one better. Al Mashari continued: "Omani boats first and second would be brilliant - that would mean a lot. This year is special for Oman programmes. We have a lot of recognition locally and internationally, including our women's sailing programme and winning the World Tourism Award. I hope to be able to complete this happiness and, inshallah, the cherry on the cake will be in Rio."
The Wave, Muscat's Hashim Al Rashdi concluded: "1-2 in Rio – it won't be easy, I have a lot respect for the other teams. In Rio it is my first time. But I am excited it will be racing in the place where they are holding the next Olympics and the football World Cup."
The Extreme Sailing Series concludes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil over 6-9 December. The Extreme Sailing Series visited this venue in its first season when both Leigh McMillan and Peter Greenhalgh were competing. "It is hard to know how it will be," says McMillan. "We were racing inside the harbour, we had some wind and it was nice racing, but it was different then, we were still doing half mile beats upwind, not 200metre sprints!"
SAP Extreme finishes 5th in Act 7 (from SAP Extreme Sailing)
The final races of the last day of Act 7 (Nice, France) saw SAP
Extreme Sailing back at the top of the result sheets. With the Team
placing in either the last three or the top three (and few appearances
in the middle of the fleet) it feels as though improvement requires
two steps forward and one back.
As Rasmus Køstner, SAP Extreme Sailing Team explains: “Our problem is
lack of experiences in the Extreme 40. There is no time to talk, no
time to think when the pressure mounts. The catamarans sail incredible
fast, we just have to react like a unit and hopefully making the right
Once again SAP Extreme Sailing Team showed that they have what it
takes to win races in this challenging fleet: race-winning tactics and
teamwork. Rasmus Køstner talks us through race 8 where the Danish team
showed the more experienced crews what SAP Extreme is capable of:
Rasmus Køstner: ”I may be the Tactician on the paper but in the end it
is a team effort.”
The story from the scoreboard is that for SAP Extreme consistency is a
‘work in progress’, but equally the Team has the ability to win, and
to win well.
Mikkel Røssberg, SAP Extreme Sailing Team: “We were in the hunt for a
good result. Our strong side is the fact that we keep the momentum up
and the spirit high even through the toughest times. That's the key to
turn a horrifying result into a race win.”
SAP Extreme Sailing Team were delighted to be joined in Nice, France
for Act 7 of the Extreme Sailing series by a host of SAP guests,
media, and commercial relations as well as family and friends. Taking
the opportunity of the afternoon racing schedule, the Team enjoyed
using the morning ‘down-time’ to share the thrill of sailing this
class of boat by taking ‘brave guests’ for a speed ride and a lot of
fun was had by all.
The team is looking forward to the final event of the Extreme Sailing
Series 2012, which take place in Rio de Janeiro December 6th -9th and
is already preparing.