There was some high-voltage racing during this second day of the Grand Prix of Cowes. Aside from this Sunday morning’s coastal course, which was contested in around ten knots of breeze, this afternoon’s races were marked by in excess of 20 knots of wind, added to which were some big, cross seas. The full-on, spectacular conditions delighted the sailing enthusiasts flocking along the Cowes’ Esplanade, but once again put pressure on the sailors and led to breakage aboard the one designs. Third in the provisional ranking yesterday evening, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group has dropped a place to the benefit of The Wave Muscat. Indeed Paul Campbell-James’ men put up a remarkable performance, not only making it into the top 3 but taking the overall lead.
As far as the weather is concerned, it’s been a lively day in the Isle of Wight and the intensity has cranked up a notch as Yann Guichard confirmed on his return to Venture Quays: “the wind was a tad stronger than yesterday and the seas were just as big as we’re still in a wind over tide situation. The courses are short, which means there are more chances to cross tacks with our rivals and hence more likelihood of contact between boats.”
Contact is the right word as the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group found out during the 5th race of the day. As they were racing in the leading pack after rounding the windward mark, the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild collided with Groupama 40. The incident caused both rudders on Franck Cammas’ one design to be pulled out. What happened next was worthy of a blockbuster film as the French skipper and his men were forced to abandon ship as Groupama no longer had any steering and was heading straight for the sea wall. Fortunately it was more frightening than harmful as the four crew came off unharmed after their unintended dip in the Solent. “We were on the starboard layline and were tacking under Groupama, which infers that we were committed. At the windward mark, Groupama bore away in front of us, which gave us no way of escaping: we couldn’t avoid hitting them! Our starboard bow then hit and broke the top of their port rudder, which ripped out their entire system and led to the present situation. There was only slight contact but it had serious consequences which we’re deeply sorry for” explained Yann Guichard.
For Roland Jourdain’s men, who have only joined the Extreme Sailing Series for this English event, the introduction has been a complicated one. Yesterday they’d already suffered a bit of bad luck when they hit a mark during the first start of the afternoon. Breaking their starboard rudder during the impact, the crew of Véolia Environnement had to say goodbye to the five races contested. Today technical issues prevented them from taking the start of two of the six races run.
As each of the Grand Prix events go by, the skipper of Gitana is constantly repeating the fact that on short courses such as those proposed by the Extreme Sailing Series format, getting off to a good start is a prerequisite for snatching the top spots in the ranking. Poor timing or bad positioning often proves damning for the next stage of the race. This was very much the case today: “I wasn’t good at all during the starts!” admitted Yann Guichard before continuing: “it’s a difficult race zone as at this time of day the current is pushing us towards the line and you have to give yourself some room so you don’t cross it too soon. Added to that there’s an exclusion zone imposed by the organisers (a zone which limits all the competitors to a narrow start corridor). The upshot of that was that I found it difficult to position Edmond de Rothschild Group correctly. We’ll have to do better tomorrow!”
Provisional ranking of the Grand Prix of Cowes on 1st August (after 12 races)
The Wave, Muscat (Paul Campbell-James) – 85 points
Ecover Sailing Team (Mike Golding) - 80 points
Oman Sail Masirah (Loïck Peyron) - 74 points
Edmond de Rothschild Group (Yann Guichard) - 67 points
The Ocean Racing Club (Mitch Booth) - 61 points
Red Bull Extrême Sailing (Roman Hagara) - 56 points
Groupama 40 (Franck Cammas) - 50 points*
Team GAC Pindar (Nick Moloney) - 47 points
Veolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain) - 9 points
*Awaiting the redress agreed by the jury following their collision
The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group
Yann Guichard - Skipper, helm / Pierre Pennec – Mainsail trimmer / Thierry Fouchier – Headsail trimmer / Nicolas Heintz – Bowman