Edmond de Rothschild Group fend off their adversaries
For the third day of competition in the Muscat Grand Prix (Sultanate of Oman), the weather conditions were considerably gentler: a light zephyr of around ten knots, a generous sunshine and an inexhaustible blue sky characterise this new Omani race zone. Five races have been contested and today’s ranking isn’t really very reminiscent of that of yesterday. Despite a more complicated day, Edmond de Rothschild Group has held off the onslaught from its rivals and has managed to retain its leadership position. However, right on her tail, the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild can feel the competition breathing down her neck as it draws ever closer.

Dominating proceedings yesterday with three victories out of the five races run, Pierre Pennec and his men have encountered more difficulty on the Omani race zone today. It has to be said that the breeze of around fifteen knots, which was blowing during the second day of competition, had dropped off considerably this Tuesday. At its strongest, the anemometers recorded around ten knots this afternoon. Added to these climatic changes came a new race format today, one which will be repeated over the two remaining days of the competition. Indeed the so-called “Open Water” races gave way to some more typical Extreme Sailing Series races, synonymous with just half the playing field of previous days. The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group struggled to find their bearings, as bowman Hervé Cunningham explains: “This third day of competition was like starting over again for us as the course format changed. We’ve switched from the ‘long’ races we competed in on the first two days, to today’s much shorter courses. It’s a very different exercise and unfortunately we weren’t able to express ourselves quite so well on the water. Prior to the start of the Grand Prix we knew that our shortcomings are linked to this ‘stadium racing’, as the organisers call it. The results at the end of five races contested this Tuesday are that we have to work on and make progress with our starts as they were the black points of our day. There are a number of us on the line and our adversaries are aggressive so you have to constantly jockey for position and hold on until the start gun sounds. I think we’re going to have to be more aggressive on these crucial phases tomorrow and that may involve us having to take greater risks.”

At a little over the halfway mark in the event and after three days of competition, the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is holding onto the head of the provisional ranking. “Although the crew committed a few youthful indiscretions in the start phases, the attitude aboard the boat and the commitment were very much in evidence, which enabled us to move up through the fleet a little and claw back some precious points. Our adversaries really made up some serious ground on us but despite that, this evening, we’ve managed to hold onto the lead of the Grand Prix and that comes as a great satisfaction. It’s good for morale!” concludes Hervé.

In the provisional ranking, the men of Gitana Team have a new crew on their tail in second place, that of Artemis. Fifth yesterday, the Swedish team had an excellent day and are a direct threat to the four French sailors, who have nevertheless managed to rack up a credit of three points. On the third step of the podium, the locals on The Wave have also defended their colours well on home waters and are just nine points shy of the top spot. This evening, the top five teams are just thirteen points apart and the next two days of competition are going to be extremely tense.

The crew speak out 
Christophe Espagnon, mainsail trimmer: “ Our afternoon of racing has been a bit more difficult than yesterday; when we don’t win races it’s never as good. The wind today was lighter at around ten knots and the courses proposed were closer as the race committee had reduced the playing field by half. In this configuration, the start phases were even more crucial than usual and we had shortcomings in that area, which quickly costs you places and as a result, points… As this evening’s ranking proves, it’s really a very closely fought match. Each point is useful and even a place in the middle of the leaderboard is worth fighting for. It’s thanks to that philosophy that we’ve managed to hold onto the lead in the general ranking this evening, despite our average starts today. Hence the importance of giving it your all till the end.”
Cyril Dardashti, Team Manager: “The Gitana Team and the Edmond de Rothschild Group have begun their 3rd season on the Extreme Sailing Series circuit. With two successive second places in 2009 and 2010, I’d be lying if I said that the team’s goal this year is not to win. However, since our arrival on the circuit, the level has evolved a great deal and the world’s top players in the speciality are racing on the circuit today. To win this title will be everything except a formality. Pierre Pennec, who’s now helming Edmond de Rothschild Group, and his crew, have got off to a great start in the first Grand Prix of 2011, as they’re currently leading after three days of racing. It’s a great satisfaction that our new crew has been able to put up such a good fight on the water. These positive performances are also the fruit of the excellent work by our shore crew. Marie Dixneuf and Cyril Ducrot have been in Oman for the past month and haven’t been sparing in their efforts to ensure that the boat is prepared to perfection so a massive bravo to them!”
Provisional ranking for the Muscat Grand Prix on 22 February (after 17 races)
  1. Edmond de Rothschild Group– 133 points
  2. Artemis Racing – 130 points
  3. The Wave, Muscat – 124 points
  4. Alinghi – 121 points
  5. Red Bull Extreme Sailing – 119 points
  6. Luna Rossa – 102 points
  7. Emirates Team New Zealand – 101 points
  8. Oman Air – 101 points
  9. Team Extreme – 59 points
  10. Niceforyou – 37 points
  11. Team GAC Pindar – 29 points
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