Eventful day for the Extreme Sailing Series fleet
This Friday afternoon, which marked the third day of competition in the Qingdao Grand Prix, involved high drama and a number of upsets on the leaderboard. Indeed the Chinese race zone has made life difficult for the sailors in the Extreme Sailing Series, even laying out some competitors. Ultimately no less than four capsizes were lamented in the fleet of eleven Extreme 40s, three of which occurred in the last race of the day. Still fifth this evening, Pierre Pennec and his men have managed to hold onto yesterday’s position and are now making an even more concerted effort to move up through the provisional ranking. They currently have a nine point deficit in relation to Red Bull, third, and eighteen in relation to the undisputed leader of this event, Emirates Team New Zealand.

The Qingdao race zone is a real meteorological headache as it proved again today. In rather more wind than on the previous two days, which revealed itself to be very shifty as it was especially unstable, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group really had their work cut out:On the race zone, the wind was oscillating a great deal both in terms of strength and direction. We had 0 to 25 knots, with a prevailing wind as we only had a light breeze at the start of the second race and very irregular wind in terms of direction, with variations of over 100° caused by the numerous buildings surrounding the port. The gusts are still the most dangerous thing on the water because the boats fly their hulls high despite the trimming. The whole crew were extremely focused on the sheets and were constantly telling me about the upcoming wind and what was happening to our rivals on the race zone so as possible problems could be anticipated” explained Pierre Pennec.

In the stiff conditions of this third day, the men of Gitana Team alternated between a very good performance, by winning one of the four races, and the less good. This evening though, the skipper of the one-design Gitana put the result itself to one side and couldn’t conceal his satisfaction at returning to port with a boat and crew that were intact: “In oscillating winds like those we encountered today, there’s no point taking risks at the starts, however you do need to be opportunistic everywhere and be able to tack when you want on the first gust so as to get the right side of it. Today it was my baptism of fire as a helmsman in these kinds of conditions and on these short courses. I’m just learning and I still have quite a few errors to erase so we don’t lose points foolishly”, admitted the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group. “Despite all that, I’m happy this evening because we’ve ended the day on a positive note as we did yesterday. We won the last race fair and square and it wasn’t the easiest we’ve had.” Indeed it was during this last race that three of the four capsizes that occurred today took place.

Tomorrow, on the penultimate day of the Qingdao Grand Prix, the wind is set to quieten down in the Chinese city, enabling the fleet of Extreme 40s to contest its first race at 1300 hours (local time, or GMT+7). Let’s hope that those one-designs who suffered damage will all be able to make the start line.


The crew has its say

Thierry Fouchier, headsail trimmer
“What an epic day! Physically it wasn’t the most difficult we’ve had because in the big breeze we don’t necessarily have all the sail aloft, as we might in medium winds. However, the four races this Friday did test the nerves as they required a great deal of concentration. Aboard in these conditions, you have to be very clear about the information communicated to each other. That means few words but the right words. You had to be particularly attentive to the gusts today, because they could hit us from just about every direction and we had to be in a position to anticipate them as best we could so as not to suffer the same misfortunes as some of our adversaries.”


Hervé Cunningham, bowman
“The gusts are hard to read on the race zone but you have to anticipate them as best you can to come through it and sail safely. With these conditions, we really have to watch out for our playmates because often it’s while crossing tacks or rounding the marks that you can put yourself in some complicated situations. That was often where the capsizes took place today. You have to find the right compromise between the racing and the safety and only being able to anticipate the situation enables that. We didn’t scare ourselves. It wasn’t that full-on because the sea was fairly flat and we didn’t have any wild gusts. Despite all that though, when you look at what’s happening around you, you do worry about capsizing because it can reduce your sporting objectives in the championship to nothing. The important thing is to remain human in all that, because after these capsizes I hope there is no injury. Breaking material is always a shame but you can get going again from that.”


Cyril Dardashti, team manager: 
"It was a really testing day for the competitors with some very windy and tricky conditions. Our four sailors managed the situation very well and they’ve returned to port with a boat that’s in tip-top condition. However, we know only too well that in the Extreme 40, we can very quickly end up on the other side of the scale given that the competition is so tight. This evening my thoughts go out to the shore crews – and particularly that of Oman Sail – who will have to work relentlessly all night so their crews will be able to get back on the race zone tomorrow.”


Provisional ranking for the Qingdao Grand Prix on 15 April (after sixteen races)

  1. Emirates Team New Zealand – 134 points
  2. Alinghi – 127 points
  3. Red Bull Extreme Sailing – 125 points
  4. Luna Rossa – 124 points
  5. Edmond de Rothschild Group – 116 points
  6. Artemis Racing – 96 points
  7. The Wave, Muscat – 85 points
  8. Niceforyou – 81 points
  9. Team Extreme – 76 points
  10. Oman Air – 60 points
  11. Team GAC Pindar – 28 points
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