Edmond de Rothschild Group finishes third and continues to head the championship
The Qingdao Grand Prix, the second of the season, has drawn to a close this afternoon after five days of intense racing where the eleven competing crews were able to test their potential in the full range of sailing conditions. Once again the suspense lingered until the last race of the last day! Leader of the championship, following their victory at the end of February in Oman, the performance by the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild was much awaited in this Chinese event. And despite what can at least be described as a difficult start to the Grand Prix – 7th at the end of the first race of the day – Pierre Pennec and his three crew knew just what it took to turn things around and take 3rd place in Qingdao after the last race in the competition. Edmond de Rothschild Group finished behind the Italians on Luna Rossa, the outright winner here in Qingdao, and the New Zealanders skippered by Dean Barker. This result has enabled the men from Gitana Team to hold onto the provisional lead of the championship.

The Extreme Sailing Series is unquestionably a school of patience and self-control. Fourth yesterday evening, Pierre Pennec and his men owed it to themselves to have an excellent day to assure their position and try to make it into the top three if possible. It was with this mindset that they took the start of the first race. Unfortunately the theory didn’t exactly play out in the beginning: “we never gave up during this event, even though we lost a lot of points after the first race contested today. In fact we got off to a really good start on port tack ahead of the fleet and were assured of finishing second in the race behind Artemis. However, at the end of the first tack, I got greedy and sought to hunt down pole position by putting in a turn exactly on the layline, which meant that I took an increased risk. We messed up our turn and copped a penalty. Our ninth place in that race really knocked the morale. On a personal level I convinced myself at that point that Grand Prix racing was a nightmare, but we refocused and steadied ourselves so we could move on” explained Pierre Pennec on his return to shore.

In the image of this Qingdao Grand Prix, the last day of racing started very badly for Edmond de Rothschild Group, but the most important thing is that it finished well. With three fourth places and two second places this Sunday, the crew led by Pierre Pennec concluded the day with a fantastic victory. A first place, which on crossing the finish line enabled them to score their second podium place of 2011 by pipping Red Bull and Alinghi to the post. Relieved with this outcome, the sailor from La Rochelle looked back at the highs and lows of this event: “I was having a bad week, but that happens sometimes. I didn’t feel like I was in phase over the last four days but today I felt a lot more at ease on the race zone. Out of the seven races run we always got good starts. Such consistency had been lacking up till then. We were quick, whether it was upwind or downwind, thanks to the perfect manœuvres performed by my crew. I’m really happy that we managed to snatch 3rd place in the Grand Prix. However, I’m not completely satisfied with this result because we have the potential to win and my three crew deserve it. I consider them to be the best of the bunch.”

Always speaking highly of his crew, Pierre Pennec has this to add: “It’s part and parcel of the race concept in the Extreme Sailing Series to make mistakes because all the ingredients are gathered together for that. I’m lucky to be heading such an excellent crew. We’re a very united group and the discussions are very open, which is one of our strengths. Aboard, even in critical situations, everyone stays calms and constructive. I’d even go so far as to say that we managed to up our game as the pressure mounted. We knew exactly how and when to use our trump card, which is a sure sign of the potential of Edmond de Rothschild Group’s crew.”

This hard won-third place proved very important for the championship ranking, where victory remains the main objective for Edmond de Rothschild Group. This evening, Pierre Pennec, Hervé Cunningham Thierry Fouchier and Christophe Espagnon, are still leading with a total of twenty points. Behind them, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are tied on eighteen points, whilst Red Bull, fourth, is lying in ambush with seventeen points: “I’m really happy that we’re leading in the overall ranking after two Grands Prix against such a great line-up. For the next stage I will have to continue to make progress at the helm and especially in the start phases, where I have to find the right compromise between the risk taking and the quality of the start,” concluded the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group.


The crew has its say

Christophe Espagnon, mainsail trimmer
“We achieved our aim of a podium place! We had a tough start to this last day but we finished it on a high by winning the last race of the Grand Prix, which was the most important one in terms of points. That pretty much sums up the Extreme Sailing Series. Despite our ninth place at the start of the day, we were keen to do well. As such we remained highly concentrated and everyone did their little bit towards the group’s motivation so we could hunt down this third place tonight. As regards the sailing conditions, there was some breeze expected but ultimately conditions were light. However, there was quite a chop and a considerable current which isn’t always very easy to anticipate. Today we may have taken fewer risks than on previous days during the start phases, but above all we did a good debriefing after each race, pointing out what problems needed to be erased without waffling. That paid off and I’m delighted about it.”

Hervé Cunningham, bowman
“The conditions encountered here in Qingdao were really complicated as they were so changeable. This type of weather is hard to deal with, especially for our helmsman Pierre Pennec who has to control the speed of the boat, as well as anticipate the strategies of our adversaries and observe the variations in the weather. This Qingdao Grand Prix dished out the full range of conditions over the past five days and it wasn’t an easy event. The wind oscillated between 0 and 25 knots and we sailed on flat seas as well as choppy seas. We were a bit off the pace on the first few days but we never stopped believing that we could make a comeback. In Extreme Sailing, the watchword is to give it your all because a single point can make all the difference and cost us a place or earn us a place. A lot of people had given up on us before this last day… our third place may appear to be the consolation prize but we’ve actually had the best day of the fleet. We knew when to play the opportunist! This Grand Prix has confirmed that our crew is very strong mentally. Even in the worst situations, we battle on.”

Thierry Fouchier, headsail trimmer
We ended a lot better than we began, fortunately! The really positive point of this Grand Prix was our speed across the water. I think we’re among the fastest four boats of the fleet and that often really helps. We’ve learnt a lot about our crew here and that can only be positive for the next stage. When things don’t go well aboard, we tell it how it is and, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the best way to make progress. Pierre doesn’t have an easy role, especially in conditions such as these, but he’s getting better and better at it. It’s not easy but he’s finding his bearings day by day. Before the last race, we were still fourth but we were tied on points with Alinghi which was third at the time. At that point we decided to sail our own race and do it as best we could. Pierre got off to a fantastic start and we won the race!”

Cyril Dardashti, team manager
“We’ll have to start getting used to the tension of the Extreme Sailing Series races, because everything can hang in the balance right up to the end, and this last race of the Qingdao Grand Prix was incredible. I’m naturally very happy with Edmond de Rothschild Group’s third place but I’m also very proud of our crew. They were given a rough ride but they knew what to do to turn that around and above all they never gave up. Marie and Cyril, who prepare the boat, obviously have something to do with this result because, despite the very windy conditions on the third day of racing, the crew had no equipment issues to report.”


Ranking for the Qingdao Grand Prix on 17 April (after twenty-eight races)

  1. Luna Rossa (ITA) – 227 points
  1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) – 222 points
  2. Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) – 214 points
  3. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) – 200 points
  4. Alinghi (SUI) – 198 points
  5. Artemis Racing (SWE) – 174 points
  6. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) – 150 points
  7. Team Extreme (EUR) – 141 points
  8. Oman Air (OMA) – 137 points
  9. Niceforyou (ITA) – 122 points
  10. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 64 points


Ranking for the Extreme Sailing Series 2011 after the Qingdao Grand Prix

  1. Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) – 20 points
  2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) – 18 points
  3. Luna Rossa (ITA) – 18 points
  4. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) – 17 points
  5. Artemis Racing (SWE) – 16 points
  6. Alinghi (SUI) – 13 points
  7. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) – 10 points
  8. Team Extreme (EUR) – 7 points
  9. Oman Air (OMA) – 7 points
  10. Niceforyou (ITA) – 4 points
  11. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 2 point


The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group

Pierre Pennec - Helmsman, skipper
Christophe Espagnon – Mainsail trimmer, tactics
Thierry Fouchier – Headsail trimmer
Hervé Cunningham - Bowman


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