Edmond de Rothschild Group dominates the first day in Cowes
The first day of the Cowes Grand Prix took place in some perfect sailing conditions. Initially overcast, the skies cleared as the competition got underway. The wind also echoed this increase in power and the last race of the day was marked by brilliant sunshine and an established breeze of around twenty knots. Pierre Pennec and his men enjoyed a highly successful introduction to proceedings on the waters of the Solent for this fifth meeting in the Extreme Sailing Series. Winning three of the four races contested this Saturday, the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is heading the provisional ranking this evening. Hot on their heels is the crew of Luna Rossa, just one point down on the men from Gitana Team, while The Wave Muscat completes this provisional podium. The battle is on…

“It’s a very good day for Edmond de Rothschild Group, with three race victories of the four run. We knew just what we needed to do to score a win, despite two poor starts. I’m lucky enough to be supported by a very physical crew which likes the breeze and today we managed to get the boat to a stage where she was absolutely smoking” admitted Pierre Pennec, on his return to the pontoons of Venture Quays.

The Cowes Grand Prix is much appreciated for these boisterous sailing conditions and a spectacle is always guaranteed with a fleet of boats which are racing on the edge. Once again this year, the only English stage of the circuit for the Extreme Sailing Series seems to be living up to its reputation. That was the case this Saturday anyway, as the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group explains: “The conditions encountered on the race zone today were fairly stressful but really perfect in terms of the sailing. The wind picked up over the course of the afternoon. Given the numerous boats competing, the size of the courses proposed by the race committee and the current mixed in with the wind, we aren’t always in charge of our trajectory… Things come down to a matter of centimetres and we just avoided contact with our competitors on numerous occasions. All that takes a great deal of concentration on board, whether it’s during the races or in the intervals between them.”

Though the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group is satisfied with its introduction to the competition, it hasn’t lost sight of the fact that the Cowes Grand Prix will be a long one – seven days of racing compared with five during the other Grands Prix – and that the four races contested on this opening day count for very little in the grand scheme of things, especially as some very strong wind is forecast across the Isle of Wight for the next two days. “It’s always pleasant to begin a Grand Prix in this way, but there are still six days of racing and from tomorrow things are going to get tougher with a very strong wind expected here. The forecasts are announcing wind of between 25 and 30 knots and if that is confirmed we’ll certainly be racing in groups (four boats per race) and not in a fleet like today. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning to get a clearer impression but whatever happens, if we’re racing, it’s going to be full-on!” assured Pierre Pennec.


The crew speaks out:

Thierry Fouchier, headsail trimmer: “ Conditions got fresher and fresher as the day went on. Initially we raced in a manageable wind of between 10 and 12 knots, before it filled in to reach 20 knots or more in the gusts. We got off to two very good starts in the first two races, which we went on to win. We didn’t manage to reproduce this strategy in the third and fourth race, but despite that we knew when to strike and got back into the thick of the action each time. On the last race of the day, bearing in mind the wind on the race zone, the committee forced us to put in a reef in our mainsail and sail without the gennaker (Ed’s note: large downwind headsail) and it was a wise decision. It prevented some less than academic wipe-outs on the first day of racing. Days like this require more concentration and risk management rather than physical force per se. I think that the committee opted to launch just four races, which is relatively few for an Extreme day, because the wind was building and the current turned, which picked up bigger seas at the start of the afternoon (a phenomenon of wind over tide).”

Cyril Ducrot, boat captain:With Marie (Marie Dixneuf is the team’s preparateur in charge of composites), we have a bit of work on our hands this evening due to a few collisions. The priority is on getting the boat sailing tomorrow so if, according to Marie’s expert opinion, we note that the definitive repairs will require more time to work on than we have, we’ll initially do the essential jobs so that she is in a fit enough state to sail tomorrow in total safety, then we’ll do what we refer to as the ‘cosmetics’ a little later. The weather conditions which govern this Cowes Grand Prix are a bit more stressful for our team, who are in charge of the technical preparation, as breakage can occur at any moment, whether it’s following a collision or worse still during a capsize. With this in mind, Marie is on shore preparing our emergency mast just in case we need to make a rapid switch. We have also doubled up on a lot of equipment to be ready for any eventuality. The Cowes Grand Prix also requires us to work on the appendages (rudders, daggerboards…) as the Extremes sail immediately next to each other and the crews seek to protect themselves from the currents by taking an inshore option. Unfortunately the rocks aren’t marked and that can cause damage. As far as the results are concerned, it’s a very good day for the crew and it’s motivating for us to work in such a context.”


Ranking for the Cowes Grand Prix at the end of the 1st day (4 races)

  1. Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) – 43 points
  2. Luna Rossa (ITA) – 42 points
  3. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) – 34 points
  4. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) – 33 points
  5. Alinghi (SUI) – 28 points
  6. Artemis Racing (SWE) – 27 points
  7. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 27 points
  8. Oman Air (OMA) – 24 points
  9. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) – 19 points
  10. Niceforyou (ITA) – 19 points
  11. Aberdeen Asset Management (UK) – 12 points
  12. Team Extreme (EUR) – 1 point

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