Gentle start in Trapani
The first day of competition in the Trapani Grand Prix enjoyed perfect conditions sunshine and temperatures in excess of 27°C even though the light breeze blowing around the Sicilian city this afternoon appeared to be a bit too gentle for the ten competing crews. Indeed the wind oscillated between four and eight knots during the five races run this Wednesday by the Race Committee for the Extreme Sailing Series. Just a light zephyr of wind then but the main difficulty of the day lay more in the random and rather unpredictable nature of the air flow. More at ease in strong wind rather than light airs, Pierre Pennec and his men had a gentle start to the competition. They take sixth place in the provisional overall standing tonight, hot on the heels of their rivals.

It’s summer in the Mediterranean! The blazing sunshine and the associated temperatures come as a stark contrast to the boisterous conditions encountered by the crews in the Extreme Sailing series during the last event, which took place in Cowes in early August. Though the Solent has a formidable reputation as a race zone, the same is true of the blue waters of the Mediterranean, where the top sailors are renowned for their powers of elusiveness: “The race zone, which we’ll familiarise ourselves with over the first days of racing, is pretty difficult to decipher. It’s a multifaceted race zone. The playing field is dotted with wind holes or, the reverse of that, zones where the wind is a little stronger. This provides us with very shifty, irregular conditions. These are tricky conditions in my position as they call for constant trimming and lots of observation so as to provide Pierre with the maximum amount of information at the helm. Indeed, it’s just as complicated for the helmsman, who has to continually adapt the selected tactics to suit the small but numerous wind oscillations. Races like those contested today, aren’t physically tiring but they do require a lot of concentration, which calls for energy”, admitted Thierry Fouchier. “When there’s little wind as there was today, Hervé, Christophe and I spend our day as far forward as possible on the boat to help her make headway. Any movement on the boat is as small as possible to prevent the boat from breaking her momentum. I’m in charge of trimming the headsails and as such I spent my day stretched out on the floats trimming the jib and gennaker. As a result, save for the big blue skies, I didn’t see much of the racing, strange as that may seem!”

The skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group also gave us his assessment of the past day: “I wasn’t very pertinent at the starts today. We know that setting out with the lead boats is often synonymous with the top spots in these races, which goes a long way to explaining why my average starts have led us to this 6th place this evening. I didn’t find the right angles to get us where we wanted to go. We debriefed that thoroughly with my crew and I’ll have to work on that for tomorrow. Similarly choosing to take less of an extreme option on the line will also be worth considering as it proved to be a winning formula for the leader. Aboard the boat the crew is united and the atmosphere is excellent, which augurs very well for the coming days. We’re going to have to raise our game but we know that’s something we’re capable of.”

This evening, a quick scan of the provisional standing testifies to the very similar performances on the water as the top eight catamarans are within twenty points of each other. Edmond de Rothschild Group ranks midway up the leaderboard in sixth position. However, the most important thing for the next stage in this event is that the men from Gitana Team manage to stay in contact with their direct rivals as there are just four points between them after today’s results. Alinghi, particularly consistent in these light, oscillating winds, has really packed a punch today to get a slight edge over their adversaries. Tanguy Cariou’s men close this opening day of the competition in the top spot.

Tomorrow, the day promises to be pretty similar to today: racing starts at 1400 hours local time, at the foot of Erice Mountain, which dominates the town of Trapani, and the wind is unlikely to exceed 8 knots; that is unless the thermal breeze kicks in. Indeed the latter is synonymous with a few additional knots of breeze, which would certainly puff out the sails of the Extreme Sailing Series fleet.

Ranking in the Trapani Grand Prix after the 1st day
1. Alinghi (SUI) – 48 points
2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) – 39 points
3. Oman Air (OMA) - 35 points
4. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) – 34 points
5. Luna Rossa (ITA) – 33 points
6. Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) – 32 points
7. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) – 31 points
8. Team Extreme (EUR) - 29 points
9. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 25 points
10. Niceforyou (ITA) - 19 points
11. Artemis Racing (SWE) - 0 point

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