The contrast is striking: ten days ago in Trapani, we left the Extreme Sailing Series stage after a largely windy Grand Prix, particularly on the last day of the competition, where the one-designs thrilled the public in Sicily through their speed and agility whilst flying a hull. This afternoon it was an entirely different scenario in the Bay of Angels and the crews of the catamarans had to double up on the concentration and tactical prowess in order to drive their steeds, as Pierre Pennec explained: “The wind proved to be very timid today and rarely exceeded five knots, with the exception of ten short minutes where it may well have just hit six knots… More than light, it was relatively stable however. The race zone dished out a few curve balls because in the prevailing calm conditions, there were some zones where there was virtually no wind at all. As such it all came down to avoiding such areas, whilst trying to favour the side of the race course which appeared to have slightly more breeze.”
With the exception of the first race of the day, where the men from Gitana Team were penalised for jumping the start, Edmond de Rothschild Group always had what it took to move up into the top four. Such a consistent performance came about through some great approaches at the start, which is always so crucial on the Extreme 40 circuit, as well as the tenacity displayed by the crew, a trait demonstrated in the fourth and final race of the day. Positioned at the back of the fleet at the first course mark, the men on the French catamaran didn’t give up and knew just how to make the most of some small strategic coups offered up by the azure waters and end the race in fourth place. “Since the start of the season, we’ve found it a bit tricky to start off well in the Grands Prix, especially as I seemed to need time to get my bearings in all the start phases. Today, despite there only being four races, we managed to be in on the action more quickly. The crew was fairly at ease on a tactical level and the communication was very fluid between the four of us. Starting off with such mild weather conditions certainly helps, even though the light airs haven’t exactly been our speciality up till now”, admitted Pierre Pennec.
This French leg comprises a new element for the Gitana Team. Indeed Philippe Mourniac, a highly skilled competitor from the Olympic Tornado circuit, is supporting Pierre Pennec and his crew as team coach. This new arrival explains what’s involved in this job title: “My role is to pass on my expertise to the crew, whether it’s from a competitive or strategic viewpoint, or even something relating to the rules which govern the races. I take a step back and look at the team with a trained eye, though I know these boats too as I’ve taken part in some Extreme Grands Prix. The intensity of the races and the rhythm imposed by the race format only gives the crew a very short amount of time to look at what’s lacking before another race is run. On the water then, I’m there to synthesize things and give them fast solutions. In the evening, I naturally debrief them more calmly.” On this first day, Pierre Pennec admits that Philippe’s presence is already proving to be a real bonus: “Philippe’s arrival alongside us is very positive and we’re already feeling the effects of his presence. On the water, his status as an enlightened observer has provided us with some excellent indications. He gets involved and confirms the sensations that we can feel but not necessarily analyse with any degree of pertinence that very instant.”
Second in the provisional standing after this first day of competition in Nice, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group naturally returned to shore with satisfaction, though they’re only too aware that this is just the start: “The result of the Sicily Grand Prix gave us a confidence boost. It’s always a lot nicer to be in second place in the provisional standing rather than say tenth, however today may not necessarily be representative of the next stage in proceedings. First of all, we only competed in four races, which is very few in the grand scheme of things. Added to that, I have complete confidence that our rivals, such as Team New Zealand or The Wave Muscat, will very quickly put today’s results behind them. The level will pick up and we’ll have to follow the trend”, explained the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group. Indeed it’s worth noting the fine day enjoyed by Red Bull Sailing Team, which has taken pole position tonight, four points clear of Gitana Extreme. Another team putting up a star performance was Jean-Pierre Dick and his men, who really created a stir by concluding the day on the third step of the podium, tied on points with Pierre Pennec’s crew. Indeed, they’re taking part in their very first event of the circuit.
Tomorrow, the race committee for the Extreme Sailing Series has chosen to adapt to the weather conditions reigning over the Côte d’Azur. In this way, they’ll be offering the eleven competing crews a unique programme, splitting the day in two. As such, the one-design catamarans will cast off shortly after 0800 hours for a first warning signal scheduled an hour later. They’ll race until 1100 hours local time, prior to heading back to the port of Nice for a few hours. Then at 1400 hours, the fleet of Extreme 40s will be back on the race zone in the Bay of Angels. By adding these morning races to the scoreboard, the organisers hope to benefit from the remnants of the nocturnal thermal breeze, which should provide the crew with steadier sailing conditions.
Ranking for the Nice Grand Prix after the 1st day
- Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) - 35 points
- Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) - 31 points
- Team Extreme (EUR) - 31 points
- Artemis Racing (SWE) - 29 point
- Alinghi (SUI) - 24 points
- Niceforyou (ITA) - 24 points
- Oman Air (OMA) – 22 points
- Luna Rossa (ITA) - 22 points
- Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 21 points
- The Wave, Muscat (OMA) - 17 points
- Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) - 8 points