An armchair for four
The noose is tightening and the pressure is rising in the Sultanate of Oman. Whilst the end of the first meeting of the season is beginning to draw to a close, four crews are still in with a chance of one of the top spots in the Extreme Sailing Series 2012 circuit. Out in front from the first evening of competition, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group is fully assuming its status as leader and continues to lead the way. However, the die is far from cast given how close the top four teams are on the leaderboard.

For this third day of racing, The Wave Muscat race zone proved to be more animated thanks to a sea breeze which gradually built with every passing race. These few extra knots, which were somewhat lacking yesterday, enabled the Extreme Sailing Series fleet to final express their acrobatic potential: “Today, in contrast to what the grib files were saying, the wind freshened throughout the afternoon. Indeed the seven knots polled on exiting the marina filled to reach twelve knots by the end of the day. Even though conditions were perfectly manageable given the flat sea, the eight races were more physical for my crew this Thursday”, explained Pierre Pennec. This sentiment was quickly echoed by Bernard Labro, bowman onboard: “There was a bit more breeze today than during previous days. For the post I have aboard the boat, this translates as more intensive and above all more physical races. As regards the racing, the difficulty lay in the fact that, in contrast to yesterday, we sailed the same course for all eight races, with reaching starts (wind on the beam). This type of start gives just one or two boats the edge at the top mark, whilst the rest of the fleet end up bunched together with more contact phases to contend with. As such a reaching start is even more crucial than a normal start.”

Winner of two races today but roughly treated on several occasions, the Extreme 40 Edmond de Rothschild Group experienced a mixed day. Despite all that, Pierre Pennec’s men stuck together and are still holding onto the lead they gained on the first day of racing: “Today had its ups and downs. The courses are so short that the slightest blip can put a spanner in the works. There are some situations where you end up blocked by previous situations and then you’re just caught in a downward spiral”, joked Bernard Labro, with his familiar and ever-present humour.

For his part, Thierry Peponnet, the sports coach for Edmond de Rothschild Group, explained some of the key difficulties encountered by the crew: “it was a bit more difficult for us today, even though it hasn’t affected the points tally with our closest rival, Oman Air. However, The Wave Muscat and Red Bull both enjoyed good days and made up ground on us in the last races. Today’s results have revealed errors which need to be corrected tomorrow. The starts are the first thing, since we had two early starts out of the eight races run: one was related to a problem with timing and the other was a poor approach at the start line. We need to be a lot stricter about getting the exact timing as we were two seconds out which is inexcusable. Another problem identified was the configuration where the crew get off to a good start but get swallowed up by the bulk of the fleet, who come up from behind with the wind. We have to better anticipate these types of situations by quickly getting clear of the main group and hunting clean air. I’m confident because the crew showed yesterday that they knew what it took to get back into the game, even when things seemed like a lost cause. That is an excellent sentiment.”

In the provisional standing with one day to go till the end of the event, the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is taking the pressure and is still leading the way. However the threat of Oman Air is very much in evidence because, like yesterday, Morgan Larson and his men are just one point shy of Edmond de Rothschild Group’s transom. In their pursuit they’ve been joined by The Wave Muscat and Red Bull Sailing Team, who respectively have a deficit of five and eleven points in relation to the leader. That just goes to show how bitterly contested the upcoming races will be and notably the famous double-point scoring final race.

Winner here last year, Pierre Pennec and his crew will be giving their all to try to pull off a double whammy against their rivals and kick off the season in style. Response tomorrow shortly after 1700 hours (1300 UTC).

The sixth crew member

During this first leg of the 2012 season, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group is being supported by Thierry Peponnet. From the French seaside town of Sète by adoption, he sees the role of coach as more of an extra crew member off the boat and, above all, he is a fine sailor and tactician. Indeed a few lines from his list of achievements testify to this: double Olympic 470 medallist (Bronze during the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and Gold in Seoul in 1988), 5th in the World Match Racing Series in 1997, three participations in the America’s Cup as tactician (1995, 2000 and 2007… For the past three years, Thierry has swapped his racing foulies for the garb of a passionate coach. He’s supported projects on the TP52 circuit and is currently assisting the French boat in the Volvo Ocean Race as well as an English crew on the Maxi World Series. The coach presented us with the key points of his mission: “It’s the first time that I’ve worked on the Extreme Sailing Series and the first time with the Gitana Team and Pierre Pennec too. My role is as much to do with dissecting and analysing what’s happening on Edmond de Rothschild Group as drawing a comparison with the other competitors, particularly with the trimming. I’m out on the water the whole day, which also enables me to give them my tactical view of the race zone. The following morning, we set up an on-the-spot debriefing of the previous day’s races with videos as back-up. This crew has some great qualities and has very good potential.”

The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group

Pierre Pennec (Skipper / helm),

Jean-Christophe Mourniac (mainsail trimmer and traveller),

Hervé Cunningham (headsail trimmer),

Bernard Labro (Bowman)

Adeline Chatenet

Standing for the Muscat Grand Prix after the third day (eight races run)
  1. Edmond de Rothschild Group - 121 points
  2. Oman Air - 120 points
  3. The Wave Muscat – 116 points
  4. Red Bull Sailing Team – 110 points
  5. GAC Pindar - 102 points
  6. Zoulou – 85 points
  7. Alinghi - 74 points
  8. Team Trifork – 64 points

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