Geared up for high tension, this fourth day of the Muscat Grand Prix certainly didn’t disappoint, particularly with the wind gods having opted to abandon the race zone in a bid to spice up the task in hand for the eight competing crews. The light airs, which punctuated today’s seven races, didn’t smile on the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. Roughly treated from the opening race, Pierre Pennec and his crew didn’t manage to reverse the trend, with the exception of the final race: “We stuffed up the final day by linking together a series of mistakes and penalties, but that’s the name of the game in this sport. Today didn’t pan out as we’d have liked and these things happen. Despite all this, while the crew could have given up, we finished second in the final race. It’s good for the spirits and encouraging for the next stage to round off this Grand Prix on a positive note. On a personal level, I’ve really enjoyed sailing with this crew. We’re in the game and we have a team which has the potential to win. As a competitor, you couldn’t ask much more than that”, admitted Jean-Christophe Mourniac, as his team waited patiently at the foot of the podium set up on The Wave’s beach.
For his part, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group admitted that they were on the edge this Friday, though he had absolutely no regrets about the decisions made on the water: “we were in it to win it and I took risks which were entirely my responsibility, particularly in the contact phases. This was not our day today, but there will be a lot more that will turn in our favour… I’m sure of that. We’re already learning from our mistakes and that’s why we’ll leave Oman with a clear view of the points we need to work on. We’re up and running and the way we’ve prepared the ground here gives me confidence for the rest of the season.”
In fact, more than the third place gleaned this Friday, Pierre Pennec was keen to highlight the work carried out by his crew. Indeed most of the group is new to this competition for the 2012 season, with the arrival of two new recruits and the change of position for Hervé Cunningham, one of the cornerstones of the team: “Even though it may seem strange to say so, given that we finished third, I’m very happy with this week of competition. I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the water and even though I’m attacking my fourth year in the Extreme 40, the past few days have been a steep learning curve. The crew which was sailing here for the first time demonstrated great potential in technical, human and mental terms. Despite the little training we had in the build-up to this event, as a result of our respective availabilities, the group has already made a great deal of progress and is moving forward. Each of the crew has added their little stone – their rock – to the overall structure, including Thierry Peponnet, who has shared his experience as a coach with us in a simple manner. We picked ourselves up in the races and dug deep in the final race as we could have ended up fourth, so that just goes to show how strong the group is, which enabled us to remain united during the tricky moments.” This attitude underlines how successful the integration of Bernard Labro (bowman) and Jean-Christophe Mourniac (traveller) has been; backed up by Hervé Cunningham’s switch to the position of headsail trimmer.
Pierre Pennec and Edmond de Rothschild Group are attacking their fourth year in the Extreme Sailing Series circuit. As such they have enough experience to know that consistency is the name of the game in this championship. It’s a point stressed by Cyril Dardashti, general manager of Gitana Team: “A leg victory was within our grasp but getting a podium place is still a very fine performance. It’s important not to focus on a single event as there are eight which make up the season and you have to be present at all of them to win the title. Winning Grands Prix is always very important, but this year our aim is clearly to add the Extreme Sailing Series title to Gitana Team’s list of achievements. Outright victory is something the whole team want to give the owners of the boat, Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild, as well as the Edmond de Rothschild Group, all of whom have shown unfailing support for us.”
During the previous two seasons, Edmond de Rothschild Group has stood out from the opening act of the year (Sète in 2010 andMuscatin 2011), but victory in the annual championship has been denied them on two occasions… Interestingly, Figaro sailors tend to refuse to win the prologue in La Solitaire du Figaro, because history has it that the sailor who wins this race never wins the outright title. Could it be that Pierre Pennec and his men are caught up in superstition? Obviously the answer is no, but this veiled message is worth pointing out.
The next meeting of the season will take the Extreme Sailing Series fleet to the OlympicportofQingdao, inChina. The races for the second act will take place from 17 to 20 April.
The two Omani boats have a place of honour on home waters
At ease at the front of the fleet from day one of the competition, Morgan Larson has secured first place on the Omani podium this evening. It’s an outstanding start for the American skipper who was helming Oman Air for the first time. In so doing, he beat the second one-design to fly the flag of the Sultanate of Oman, skippered by Leigh McMillan. Pierre Pennec saluted the performance by his rivals: “There was a fine first place and a fine second place and I’m stoked for them that they’ve ranked so well on home waters. They will be serious contenders this season, but it comes as no surprise. Oman Sail is a fine team which has been a key protagonist on the circuit for some years and their victory is much deserved.”
The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group
Pierre Pennec (Skipper / helm),
Jean-Christophe Mourniac (Trimmer and traveller),
Hervé Cunningham (Headsail trimmer),
Bernard Labro (Bowman)
Thierry Peponnet (Sports coach)
Standing for the Muscat Grand Prix (after 29 races)
- OmanAir - 165 points
- The WaveMuscat- 159 points
- Edmond de Rothschild Group - 155 points
- Red Bull Sailing Team – 148 points
- GAC Pindar – 138 points
- Zoulou – 111 points
- Alinghi – 109 points
- Team Trifork – 95 points