Observation round in Qingdao
For the second year running, the Qingdao race zone which accommodated the sailing events during the last Olympic Games is playing host to the 40-feet one-designs in the Extreme Sailing Series. Today, the protagonists had a gentle start in which to contest the initial races. At the end of the six races run this Tuesday, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Gorup is lying in ambush in fourth place in the provisional standing.

Fine weather, smooth seas… the weather conditions encountered by Pierre Pennec and his men during the two days of training on Chinese waters seemed to be a far cry from those experienced today. Indeed the thick fog which enveloped the Extreme Sailing Series fleet during the preparation phase, today gave way to a generous sunshine and a light inshore breeze: “there was around six knots of breeze during the first race and it built a little over the course of the afternoon. Despite this, it remained pretty irregular in terms of strength and we must have had between five and nine knots over the following five races. However, the sun came out and we had flat seas, which provided us with some fine sailing conditions to kick-off this China Grand Prix”, explained Pierre Pennec on his return to the Olympic marina in Qingdao.

“Today we raced around some virtually identical courses. On the first beat, there was clearly a favourable side of the race zone and a favourable spot on the start line, which worked very well. However, it was a hard spot to secure and above all it was riskier than the middle of the line as solely one or two boat managed to extricate themselves correctly. I wasn’t very incisive with positioning the boat during these start phases and as a crew we didn’t manage to latch onto the right tempo. We were either too late or too early across the line. Improving on that will obviously be part of this evening’s debrief so we can perform better tomorrow”, explained the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group. Red Bull Sailing Team and The Wave Muscat, who are respectively in first and second place in the provisional standing this evening, were able to get a handle on this crucial phase of the game. With three race victories out of the six contested, Leigh McMillan’s men were logically in with a chance of topping the leaderboard. However, that wouldn’t have taken into account the great consistency demonstrated by the Austrian team, whose worst result of the day was a third place!

Despite the difficulties expressed about the starts, the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild pulled off some great performances. The tenacity and cohesion displayed by Pierre Pennec and his men thus enabled them to snatch fourth position, just shy of the freshly formed top trio: “Our standing is a true reflection of how we performed on the water today. My crew were able to stick together and get some great speeds out of the boat, despite not being the first out of the starting blocks. They have a high technical and physical ability which enables me to follow the wind as I want to, without me having to worry about the upcoming manoeuvres. In addition to their respective talents, the spirit which reigned aboard the boat is a major asset”, commented Pierre Pennec.

After today’s six races outside the harbour, tomorrow the nine crews will head inshore to the stadium, which lies at the heart of the Extreme Sailing Series concept. In terms of the race zone, the switch of sailing zone in Qingdao counts for a lot. Indeed, during the next three days of competition, the men from Edmond de Rothschild Group and their adversaries will have to contend with the sea wall and the numerous skyscrapers which surround the playing field, all of which are sure to disrupt the wind. With light airs forecast, they will have to respond super fast and play their opportunist cards because on the Extreme circuit, more so than elsewhere, places can be won and lost in the blink of an eye.

Battle will recommence from 1300 hours (local time), or 0500 UTC, for the start of the second day of competition.

The crew speak out

Though the hard core of an Extreme Sailing Series crew comprises four sailors, this year the organisation was keen to add a new crew member so as to bring the sailing team up to five sailors. A newcomer in the role of fifth man, Romain Petit shares his first impressions with us as an Extreme 40 crew member: “I’m an amateur racer with a classic sailing background, which began with the Optimist and then went on to the 420. I’ve been sailing catamarans for some ten years now and I’m very familiar with the Formula 18. To have the chance to sail on this type of boat is a superb opportunity for me and to be part of such a top level fleet is pretty impressive. I’m slowly getting my bearings within the crew, who give me some little tasks to perform during the races. My role onboard involves a few changes compared with the original organisation. Indeed during the previous Grand Prix the 5th man wasn’t used in quite the same way, but this seems to work well for everyone. My aim is to take the pressure off Pierre as much as possible, especially through assisting with the gennaker hoist or adjusting the daggerboards, so as they can save time and be effective in other areas.”

The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group

Pierre Pennec (Skipper / helmsman),

Jean-Christophe Mourniac (trimmer and mainsail traveller),

Hervé Cunningham (headsail trimmer),

Bernard Labro (Bowman)

Romain Petit (5th man)

Alexandre Guyader (Sports coach)

Standing for the Qingdao Grand Prix after the first day (six races run)
  1. Red Bull Sailing Team - 47 points
  2. The Wave Muscat - 44 points
  3. GAC Pindar - 37 points
  4. Edmond de Rothschild Group - 32 points
  5. Oman Air - 28 points
  6. Alinghi - 26 points
  7. Zoulou - 24 points
  8. China Team - 18 points
  9. SAP Extreme Sailing Team - 14 points
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