Rounding off with Rio the marvellous
The end of the season is approaching for Gitana Team. Whilst the trimaran Edmond de Rothschild Group has taken shelter in its winter quarters at the team’s technical base in Lorient for a complete check-up, the Extreme 40 is preparing to compete in the seventh and final Grand Prix of the Extreme Sailing Series 2012. It’s in the marvellous bay of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, that the competition will draw to a close; a first for the circuit. On Thursday 6 December, Pierre Pennec and his crew will have four days of decisive racing ahead of them. It promises to be a closely fought battle and it’s likely we’ll have to wait for the final moments of the competition before we finally discover the hierarchy of the 2012 podium. Thanks to their victory in Nice in mid-October, the men on the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild are right back in contention. They are currently lying in third place in the provisional standing, all too aware that the competition remains open and determined not to let their chance slip from their grasp.
Extreme Sailing Series, the grand finale in Rio de Janeiro

Having arrived in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night, Edmond de Rothschild Group’s crew joined the catamaran’s two préparateurs, Sébastien Stephant and Hubert Corfmat. Though yesterday, Monday, was entirely devoted to assembling the boat, Tuesday marked the start of on-the-water training for all the teams (nine in total with the invitation to Team Brasil skippered by Torben Grael). The first tack-about on Brazilian waters couldn’t have come too soon for Pierre Pennec, who was keen to get the measure of the site: “It’s fantastic to be able to sail in a bay such as this! The race zone is original and it’ll be a complete revelation for the crew. The info we have for now indicates an inland playing field with little wind, surrounded by land, which could lead to a number of special effects on the site. The few hours of training we’ll have prior to the Grand Prix will be very important in enabling us to get our bearings and size up the place. This is particularly true given how similar the performance of the fleet is in the light airs. The tactics, the positioning at the start and the risk taking will be predominant,” explained the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group.

With regards the annual ranking, the die certainly hasn’t been cast as this Grand Prix will score a 1.5 point coefficient, as was the case at the meet in Nice. Prior to this seventh and final regatta of the season, Pierre Pennec and his four crew are in third place in the provisional standing, just two points shy of Oman Air in second place. Despite the men of Gitana Team preferring to keep their minds on what’s ahead of them, they also know that they’ll have to remain on their guard and keep a careful eye on what’s going on behind them. Indeed Red Bull Sailing Team, currently lying in fourth place, is just two and a half points shy of the French catamaran: “Rio is the last meet in the Extreme Sailing Series 2012 and it’s the final Grand Prix which will determine the hierarchy of the season’s podium. As such it’s going to be a very hard fought battle. Mathematically first place is still accessible but The Wave has a good lead and has always sailed well this season. There’s still everything to play for as far as the rest of fleet is concerned. Today Edmond de Rothschild Group is still in with a chance of finishing 2nd, 3rd or 4th! Our main rivals are Oman Air and Red Bull. These two crews are capable of winning in Rio. Morgan Larson is a Match Racing specialist and we’re expecting him to create a great many contact phases to destabilise us. Roman Hagara has also demonstrated that he’s a force to be reckoned with during the first days of racing and has gained in strength throughout the year,” Pierre Pennec says, before going on to explain the mindset with which he and his men will be tackling the Brazilian Grand Prix: “The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group are on a roll after our victory in Nice. We’re going to set everything up so that we can keep heading in that direction. The aim is to really work in this Grand Prix, taking each race as it comes, without trying to focus too much on the overall standing. We’ve had some tough times this year, with some lows like the ones in Porto and Cardiff, but we’ll battle right the way to the finish so we can get the best possible result at the end of this event in Rio.”

The first races, contested on Thursday, will take the nine crews just off the famous Copacabana Beach for the offshore races. Then on Friday the Extreme Sailing Series fleet will make for Flamengo Beach, inside Guanabara Bay, for three days of competition in the nautical arena. It’s at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain, under the watchful eye of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain where the action will take place, providing an exceptional setting for a grand finale. As per usual on the Extreme 40 circuit, the races will be contested in the afternoon, though the organisers are still free to adapt the programme according to the wind conditions. It’s worth remembering that at this time of year, Brazil is two hours behind GMT (1400 hours in Rio = 1600 hours in Paris).

Provisional overall standing for the Extreme Sailing Series before Rio

  1. The Wave Muscat – 61.5 points
  2. Oman Air – 54 points
  3. Edmond de Rothschild Group - 51 points
  4. Red Bull Sailing Team – 48.5 points
  5. GAC Pindar - 38.5 points
  6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team - 33 points
  7. Alinghi – 28 points
  8. Zoulou – 23.5 points

The crew of the Extreme Edmond de Rothschild Group

Pierre Pennec (Skipper / Helmsman), Arnaud Psarofaghis (trimmer and traveller), Hervé Cunningham (headsail trimmer), Bernard Labro (bowman), Romain Petit (trimmer)

Gitana XV tucked up for winter awaiting the 2013 schedule announcement

After a first long sailing season, which began in Agadir last January, the MOD Edmond de Rothschild Group has returned to the Gitana Team’s technical hangar situated at the Kéroman submarine base in Lorient.Third in the 2012 annual championship, thanks to an excellent second place in the Krys Ocean Race (crewed transatlantic between New York and Brest), Sébastien Josse and his crew have entrusted the 70-foot trimaran to the expert hands of the shore team: “It’s been a long season and the first of its kind too. Before the Krys and the European Tour we didn’t exactly have the same mileage under our belts as the other boats had. This unknown element is less blurred today and that’s largely what the team will be working on during the few months midwinter break. The deck hardware, the hydraulics, the lines, the mechanics… everything will be reviewed and replaced if need be so as we’re ready to tackle the upcoming season with a boat in tip-top condition,” explained the skipper. “With regards the 2013 programme, things are slowly taking shape and an announcement will be made shortly. In the meantime the crew aren’t sitting idle with everyone preparing themselves physically as they choose.”

Sébastien Josse’s winter is also being punctuated by the Vendée Globe. In Les Sables d’Olonne for the race start, as a consultant for France’s top news channel, the sailor is on land casting an expert eye over the Round the World without stopovers and without assistance: “It’s obviously a race which appeals to me since it was part of my life as a sailor for ten years. However, I’m not looking at every ranking, even though I’m following the race on a daily basis. Like a lot of my mates on shore, I’m running the routing and analysing the weather. The whole section that has just played out to reach the first ice gate was thrilling to track from the outside with a great battle between the top three boats.”

The most recent of the Gitana fleet is set to take to the waters of Brittany again in early March.

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