Edmond de Rothschild Group, 2nd in the Extreme Sailing Series 2011
This year ultimate victory just slipped from the grasp of the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group. However, Pierre Pennec and his three crew - Christophe Espagnon, Thierry Fouchier and Hervé Cunningham certainly don’t have anything to be ashamed about in their very fine second place given the fantastic line-up that made up the fleet for this year’s Extreme Sailing Series and the intensity of this 2011 season. Winners of two Grands Prix (Oman and Nice) and unquestionably major players on the circuit with five podium places out of the nine this year, the men of Gitana Team were outpaced by Max Sirena’s Italian crew but finished ahead of the New Zealanders skippered by Dean Barker, one of the current reference teams in the sailing world.

History has repeated itself and just like in 2009 and 2010, the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has ranked second in the Extreme Sailing Series. Having come to Singapore to try to glean this trophy, Pierre Pennec and his crew, competitors through and through, naturally found it somewhat difficult to appreciate the true value of the silver medal that they’ve just given Edmond de Rothschild Group: “Obviously there’s a degree of disappointment in the way things panned out in this Grand Prix, especially as we got off to a good start by winning two races on the first day. However, we weren’t able to retain the same standard throughout the five days of competition. Our rival, Luna Rossa, raced very well and simply sailed through the competition, which enabled them to take victory in the championship. They very much deserve the win. They’ve been very strong, stronger than us” explained Pierre Pennec.

Though ultimate victory has escaped them, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild can be satisfied with a very fine result in all the nine legs contested between the Omani sultanate and southern Asia: “Aside from this latest Grand Prix and with reference to the season as a whole, I’m satisfied with this second place. Our adversaries were really formidable and we managed to achieve some great things together and leave them in our wake several times over the course of the season. During the nine events we’ve competed in 300 races. The Extreme Sailing Series is a very specific circuit with short courses set up on some rather atypical race zones at the heart of the cities: I think the word which best encapsulates it is Intense! For me, this intensity is on a par with the final race day in the Olympic Games, but here you get the same sensation everyday and the Grands Prix amount to five days of races…” recalled the skipper of Gitana Extreme.

Nominated Skipper of the Extreme 40 project at the very start of the season, Pierre Pennec was competing in his first edition in such a role this year. Indeed the sailor from La Rochelle, who really gained renowned for his performance in the Tornado circuit (Olympic catamaran) when competing in the Sydney Games in 2000, gave us the lowdown on a personal level: “Personally, this season has taught me a massive amount. I’ve rediscovered the thrills of helming and I’ve still got a lot more to give. I’d been waiting ten years for such an opportunity. I was lucky to be at the head of a very strong crew, as much on a physical and technical level as in human terms: our group has always worked very well together. This cohesion enables us to excel, even though that wasn’t enough here. I really want to thank them for their trust and their work. Naturally, my thanks go above all to Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild, who’ve given me an incredible opportunity in entrusting the helm of their boat to me. They have enabled us to fully live out our passion.”

After an intense, action-packed season, the Gitana Team will announce the crew’s 2012 race programme over the coming weeks.

The team speak out

Hervé Cunningham, bowman: l have a slight taste of déjà vu with this second place but the 2011 circuit has really been nothing like our previous participations, both in terms of line-up and the duration of the competition. During this week of racing in Singapore, we didn’t have the weapons to battle against Luna Rossa. Our second place in the 2011 standing rounds off what has been a great sailing season nevertheless.”

Christophe Espagnon, mainsail trimmer: We are competitors and victory was within our grasp so of course disappointment is the initial sensation. However, if we look at the season as a whole, a sense of satisfaction is what prevails. It has been a very long season, which has required a great deal of concentration. We’ve certainly lacked consistency, but each event is unique and has its own special scenario. Our crew has pulled off some great performances, so although we still have some work to do, I think we’ve really made great progress.”

Thierry Fouchier, headsail trimmer: Despite what you might think, we arrived in Singapore aware of the stakes at play but relatively relaxed. Our second place has nothing to do with mishandling the pressure. However, we lacked success and we missed out on a lot of opportunities. Luna Rossa stepped up to the plate when it counted and deserve ultimate victory. We’re going to have a debriefing amongst ourselves to understand what we were lacking and then we’ll very quickly move forward.”

Standing for the Extreme Sailing Series 2011 after nine events

  1. Luna Rossa (ITA) – 80 points
  2. Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) – 73 points
  3. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) – 69 points
  4. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) – 67 points
  5. Alinghi (SUI) – 66 points
  6. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) – 61 points
  7. Oman Air (OMA) – 53 points
  8. Artemis Racing (SWE) – 48 points
  9. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 303points
  10. Team Extreme (EUR) – 21 points
  11. Niceforyou (ITA) – 18 points

The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group

Pierre Pennec (Skipper / helmsman), Christophe Espagnon (mainsail trimmer), Thierry Fouchier (headsail trimmer), Hervé Cunningham (bowman)

The Extreme Edmond de Rothschild Group supports the Joves Navegants foundation

The family of Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has always had a passion for nautical activities, a commitment embodied today by the Gitana Team. As such the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations have quite naturally been sensitive to the mission of Joves Navegants and touched by the profound collective commitment to helping these young people in precarious situations.

Inspired by the methods of British Sailing associations, which help young people in difficulty, some enthusiastic sailors who have settled in Palma, Mallorca, decided to create Joves Navegants. Aware of the complicated situation for certain youngsters on the island in serious economic and family difficulties, they have chosen to share their passion. The foundation organises several types of trips out to sea on the yacht, Galaxie. These days out involve journeys of discovery, awareness campaigns for sustainable development, participation in races and training aids to enable certain youngsters to envisage sailing as a professional career.

The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation will be supporting Joves Navegants in the organisation of trips out to sea during the summer, enabling the necessary technical improvements to be made on the Galaxie and making it possible for a team to take part in the “Ruta de la Sal” race in April.

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