In Act 7 of the Extreme Sailing Series, the intensity ramped up a level as the fleet moved into Stadium Racing mode today in Nice, as the French Riviera continued to push the fleet to their limits – both physically and mentally.
Red Bull Sailing Team
The eight Extreme 40s steamed around the course at full throttle, drag racing down the downwind legs and holding nothing back – all the while trying to avoid the troughs of the two metre waves that rolled over the course. The Wave, Muscat was like a rocket ship, unfazed by the challenging conditions, and two race wins for the Omani team sees them extend their lead. But with a change in the wind on the forecast tomorrow, and up to 16 races still to come, it really is anyone’s game.
Six short, sharp races were sailed and Race Director, Phil Lawrence summed the day up: 'It was a very difficult day for the sailors and for race management. The biggest problem was the wave pattern and the wind got up to 25 knots at times.' Going on to look ahead to the penultimate day, Lawrence continued: 'Tomorrow we can expect a different day. This weather system will pass and we will have less wind. It will be a change of gear, but no less of a challenge.'
In this morning’s press conference, which was attending by a host of national and international media, all the skippers agreed today they needed to ‘push it’ as hard as they could and Red Bull Sailing Team came out all guns blazing. The double Olympic gold medal winning pair at the back of the boat - Roman Hagara on the helm and Hans-Peter Steinacher calling the tactics – were in complete control, expertly steering their vessel around the track to two race wins, upgrading their overall position from fifth to third. 'We changed modes upwind and downwind, and we're pushing a lot harder! The boat felt good today, so speed-wise we felt really happy. The whole crew worked really hard and it's definitely coming together! We worked so hard in the last races, we were losing places, and also catching up again so that was really good,' commented Hagara.
The Austrians have a seven-point cushion over the Swiss Realteam, helmed in Nice by Pierre Pennec, winner of this Act for the last two years who will be aiming to make it a hat-trick this week. ChinaSpirit, who sustained damage to their jib in the day’s second race forcing them to retire, are eight points adrift in fifth and quickly finding their feet amongst the more experienced fleet.
Calling the tactics for the Swiss America’s Cup winners in Nice is Olympic champion Anna Tunnicliffe, who is transferring her skills from the Olympic racecourse to the Extreme 40 stadium. The team was one of most consistent today, continually in the top half of the fleet, and wraps the day up in second, 17 points behind The Wave, Muscat.
With a change of pace expected tomorrow, the gold medalist talked tactics back on dock: 'In the big breeze there is a heck of a lot going on at the mark roundings! We just try to keep it simple because we had fast shifts today and it was really windy so we just tried to play it as safe as we could. When it's lighter it opens up more passing lanes and more opportunity to actually tactically sail around the boat. In a sense (the lighter winds) will make it a little more fun, more of a chess game because we'll have more options and be able to make plays out there.'
SAP Extreme Sailing Team was in the hunt for a comeback after a tough first day that saw damage on board after a heart-stopping nose-dive which forced them to miss three of the races. The Danish team couldn’t quite muster the pace they were hoping for, often finding themselves stuck deep mid fleet, although a race win in the fifth race provided some solace as co-skipper Rasmus Kostner explained: 'We were fighting with all we could to get some points back but it's just not easy out there! I think we had to fight hard for the points today but all in all it was a good day – better than yesterday! I think today everything happened very quickly with the ever-changing conditions that were thrown at us. We'll just try and make the most out of what we can tomorrow.'
At this morning’s press conference Will Tiller admitted the team were a little too conservative in yesterday’s open water, which ultimately cost them points on the leaderboard. But today the team of young Kiwis on GAC Pindar hit the throttle, finding their pace in the day’s final racing and narrowly missing out on a race win. 'We were a little more confident today. We had a few good race starts, which set us up well and we had good pace. When we're at the front of the fleet we seem to raise our game a bit more, and we manage to stay there which is great and something we really want to work towards. It was really exciting out there, there were some close hairy moments, but that's all part of it!'
The team of multihull experts on the first club by ALL4ONE had a tough day today in their first day racing in Stadium mode together, but none the less are relishing the chance to race on their home waters, as skipper Jean-Christophe Mourniac enthused: 'The racing here is extremely tough and we are loving it, although it is tough to come into this fleet. It was really difficult for us today, mainly because the wind is just too much for a new team like us. So we're just trying to improve and get better and better each day. With lighter winds tomorrow, we'll just have to see how we adapt to the conditions!'
The action continues on the Bay of Angels tomorrow with the penultimate day’s racing kicking off at 1400 CEST.
Extreme Sailing Series™ 2013 Act 7, Nice - Standings after Day Two, 14 races (4.10.13)
Position / Team / Points
1st The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Musab Al Hadi, Hashim Al Rashdi 125 points.
2nd Alinghi (SUI) Morgan Larson, Anna Tunnicliffe, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 107 points.
3rd Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT) Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Simon Cooke, Kinley Fowler 98 points.
4th Realteam (SUI) Jérôme Clerc, Pierre Pennec, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bryan Mettraux, Thierry Wasem 92 points.
5th ChinaSpirit (CHN) Phil Robertson, Garth Ellingham, Llang Wu, Louis Viat, Nick Catley 86 points.
6th SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN) Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Nicolai Sehested 73 points.
7th the first club by ALL4ONE (FRA) Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Romain Petit, Stéphane Christidis, Arnaud Jarlegan, Julien Cressant 70 points.
8th GAC Pindar (NZL) Will Tiller, Matt Steven, Harry Thurston, Brad Farrand, Shaun Mason 58 points.
Extreme Sailing Series website