The first day of competition for Act 7 of the Extreme Sailing Series in Nice, France, has been cancelled due to ‘extreme’ conditions. ‘On the edge, then over it’ – this was Extreme Sailing Series Race Director Phil Lawrence’s description of conditions in Nice today that resulted in the cancellation at the penultimate Act.
2012 Extreme Sailing Series Act 7 - Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
The forecast for today was 14 to 17 knots but the French Riviera over delivered, where the wind was blowing a steady 25 knots, with gusts of 30 knots throughout the day. That combined with a strong tide and rolling waves meant lots of bow down, hull flying action as the eight Extreme 40s battled the elements to keep their 40ft catamarans upright.
Shortly after the fleet left the dock, Race Director Phil Lawrence made the call to postpone racing by one hour but the strong wind conditions showed no sign of abating, eventually resulting in the cancellation at 1530 local time – only the second time in the six year history of the Extreme Sailing Series that the power of nature has led to a race cancellation, the last being in Cowes, UK in 2011.
Phil Lawrence explained: 'When we arrived on site there was already 20 knots of wind and building fast with large waves rolling through the course. As we were about to start racing, the wind jumped up to 25 to 30 knots with two metre breaking waves, so we postponed and sent the fleet back to the dock. Several boats sustained minor damage in the boat breaking waves, as they sailed in. When we made the final call to abandon racing for the day, the wind was a constant 29 knots with large gusts and the sea state was still worsening. We have added additional morning sessions on Saturday and Sunday to get the racing back on schedule.'
'This is some of the windiest conditions we have sailed in but the biggest problem was the waves,' said SAP Extreme Sailing Team’s Danish skipper Jes Gram-Hansen on coming ashore. 'They were pretty big and that made it quite scary to do the bear-aways so it was the right decision to cancel the racing. These boats are difficult to sail and capsizing is a part of the game but we are ready and looking forward to tomorrow.'
SAP Extreme Sailing Team punches through a rolling wave on the Bay of Angels - 2012 Extreme Sailing Series Act 7
Double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara and his men on Red Bull Sailing Team are known for relishing the more extreme conditions but even for him, today was one the edge resulting in a snapped halyard.
Local boat Team Extreme Ville de Nice were another who fell victim to the conditions, suffering minor damage as skipper Erik Maris explained: 'We blew the track on the way back to the harbour because of the wind and waves and maybe the track itself was weak. It was lucky we were on our way back to the harbour otherwise we couldn’t have raced.' On racing in these conditions, 'We’ve done a few training sessions on the Extreme 40 in about as much wind and waves as today, but racing-wise we’ve never competed in these conditions. We don’t normally see these kind of conditions in Nice: waves, wind, sun, so hopefully tomorrow it will be a bit more manageable'. Both Red Bull Sailing Team and Team Extreme Ville de Nice are confident they will make their repairs in time for tomorrow’s racing.
Local boat Team Extreme Ville de Nice takes advantage of the wind and waves on day 1 in Nice - 2012 Extreme Sailing Series Act 7
The second team hailing from France, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, won the Act in Nice last year, but as skipper Pierre Pennec said, the conditions are a far cry from 2011. 'Last year the wind was really light - completely different from today - and we performed really well. But generally we are a very pretty physical and technical crew we definitely prefer the breeze. I think it was the right decision to cancel racing today – the starts and sailing upwind would have been difficult as we are battling winds and the sea.'
The skippers were welcomed to Nice today by the city’s Mayor Christian Estrosi and presented to a host of French and international media at the official event press conference. Three more days of racing remain at the Extreme Sailing Series in Nice, and with the conditions expected to subside enough tomorrow to begin racing, the teams are gearing up for plenty of action. The French public will be able to watch every heart-stopping moment as it happens on the Promenade des Anglais, while online fans can follow it all on the official event website with expert commentary bringing the action to you live from 1430 CEST (local time in France).
Extreme Sailing Series website