AC World Series Naples - Energy Team off to a flying start
by Pierre Giboire on 12 Apr 2012
In the America’s Cup World Series Naples, the crew of Energy Team got off to a fantastic start in the first fleet races counting towards the 2012 AC World Series. The French team came in a great second place and then finished fourth in today’s racing, which means they finish the day on the provisional overall podium, behind Oracle-Spithill and Team New Zealand. We look back at these first two races for the French one-design boat with Yann Guichard at the helm.
Energy Team - AC World Series Naples Day 1 ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget © http://photo.americascup.com/
The conditions were testing for the nine AC45s competing on this first day of the World Series in Naples, on Wednesday 11th April. With these conditions, we might have guessed there would be things to see and indeed we were not disappointed. Seventeen to twenty knots of wind, with rain and choppy seas, which transformed this first day into a spectacular competition out on the water for the spectators in Naples.
Before the starting gun was fired for race 1, things began badly for Yann Guichard and his men, who got a penalty in the pre-start phase. Forced to stop to pay the penalty, it was in last place that Energy began the first lap. But it would take more than that to worry the French team, who had already moved up a spot by the first mark, 400 metres after the start.
There then began an impressive chase during which Energy Team did not make the slightest mistake, quite the reverse: by the second gate, they had managed to get inside half of the fleet and were back up in fifth place, while in front, the two Oracle boats and Artemis seemed to be beyond reach. Changes of tack were tricky in these heavy seas, where the multihulls came to a stop, but at each manoeuvre Energy Team lost less speed than her rivals.
At Gate 4, Oracle Spithill and Artemis had got way out in front, but it was a tough battle after that and four boats were within eight seconds of each other at Gate 4. On the sixth leg, Energy Team clawed back another place and made it to fourth position. The end of the second leg was very spectacular: by moving off ever so slightly, Energy Team made it to third place, just ahead of Team Korea, ETNZ and the second Oracle boat.
At mark seven, it was the incredible moment in this race: Energy Team caught Artemis, came in from starboard and tacked just in front. Second! Maybe due to a lack of concentration, Terry Hutchinson dug his bows in and Artemis capsized a few seconds later. Ahead, Spithill had already crossed the line. Energy Team finished in a great second place ahead of Dean Barker’s New Zealanders. A fantastic start!
The second fleet race was cut to two laps. The wind and seas were whipped up even more and there were white tops in the Bay of Naples. The first race caused some damage, as only six boats remained in the competition, after Artemis, China Team and Oracle Bundock were forced to retire.
Unfortunately, Energy Team got off to a poor start on the left side of the line and were almost 200 metres behind by the starting gun. However, Yann Guichard and his men would once again show how calm they could be and in particular they were able to show off their ability to bounce back in a race. At the front, the battle was intense between Oracle-Spithill and Dean Barker’s New Zealanders, who were neck and neck.
Energy Team took less than two minutes to catch the first Luna Rossa boat to get back in fifth place. Team Korea, who were also clearly inspired today, tried to make the most of the duel between Spithill and Barker. The changes of tack remained complicated in these heavy seas and bearing away was particularly dangerous, with everyone remembering what happened when Artemis capsized in the previous race.
Consequently, they hesitated to hoist the code zero, as they simply had to avoid doing such acrobatics. It was this approach that the men on Energy Team adopted, while patiently waiting for an opportunity… and they grabbed their chance at the end of the second upwind leg at mark number five, when Yann Guichard just managed to overtake the second Luna Rossa boat and continue on his way in fine style. The French team got a decent fourth place, which meant they were able to reach the provisional overall podium, behind Oracle-Spithill and TNZ on equal points with Team Korea.
Coming in second and then fourth at the end of this first day of fleet racing … for men, who hadn’t managed to get in more than six days of training since San Diego (while their rivals have been sailing for four months in their AC45), this is a more than simply an encouraging result, and it is quite magnificent. Yann Guichard, Loïck Peyron and the men on Energy Team are now going to debrief about what went wrong in the start phase, as everything else was perfect.
First reactions from Yann Guichard: 'Today we were clearly in survival mode on board. I told the lads that if we worked hard at the manoeuvres, we could get a good result and I’m very pleased about what they did. This was the first time I had been at the helm of the boat in this type of condition, particularly with the swell, as the wind was not so much a problem as the seas. We had to avoid going too fast, particularly upwind, as the hull rose up to the rudder. We were touching the limits for these boats. We had to make it through the day and that is what we did. Tomorrow, it’s a return to match racing and more familiar conditions with lighter winds, so we really had to stand out today.'
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