On the America’s Cup World Series Venice final day the French Energy Team achieved their first major victory. The crew led by Loïck Peyron, who had been in the lead in the overall rankings since Thursday, today confirmed their top class ability by winning the fifth Fleet Race Championship. Energy Team completed this event in Venice in the finest way by achieving a victory, finishing eight seconds ahead of the American Defender Oracle Team USA Spithill.
The atmosphere is euphoric this evening in the French team, as the crew of Energy Team comprising Loïck Peyron, Christophe André, Arnaud Jarlegan, Devan Le Bihan and Arnaud Psarofaghis, can be proud of their victory. They achieved this after a bitter struggle at the end of the race against James Spithill’s Oracle that is likely to be remembered for along time. After being up to 5’29' behind in the middle of the race, the Americans came back to be dangerously close. During the final leg, the two boats battled it out in a series of gybes as they approached the finishing line. Fortunately, the French team kept their calm to keep the attacker behind their one-design boat. With the wind practically absent at the end of the race and on the final gybe, the French managed to keep their opponent in check and pick up just enough air to cross the finish eight seconds ahead of the American boat.
Conditions were very light with only just 5-6 knots of wind on the Grand Canal in Venice for the Final of the Fleet Race Championship. The French got off to a good start, while Artemis and Luna Rossa Swordfish crossed the line too early and received a penalty. Energy was battling it out with Oracle and TNZ, who rounded the first mark in the lead with Energy well placed in behind them. There was very little wind and it got very messy between the competitors. At mark 2, having found more air, Energy took off and began to extend her lead ahead of her rivals, sailing some 280m ahead of the Defender, James Spithill.
As they rounded mark 3, Energy had further extended their gains and were by now a long way in front of their opponents, who had not yet rounded mark 2. Behind, it all became extremely confusing, as the wind dropped off and the boats found themselves bunched up together at the mark.
Energy would continue to sail all alone out in front and extend their lead, moving some 500m ahead of Oracle. Finally, the fleet managed to separate out on the race course, with Energy 3.27 minutes ahead of the Italians on Luna Rossa Swordfish, who were bringing up the rear. As they rounded Gate 5, Oracle Spithill was in second place with Artemis third and TNZ fourth almost 700m behind Energy Team, who were now one leg ahead of their fellow competitors and were about to round Gate 7.
Energy Team rounded the eighth mark with an incredible lead of 500 metres over James Spithill, while Artemis came to a standstill and Team New Zealand prepared to grab third place from them.
On board Energy Team, everyone remained fully focused, with Loïck Peyron giving his orders calmly and with each crewman concentrating on what they were doing. The rounding of the penultimate mark was certainly stressful for the French team, as the wind vanished and they only made it around very slowly, as TNZ took third place from Artemis. The French found it hard to get their boat back up to speed and find some wind, meaning that James Spithill had made it back to within 300 metres of Energy Team. Spithill narrowed the gap still further with the gap down to 200m, then 150m, with Energy practically stopped. The French managed to get going again with both boats sailing at 4.5 knots. The stress was at its climax, with Spithill just 50m from the French and closing. The final stretch would be slow and nail-biting. Both boats more or less came to a halt. Energy picked up a puff and some speed. The Americans were back to within 30 metres. Oracle gybed, followed by Energy, who kept them in check. The French were just a few dozen metres in front, but still managed to ward off the attacks from the Americans, right up to the finish. In the end, Energy crossed the line just eight seconds ahead of the American Defender, James Spithill. Final victory went to the French and Loïck Peyron exploded with joy. Energy Team had made it to the top of the podium of the AC World Series here in Venice.
Loick Peyron: 'We made a few mistakes, but that probably made it all the more interesting for the spectators. The conditions were very complicated and there was a lot of pressure on us.
How do I feel right now? Happy, of course. We gave ourselves a bit of a scare at the end, with Oracle right behind us and closing the gap. We weren’t feeling very confident, when the wind dropped off at the finish and with Oracle piling the pressure on us. I’m very happy with this win, and very pleased to have got off to a good start and also with all the work done by the crew. It’s really encouraging for a little team like ours to achieve this victory. We’re on top of the world tonight. It will probably only be temporary, but this is a highly symbolic result! '
Bruno Peyron: 'We can all share our joy together this evening in our little team, after everyone has worked so hard. After spending three days at the top of the rankings, we had to confirm our ability today. With this win, no one can talk any more about a surprise or a stroke of luck, and people can now start to consider us as one of the top teams. We really needed this victory to show that our team’s talent is not merely potential and that we really can win. We have to accept this role and continue to progress to convince our partners. This victory is the best sign we can give to those we would like to see join us as part of the French challenge for the next America’s Cup'.
Overall final rankings (after seven races)
1 - Energy Team : 74 Points
2 - Oracle Team USA Spithill : 58 Points
3 - Emirates Team New Zealand : 54 Points
4 - Artemis Racing : 52 Points
5 - Luna Rossa Piranha : 43 Points
6 - Luna Rossa Swordfish : 43 Points
7 - Team Korea : 37 Points
8 - Oracle Team USA Bundock : 22 Points
9 - China Team : 18 Points
Energy Team website
by Pierre Giboire
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5:27 PM Sun 20 May 2012GMT
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