America’s Cup World Series Venice is the fifth and penultimate stage in the series. Day two was yet another great day for the French Energy Team. The French team led by Loïck Peyron ended up on the podium twice in the day’s two races (third in the first race and second in race two). After the four races that have now taken place, Energy Team is once again leading the overall rankings this evening.
On the podium in race one: The conditions were very light with just six to eight knots of wind, but there was a fantastic show this afternoon in Venice, where the AC45s are sailing for the first time inside the lagoon just off St. Mark’s Square. At the start of racing at 1400hrs, the catamarans fitted with their sail extensions to make the most of the light conditions, set off on a short leg reaching for 37 seconds. Energy Team with Loïck Peyron at the helm rounded the first mark in fourth place, before threatening Luna Rossa shortly afterwards on a magnificent race course, which nevertheless was extremely tight, forcing the teams to carry out a lot of manoeuvres.
As they unfurled their gennaker, Energy Team was already up in third place, while ENTZ was out in front ahead of Luna Rossa Swordfish. In the Venetian sunshine, it was a magnificent sight when the AC45s started to gybe looking for each puff of air on the lagoon with all its local effects.
The gybing battle was intense in the very narrow Grand Canal, a wind corridor, where the crews had to get things down to the nearest millimetre. At Gate 3, off the famous Arsenal in Venice, the crowds along the water’s edge, where thousands of people had gathered, cheered: the Italian boat Luna Rossa Swordfish made some good choices on this leg and moved into the lead, six seconds ahead of ENTZ and 15 seconds ahead of Energy Team, who sailed perfectly in this match.
The big surprise was the poor performance from Artemis and Oracle Spithill, back in eighth and ninth place, right at the rear of the fleet. There was already a gap of more than 800 metres between the leader and the tail-ender (Spithill), which is a huge gap after just ten minutes of racing. At Gate 4, Luna Rossa Swordfish extended their lead: 33 seconds ahead of ETNZ, 47 ahead of Energy Team, still in third place and 1'05 ahead of Luna Rossa Piranha. These four boats had a rather comfortable lead over the others in the fleet. At the front, Luna Rossa Swordfish took off, thanks to some fresh air (in spite of getting a penalty). Energy Team clawed two seconds back from ETNZ on the following leg... but was threatened by the other Italian boat, Luna Rossa Piranha.
While Luna Rossa Swordfish had the race sewn up, the battle was raging between the three boats chasing them, ETNZ, Energy Team and Luna Rossa Piranha. Loïck Peyron and his men had to work hard to keep Chris Draper in check, as they were becoming very threatening with just nine seconds between them before the penultimate leg. 'Defend! Defend,' Loïck Peyron was probably telling his men... but as attack is the best form of defence, Energy Team managed to gain some ground before the seventh mark. In front of the Doge’s Palace, and the famous bell tower, which dominates St. Mark’s Square, Luna Rosa Swordfish won the race after 31 minutes and 10 seconds. Dean Barker and ETNZ took second place 1'34 later, followed by Energy Team 29 seconds after them. The French therefore took third place or in other words their third podium in three races. Loïck Peyron stated before racing began that he particularly liked this race course, which is complicated, narrow and yet so magnificent. He has shown once again what the French can do.
Second in the second race: The wind was down to just 7 knots from the south-east for the second fleet race this Friday in Venice. Unfortunately, Energy Team got blocked at the start when Artemis attempted a bold move. Shut in, the French had to leave the pack get away ahead of them and set off right at the rear in the first short reaching leg. They had to give it their all to fight their way back. It all went very smoothly, with manoeuvres carried out calmly and without any hitch, and Loïck Peyron and his men began the chase carrying out a lot of gybes. At the front, at that point it was Oracle – Bundock, which led the way ahead of Luna Rossa Swordfish with Paul Campbell-James at the helm. Just as they were clawing their way back, Energy Team unfortunately got a penalty for manoeuvring too close to Team Korea. Ahead of them, there was a real fight going on between the two Italian and two American boats. An amazing sight where each millimetre counted off the waterfront at Santa Lucia. There was a gap of less than 10 metres between the boats as they came together... and then, something incredible happened for the French: making the most of a puff of air, and with two crazy tacks, Energy Team was back in the game. An absolutely astonishing recovery saw them get back to second place. Fantastic! Five seconds later, there was another upset, when ETNZ and Oracle Bundock collided.
So, in just a few minutes, the French team had moved up six places. On the fourth leg, Energy Team were sitting comfortably in second place, 100 metres behind Luna Rossa Piranha and 100m ahead of Oracle Spithill. What a comeback! 'They were in last place at the start!' cried Philippe Presti, the coach for ... James Spithill.
At Mark 4, Energy Team were still in second place, some 25 seconds behind the leader, Luna Rossa Piranha and 12 seconds ahead of Oracle Spithill. At gate 5, at the end of the first lap, Energy Team managed to consolidate their second place, while Luna Rossa Swordfish, their rival for overall leadership, were struggling at the back (7th) and got a penalty. So the French were on their way to getting a great result, but they had to hold on. Gate 6: an extremely quick gybe from Energy Team, right at the boundary line. But thanks to this gybe on the favoured side of gate, Loïck Peyron extended his lead and no longer had to worry. Chris Draper’s Luna Rossa Piranha won the race in style in front of the Lions of Venice, in 30 minutes and 53 seconds. Energy Team would pass in front of the famous lions one minute and 28 seconds later in second place. Once again, they were on the podium, just in front of James Spithill’s Oracle, which finished third.
Loïck Peyron : 'We were a bit lucky today, as we didn’t get off to a good start. In fact, they were both rather poor. Sometimes it was a bit tricky, and we often took things a bit too far, especially in race one. I was really starting to sweat under my helmet. But it all worked out nicely, as if I’ve understood correctly, we’re still out in front at the end of this second day of racing and we have even extended our lead. We always managed to find good speed and we grabbed every opportunity that came our way, particularly in the downwind legs. We’re going to have to keep working at every element of the race. It’s fantastic with the crew. It’s all going perfectly smoothly, even if the lads are feeling a bit exhausted.'
So a magnificent achievement from Energy Team, who have not only made it to the podium four times in a row in four fleet races, but are up there alone at the top of the overall fleet racing rankings. In fact, their main rival, Luna Rossa Swordfish only managed to finish sixth in this race. Energy Team grabbed another four points from them in this fourth fleet race in Venice. The consistency of the French team is quite impressive. In four races, they have made it to the podium four times.