The penultimate Grand Prix of the Extreme Sailing Series 2011 rounded off this Sunday in Andalusia. Victorious in Nice and back in pole position in the championship, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group knew they stood a chance of being caught out in Almeria and had to deal with this pressure as leader throughout the five days of racing.
Always in on the action, the men of Gitana Team didn’t manage to convert the try in the closing minutes however. Indeed, though they were still in with a chance of a podium finish prior to the start of the thirty-second and final race of the Grand Prix, Pierre Pennec and his three crew – Hervé Cunningham, Thierry Fouchier and Christophe Espagnon – stumbled.
The men of Gitana Team ended up ranking fifth and have thus yielded the top spot in the annual standing, just one point shy of the Italians. Obviously the team is disappointed, but the four sailors are no less motivated to move on from this and already have their sights on Singapore, where the final event of the 2011 circuit will be decided.
The five days of competition in Andalusia took place in some very light and particularly shifty weather conditions. With the exception of yesterday, where the breeze livened up proceedings to the great delight of one and all, the light airs gave this Almeria Grand Prix a rather lacklustre tone. A nerve-racking experience to say the least, these wind conditions also made things difficult for the crews, who had to constantly adapt to these variations. It was an exercise in which the men of Edmond de Rothschild Group struggled to get their bearings:
'I think we lacked impulsiveness in this regatta! We found it harder to get into our stride. Of course there are lessons to learn from our result, which wasn’t as good as we’d hoped, and we still have progress to make in a lot of areas. However, there’s no point trying to find explanations for every last detail either. Up until the final race, we could still have finished second on this Spanish leg, which would have been a good result. The ultimate race, which scores double points, cost us dearly. All of that comes down to very little in the end and it will be same in Singapore for the grand final! However, I remain very confident for the future', said the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group assuredly.
The Swiss sailors on Alinghi, particularly at ease in these light conditions, which they’re familiar with on Lake Geneva, scored their first Grand Prix victory of the season today. Hot on their heels were Max Sirena’s men, whilst the Omani crew skippered by Ben Ainslie completed the podium. As such the English sailor finished his participation in the Extreme Sailing Series on a high, as he’ll be replaced at the helm of Oman Air for the next meeting.
Of note is the fact that Emirates Team New Zealand weren’t able to repair the damage suffered during yesterday’s collision with Edmond de Rothschild Group and so they weren’t racing this Sunday. However, Adam Beashel and his crew, who weren’t at fault, were awarded 6.5 points per race and conclude this leg in sixth position.
By finishing fifth in this Grand Prix, Pierre Pennec and his three crew have conceded the top spot on the provisional championship leaderboard to the Italians from Luna Rossa, who are just one point ahead tonight. It goes without saying that the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group would have preferred to have retained a slight advantage over its adversary prior to the last event of the season, but the men of Gitana Team aren’t overly bothered by the heated exchange:
'Whether we have a one point deficit in relation to Luna Rossa or a one point lead, it doesn’t make any difference to us. The title will once again be decided on the final leg and most likely the closing race. We’re going to have to make sure we’re ahead whatever happens', explained Pierre Pennec. From the position of being hunted, the four French sailors have now become hunters, and this role reversal seems to really appeal to Hervé Cunningham, bowman: 'We’re a lot better as the outsider rather than the favourite and it’s a very good thing to arrive in Singapore without any pressure.'
The Extreme Sailing Series fleet will be back together again for a final confrontation from 7 to 11 December 2011 in Singapore. Furthermore, we now know that this city-state of eastern Asia will be the justice of the peace for the 2011 season.
The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group:
Pierre Pennec (Skipper / helmsman), Christophe Espagnon (mainsail trimmer), Thierry Fouchier (headsail trimmer), Hervé Cunningham (bowman) Standing in the Almeria Grand Prix (after 32 races):
1. Alinghi (SUI) – 254 points
2. Luna Rossa (ITA) – 233 points
3. Oman Air (OMA) – 232 points
4. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 218 points
5. Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) - 216 points
6. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) – 213,5 points
7. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) - 209 points
8. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) – 202 points
9. Team Tilt (SUI) - 155 points
10. Team Extreme (EUR) – 151 points
11. Niceforyou (ITA) – 135 points Standing for the Extreme Sailing Series 2011 after eight Grands Prix:
1. Luna Rossa (ITA) – 69 points
2. Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) – 68 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) – 60 points
4. Alinghi (SUI) – 59 points
5. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) – 57 points
6. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) – 53 points
7. Artemis Racing (SWE) – 48 points
8. Oman Air (OMA) – 47 points
9. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 30 points
10. Niceforyou (ITA) – 17 points
11. Team Extreme (EUR) – 17 points
Gitana Team website
Extreme Sailing Series website