On the penultimate day of the Extreme Sailing Series in Nice, France, the stakes ramped up a notch on the French Riviera as the battle lines for the final day of Act 7 were drawn. The ever growing public crowds on the Promenade des Anglais witnessed home team Groupe Edmond de Rothschild move into the overall lead and Pierre Pennec’s team has a slim 4.3 point advantage over Oman’s The Wave, Muscat – Pennec’s men gunning for their first Act win this year and McMillan aiming to secure his position at the top of the Series leaderboard ahead of the final Act in Rio de Janeiro.
Confident in his team’s ability – although all too aware how quickly things can change on the short, sharp course - Edmond de Rothchild’s trimmer Hervé Cunningham was reflective after racing: 'The last two Acts in Porto and Cardiff have been really dramatic for us so we try to regain some confidence in the crew after those bad results. We are our own worst enemy. For the moment we found a good feeling, we are sailing well and we are really confident for tomorrow. But we know all too well how quickly things can change in this racing and it’s never over until the last round which counts for double points. We will keep a cool head and sail well and intelligently.'
One of the French team’s biggest rivals on the water is current Series leader Leigh McMillan whose team The Wave, Muscat have already won three Acts this year. A cool and confident McMillan said: 'There is nothing in it –it’s very close between the top four and so we have just got to keep plugging away. We felt we sailed well and a few things went against us which was frustrating but we had a good grasp on what was going on considering how tricky it was. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. We just have to hope tomorrow goes our way and keep doing the same things.'
Roman Hagara was understandably frustrated at the end of racing. The Austrian double Olympic gold medallist, who started the day in the top spot, found himself struggling under the changeable conditions and slowly his team slipped down the leaderboard to finish the day in fifth. 'We need to do better than today. It was a really bad day, we struggled to make a good start and we made some bad decisions. In these conditions everything goes really quick and you have to pull really hard on the ropes. Some of our maneuvers were not as good as yesterday and all these little things make a difference when you are racing.'
Nine short and sharp races were staged today and slick boat handling was demanded in the gusty conditions that continued to build throughout the day. Nice saved the best for last for the eight Extreme 40s with gusts of 22 knots funneling down the race course by the final race of the day when some daredevil tactics were witnessed, as GAC Pindar’s tactician Olympic gold medallist Anna Tunnicliffe explained: 'It is really tricky sailing – big left shifts big right shifts and trying to figure out which is going to pay. It means lots of chances to pass so you are always looking around for an opportunity to jump up positions. Coming into the top mark it was either from the left where there was pressure off the beach and you would come flying in hoping to cross the boats on the right. You had to make the call on whether you could cross a boat or had to duck behind them. Every windward mark was fingers crossed and hope you make it across the fleet.'
Tunnicliffe joins current World Match Racing Tour leader Ian Williams’ team and three race wins today has set the British skipper on track for GAC Pindar’s first ever podium position at the Extreme Sailing Series.
The leaderboard is close and only 14 points separate the top four boats, while Red Bull Sailing Team have some work on their hands if they want to improve on their current fifth place standing. A win in the final race of the day for Ernesto Bertarelli on Alinghi leaves the Swiss team just five points shy of SAP Extreme Sailing Team who will be looking to better their fifth place finish from the previous Act.
The shape of the leaderboard going into the final Act in Rio de Janeiro will be decided tomorrow by 1700 local time and the teams will find out if they will be taking the long-haul ticket to Act 8 in a comfortable position. Can Groupe Edmond de Rothschild hold off The Wave, Muscat and win on home waters for the second year in a row? And will Ian Williams lead his team to their first ever podium position?
Extreme Sailing Series 2012 Act 7, Nice, France standings after Day 3, 19 races (20.10.12)
Position / Team / Points
1. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec, Arnaud Psarofaghis, Christophe André, Romain Petit, Romain Motteau 109 points 2. The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan, Ed Smyth, Pete Greenhalgh, Hannah Mills, Hashim Al Rashdi 105.3 points 3. Oman Air (OMA), Morgan Larson, Will Howden, Charlie Ogletree, Andy Maloney, Nasser Al Mashari 99 points 4. GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams, Anna Tunnicliffe, Mark Bulkeley, Andrew Walsh, Richard Peacock 95 points 5. Red Bull Sailing Team (AUT), Roman Hagara, Hans Peter Steinacher, Matthew Adams, Pierre Le Clainche, Graeme Spence 87.7 points 6. SAP Extreme Sailing Team (DEN), Jes Gram-Hansen, Rasmus Køstner, Pete Cumming, Mikkel Røssberg, Jonas Hviid 74 points 7. Alinghi (SUI), Ernesto Bertarelli, Jean-Christophe Mourniac, Pierre-Yves Jorand, Nils Frei, Yves Detrey 69 points 8. Team Extreme Ville de Nice (FRA), Erik Maris, Philip Mourniac, Jean-Sébastien Ponce, Patrick Aucour, Bruno Jeanjean 42 points