Despite threats of thunderstorms, the final day of training in Valencia for the five Extreme 40s went off with a bang as the teams were put through their paces in preparation for the first iShares Cup in Lugano on 30 May. Alinghi White proved their dominance over the fleet taking three firsts with Alinghi Black beating them to the top spot twice.
Four windward/leeward courses were set in addition to a triangular course to take the boats close in to shore. Initial winds of 5 knots steadily increased throughout the day into perfect hull-flying conditions for the final two races giving the spectators on the beach an impressive display. The racing was tight, particularly around the windward marks, with the boats jostling for space, resulting in a few missed mark roundings, close shaves and penalty turns.
Alinghi White Skipper Ed Baird was rightly pleased with his team's progress, 'This weekend has been great and it has been really exciting to race against these other boats. Today was tricky because we started in very light conditions and right off the bat our team mate Murray Jones on Alinghi Black came after us, so it went from racing all five boats in the fleet to just racing one other.
In the second race we got the point back on them and then again in the third, so we were starting to feel better on board! Later in the day the breeze came up and there was a bit more excitement on the race course. Lugano is next in the series and it was good to get some light air practice in this morning because we don't expect a lot of wind in Lugano.'
iShares skipper, Hugh Styles, took third place overall. 'We were right on top of our starts and twice won the starboard end which we wanted. At times the racing was so close, particularly the windward mark roundings, it was great practice.' The iShares team is heading to Holland to collect their new boat, 'We pick it up next week and will take it to the UK before getting out to Lugano early to get organised and start practising in time for the first event. It has been awesome to be here in Valencia and be racing against the America's Cup Defenders, roll on Lugano!'
Alinghi Black skipper Murray Jones, who came second overall, was happy with his crew's performance. 'It's been a great weekend. We had no idea where we fitted in in the outside world and nice to check in and see we are going well! Sailing these Extreme 40s you get punished fast for mistakes which makes it really challenging, particularly at the speeds we have to work. If you do things well, you are rewarded as a crew and the spectators get to see an awesome show.'
'It's been a great training session,' said Herb Derksen, helm of Volvo Ocean Race who took the fifth spot. 'Our results weren't quite as we wanted, but we learnt a lot. We start well and over the next few weeks we are going to be concentrating on mark roundings. I'm pleased with the pace of our new boat and look forward to stepping up a gear in Lugano.'
OC Events Director, Gilles Chiorri was pleased with the weekend session. 'This was a casual training event organised by OC Events, with the help of Alinghi and Tornado Sport, and we are bang on schedule. We planned for 10 races and we packed in 10 races. The battles were intense and even though the two Alinghi boats were the leaders, the other boats stepped up to the mark and put real pressure on the top teams at times. We are in the final stages of preparation for Lugano and the real game starts now.'
Over the next week, the crews will pack up the boats and transport them in their 40ft containers to Lugano, on the Swiss/Italian border, for the first iShares Cup regatta which starts on 30 May. Overall standings after 10 races (last race double points):
Alinghi White 1-1-1-1-1-2-1-1-1-2 52
Alinghi Black 2-2-2-2-4-1-3-2-3-1 43
iShares 5-3-4-5-3-3-2-4-2-3 29
Holmatro 3-DNF-3-3-2-5-5-3-4-4 25
Volvo Ocean Race 4-4-5-4-5-4-4-5-5-5 16