Austrian skipper, Roman Hagara, managed to fight off the challenges of his competitors to keep Red Bull Extreme Sailing at the top of the leaderboard for the second day of the Nice round of the Extreme Sailing Series.
However Hagara, a double Olympic multihull medalist, only leads by 1.5pts from Groupe Edmond de Rothschild.
The action on Day 2 began in the morning with the 11 Extreme 40 teams sent out to race early to take advantage of the north-westerly gradient breeze from the land. Britain’s three-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie, scored his first race win in Nice, and Paul Campbell-James at the helm of the Italian team Luna Rossa claimed the other race before the breeze disappeared. But the afternoon’s racing session produced some ‘Pol Roger’ champagne sailing conditions! The breeze kicked in, windward hulls were flying, the racing was intense and, at times, too close to call.
In the fourth race of the afternoon, Alinghi and Red Bull Extreme Sailing had a dead-heat: 'That's pretty incredible,' said Alinghi skipper Tanguy Cariou. 'It is really unusual to see this kind of situation in our sport… It was a genuine photo finish like you see in athletics or cycling. We might need a video replay system soon! Even us onboard, we had no idea if we crossed the finish line before or after them.'
During today’s official press conference in front of the national and international media, the skippers described the racing as 'intense and close' - even more so in the light conditions. 'It's a real test of team work,' said Ben Ainslie. 'When it’s windy it’s physical, in the light stuff it’s about taking a few deep breaths, suck it in and get the results you need.'
The first three races this afternoon were raced in a typical Mediterranean light sea breeze with Max Sirena’s Italian team Luna Rossa finding their form that was missing yesterday, to secure two further wins; and Team GAC Pindar skipper, Ian Williams, clearly worked out a winning strategy, which he explained at the press conference - avoid the wind shadow of the other boats - to claim a race win and the team’s performance today has put them mid-leaderboard.
The final race of the day decided the overall standings ahead of the ‘stadium’ racing. Terry Hutchinson’s Artemis Racing team nailed the start, judged the lay lines bang on, pulling out a good lead on the Swiss team of Alinghi, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild were in third and Red Bull Extreme Sailing fourth on the final downwind leg with Luna Rossa chasing in fifth. The positions remained unchanged at the finish which allowed Hagara’s to retain the overall lead. Whilst Luna Rossa made the biggest leap today into third place in the rankings from eighth yesterday. 'We had a great day,' said Paul Campbell-James. 'There is something about the second day of the regattas for us, it’s when we seem to have a great day. And today was really shifty and a really hard course. We are not out of the game at the moment which is the most important thing at this stage, and it’s all to play for tomorrow. Stadium racing in one of the most beautiful venues we’ve been to. The beach is packed, the VIP area is nice and close, it will be great.'
Pierre Pennec's all-French team remain second in the rankings, courtesy of their third place. Ben Ainslie on Oman Air is only 1 point ahead of his stablemate Leigh McMillan and the crew on The Wave, Muscat who seem to be struggling here: 'It's about adapting to the different conditions quickly, getting off the start line well and we've not done that here,' said McMillan. Team Extreme Nice Cote d’Azur skippered by Jean-Pierre Dick now find themselves at the bottom of the overall ranking behind the Italians team of Niceforyou. But the 'rookie' team who had a great day yesterday was always realistic about their chances here racing against the more experienced and highly competitive top-level sailors.
Tomorrow, Act 7 will open to the public of Nice. The racing will be brought closer to shore so the spectators can see the fleet in action up close, with live commentary in French and English (catering for the tourists on the Promenade des Anglais!) and a live WEBcam feed for online fans around the world [just click on the WEBcam banner on the home page of the website to open the viewing window]. The Race Village with its retail outlets and animations opens daily; and tomorrow 49er teams will join the action on the water. On Saturday and Sunday the NeilPryde Racing Series starts with 20+ windsurfers competing here on the Bay of Angels. There will be plenty of moves on and off the water, as well as on the leaderboard over the coming days…
Extreme Sailing Series Act 7, Nice, France standings after 12 races (29.9.11) Position / Team / Points
1st Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT), Roman Hagara / Hans Peter Steinacher / Will Howden / Craig Monk 90.5 points 2nd Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA), Pierre Pennec / Christophe Espagnon / Thierry Fouchier / Hervé Cunningham 89 points 3rd Luna Rossa (ITA), Max Sirena / Paul Campbell-James / Alister Richardson / Manuel Modena 88 points 4th Alinghi (SUI), Tanguy Cariou / Yann Guichard / Nils Frei / Yves Detrey 85.5 points 5th Artemis Racing (SWE), Terry Hutchinson / Sean Clarkson / Morgan Trubovich / Julien Cressant, 84 points 6th Team GAC Pindar (GBR), Ian Williams / Mischa Heemrskerk / Andrew Walsh / Brian MacInnes 73 points 7th Oman Air (OMA), Ben Ainslie / Kinley Fowler / David Carr / Nasser Al Mashari 60 points 8th The Wave, Muscat (OMA), Leigh McMillan / Kyle Langford / Nick Hutton / Khamis Al Anbouri 59 points 9th Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Dean Barker / Adam Beashel / Jeremy Lomas / Chris McAsey 56 points 10th Niceforyou (ITA), Alberto Barovier / Stefano Rizzi / Daniele De Luca / Simone de Mari 54 points 11th Team Extreme Nice Côte d’Azur (FRA), Jean-Pierre Dick / Jérémie Beyou / Billy Besson / Arnaud Jarlegant 52 points