The Extreme Sailing Series Act 7 is currently underway and on the penultimate day, the 11 Extreme 40 boats were out racing early to take advantage of the northerly gradient coming off the land. The fleet was set ‘open water’ courses on the Bay of Angels in a good 9-10 knots of breeze. There was a moment of drama when Red Bull Extreme Sailing mainsheet trimmer Hans Peter Steinacher went overboard with a rope caught around his ankle.
Steinacher then collided with the rudder suffering a cut to his head and was dragged along behind the boat before Hagara’s crew could stop and get him back on board – they were leading the race at the time. Skipper Roman Hagara explains what happened in the video. Hans Peter was immediately bought ashore and transferred to hospital he was discharged later with a few stitches and given the all-clear.
It was the Alinghi team Tanguy Cariou, Yann Guichard, Nils Frei and Yves Detrey who scored two race wins to move them into second overall: 'The morning racing it was good and we had good starts, good tactics and good speed so we are happy,' said Cariou. 'We know that we already had some good starts in the previous events and we know that until the last race with the double points it is not over. We will keep an eye on the leaderboard and try not to lose too many points so we are in a position to win the event tomorrow afternoon.'
With 11 points for a race win (22 points in the final race on the final day tomorrow) there are plenty of points still up for grabs – depending on the wind and the number of races staged on the final day. It’s still all to play for and it is the all-French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild who go into the final day leading the Nice rankings, ahead of Alinghi and Artemis Racing.
The French crowds will have plenty to cheer about especially if the all-French team led by Pierre Pennec score they second win of the 2011 season: 'We find ourselves being in the first half of the fleet so we are leading ahead of the last day,' said Pennec. 'We know other teams will come after us and we are ready. I would love to win this Act being a French team in France but I never forget our main objective, which is to win the 2011 season.'
Only one race was completed in the stadium racing in the afternoon in an extremely light three knot sea breeze. In the very light airs, the Extreme 40 sailors crawled around the boats, trying to make as little movement as possible that could stop any forward motion, reducing the number of maneuvers on the race course was essential.
Luna Rossa went from potential winner to loser, incurring a penalty from the umpires for a port/starboard on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, letting Terry Hutchinson’s Artemis Racing sail away for a win. In the light airs, the fleet arrived at the finish tightly bunched together, practically having to fend off contact.
Britain’s Ben Ainslie was the most frustrated skipper by the end of the play – if he was a tennis player, he would have smashed his racket on the net numerous times! Oman Air was given a penalty by the on-water umpires for not giving Groupe Edmond de Rothschild space at the mark. They finished the race, crossing the line in second place, but without completing a penalty turn they were ranked as a non-finisher.
The NeilPryde Racing Series with 20+ of the best professional and amateur windsurfers competing for the Nice title, including Olympic medalists Faustine Merret and Julien Bontemps, began today and concludes tomorrow. The spectators in Nice are enjoying the action be it on the water or on land.
'There are high pressure conditions all over France this weekend, but this doesn’t stop the public from showing up ‘en masse’ on the beach,' said Jean-Pierre Dick. 'And with the Optimists, the NeilPryde windsurfers and the Extreme 40s on the water, it’s a real celebration of the sport of sailing. I have never seen anything like this in Nice before.'
So the stage is set for the final showdown of Act 7… The race management team will go for the same format tomorrow with some races early morning in addition to the afternoon set, to ensure the Extreme 40 competitors get the best possible chance of vying for the overall Nice title.