San Diego Match Racing Championships, the third stop of the America’s Cup World Series, is currently underway on San Diego Bay.
The Energy Team AC45 skippered by Yann Guichard achieved an excellent result and confirmed its ability by grabbing first place in the overall rankings after the three fleet races that took place yesterday. Third in the first race, fifth in the second and winner of the third, the French challenger finishes ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Racing Spithill. The French were certainly happy as they qualify automatically for the semi-finals, which are due to take place on Friday in the bay in California. We take a look at what happened during the night and hear from the skipper of Energy Team and Bruno Peyron, the manager of the French team.
Race one: It was in ideal conditions with brilliant sunshine and 12 knots of wind that the first race of the day for the AC45s started. Fairly well placed, Energy Team crossed the starting line with the pack, while three boats received penalties: Artemis (Terry Hutchinson), Aleph (Pierre Pennec) and Oracle Racing Spithill. Sixth at the first mark, the French moved up one spot during the downwind leg. Yann Guichard and his men remained in fifth place at the end of the upwind leg towards the third mark. The second downwind leg did not change anything and Energy Team rounded the fourth mark in fifth place. The French crew attempted to pull off a strategic option by heading for the right side of the race course, unlike the four frontrunners, Oracle Racing Coutts (Darren Bundock), Emirates Team New Zealand (Dean Barker), Team Korea (Chris Draper) and China Team (Charlie Ogletree). The option paid off for Yann Guichard, who made a remarkable recovery and moved up two places on the second upwind leg, allowing them to get back just behind Dean Barker at the fifth mark. In spite of the pressure from Team Korea, in fourth place, the French boat kept its place on the podium during the third downwind leg up to mark 6. No change during the run to the final mark and the home stretch: thanks to their constant speed, the French took third place in this race dominated by Darren Bundock (Oracle Coutts), who came in ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand.
Race two: Energy Team got off to another good start and rounded the first mark in third place. Yann Guichard’s crew dropped back one place at the end of the first downwind leg sailing behind Team Korea, Emirates Team New Zealand and Artemis. These four boats found themselves in a bitter battle. The first upwind leg was very tense and the four boats rounded mark 3 within nine seconds of each other. The battle continued during the second downwind leg and Yann Guichard rounded the fourth mark in third place behind Terry Hutchinson and Dean Barker. Well on their way to a place on the podium, Energy Team received a penalty and had to slow down at the start of the second upwind leg. The French crew lost a lot of time and rounded the penultimate mark in sixth place. There was then a closely fought contest with Aleph (Pierre Pennec) in fifth place, on the final downwind leg: Energy Team headed off to the left of the race course, while their rival went right. In the end it was the option chosen by Yann Guichard and his men, which paid off allowing them to finish in fifth place in this second race, which was won by Terry Hutchinson, ahead of Charlie Ogletree (China Team) and Dean Barker (ETNZ).
Race three: A third great start for the French team, who were in second place at the first mark just behind Green Comm Racing (Vassilij Zbogar). Energy Team took the lead during the first downwind leg, but they were only just ahead. The upwind leg towards mark 3 involved a closely fought duel between Yann Guichard and Vassilij Zbogar, and the leadership changed several times. The French crew out in front managed to extend their lead slightly on the downwind run to the fourth mark. They had just one more lap to go before the finish and Energy Team was in control, but it was not over yet as Yann Guichard only had a lead of eight seconds over their rival as they passed through the final windward gate. They then warded off attacks from James Spithill, who had really got back into the race and Vassilij Zbogar during the final downwind leg. After a final gybe, Energy Team achieved a great victory in this third and final race of the day. Quotes:
Yann Guichard: 'We sailed really well today and the team did a really good job. It was tough, as the courses are very short, but our manoeuvres were always just right and we managed to find good speed, making tactics that much easier. I feel more and more confident on board and with the speed. I can now look around me to see what is going on around the race course and work on tactics and strategy. I know that the lads are keeping up and that gives me confidence. The more confident I am the better able I am to call for tricky manoeuvres. Arnaud Jarlegan, who is at my side and whom I know well, helps me a lot with this: we think along the same lines. Today it was just perfect. We got off to two great starts. When you round the first mark in the lead, you’re out there in front of everyone else and that makes the rest of the race that much easier. With our new headsail, we’re faster, particularly in this 10-12 knot breeze. During the start phase, we have an idea in our head and know how we are going to get underway. You really have to avoid a false start as it is very difficult to claw your way back. We look to see whether there are any opportunities and whether we can be well positioned and build up our speed. That happened in the final race. It’s the speed at the start, which is vital, as afterwards, everything is easier. In the second race, there were a lot of boats OCS. The game is very open after that. It’s a great win for us, even if it is a bit of a surprise.'
Bruno Peyron: 'After the team’s first win on Sunday, finding ourselves on top of the rankings this evening is a great reward for all the work that has been done by everyone: out on the water, ashore, in the offices, in the training sessions, in terms of performance and logistics... This is just one step forward, but it is important from a race and psychological perspective. If you want to win, you have to give yourself the means and prove that it can be done. After that, you have to get used to that and make the most of what you are able to do... The team has shown its qualities: hard work, commitment, its willingness to go on the attack and its ease at manoeuvres. The basic elements of our work established in Quiberon (preparation, coaching, training) is now generating results and it looks like we have reached another stage. We need to remain composed and prepare ourselves for what comes next with the same serious attitude, as we all are well aware that pride comes before a fall. Even if we still have a long way to go, we can be pleased about this great day, which has seen us get straight through to the semi-finals.' Results - San Diego Match Racing Championship Team (Country) Match – Fleet — Total
1. Energy Team (FRA) 3 – 5 – 1— 24 points
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 2 – 3 – 5 — 23 pts
3. ORACLE Racing Spithill (USA) 5 – 4 – 2 — 22 pts
4. Artemis Racing (SWE) 7 – 1 – 4 — 21 pts
5. Team Korea (KOR) 4 – 2 – 8 — 19 pts
6. ORACLE Racing Coutts (USA) 1 – 8 – 6 — 18 pts
7. Green Comm Racing (ESP) 8 – 9 – 3 — 14 pts
8. Aleph (FRA) 9 – 6 – 7 — 12 pts
9. China Team (CHN) 6 – 7 – 9 — 12 pts
(Scoring: first = 10 points, second = 9, third = 8, fourth = 7, fifth = 6, sixth = 5, seventh = 4, eighth, ninth = 3) Energy Team website