America’s Cup World Series third stop drew to a close on Sunday evening with a final fleet race held on San Diego Bay. Energy Team took third place.
After coming second in the Match Racing Championship on Saturday, the French team has therefore reached the podium for a second time and ended this brilliant week in style. Always up there among the frontrunners, the crew led by Yann Guichard, who is currently replacing Loïck Peyron, has proved over and over again its ability to compete at the highest level with the leading players. We look back at Sunday’s fleet race, where the final podium place was fought over in the last few metres by Energy Team.
The nine AC45s got off to a good start and sped away at full speed towards the first mark, with the wind at around 15 knots. Well placed, Energy Team rounded the mark in fourth place. There was little change during the first downwind leg as far as the French team was concerned, as they were still in fourth place at the second mark behind Emirates Team New Zealand (Dean Barker), Oracle Racing Spithill and Aleph (Pierre Pennec). During the first upwind leg, the French boat took a different option from the three frontrunners by heading off to the right-hand side of the race course. This choice enabled them to move up one place. Yann Guichard took advantage of having the right of way on the starboard tack and forced Dean Barker to change tack. Some great work from Energy Team, who took the lead just in front of Artemis (Terry Hutchinson), who had recovered well, and Oracle Racing Spithill. The battle between the leaders continued and rounding mark 3 was a tricky affair. During the second downwind leg, James Spithill took control, while Team Korea (Chris Draper) came back in force rounding mark 4 in second position, just ahead of Energy Team and Artemis.
During the second upwind leg, Spithill made his getaway and had a lead of 29 seconds over the boat in second place at mark 5, meaning victory was not far away. On the other hand, behind, the fight for a place on the podium was raging. There were in fact four boats still in with a chance as they set off on the third downwind leg: Team Korea, Emirates Team New Zealand, Energy Team and Aleph. Suffering from a slight speed deficit sailing downwind, the French team managed nevertheless to keep up and completed the second lap in fourth place, seven seconds behind the third boat.
And then it was off on the final upwind leg. Behind James Spithill, now way out in front, Dean Barker and Chris Draper also extended their lead over Yann Guichard, who was at that point just off the podium as they rounded mark 7. But the final downwind leg would change things again, as Team Korea, having difficulties with their gennaker, lost ground. Energy Team caught the Korean boat up to grab third place. There was then a fine duel with the other French boat, Aleph. Yann Guichard had a very slight advantage over Pierre Pennec at the eighth and final mark. The final sprint was underway: the two AC45s were neck and neck with Aleph gaining ground, but in the end it was Energy Team, who took the final place on the podium by one second. They finished third behind Oracle Racing Spithill and Emirates Team New Zealand, meaning the French team can be very pleased with this excellent result obtained after a mighty battle.
Yann Guichard, (FRA): 'I’m proud of our team and very pleased with the result, particularly as we have shown the other teams that we are a force to be reckoned with. We’ve still got a long way to go to catch the top teams, but we are making progress every day and we’ll be making the most of the four months without any competition to train to be in the best of shape for Naples.'
Bruno Peyron: 'Energy Team has reached the podium for the first time and has just shown ahead of schedule that we are a force to be reckoned with for the top three. We managed to worry the best teams, beating them and upsetting the hierarchy. We could not have dreamt of more than these two highly symbolic places on the podium in what has been a magnificent week for us in San Diego. I’m proud of the whole team and of the work that has been done in such a short lapse of time, and proud of the way the group has worked and their attitude throughout, proud of the knowing smiles, which express so much, of the tired and yet poised looks. If we manage to continue to apply the same rigorous approach and partners join us in our venture at the right time, anything is possible… Well done to everyone!' Results of the final fleet race
1. Oracle Racing Spithill
2. Emirates Team New Zealand
3. Energy Team
7. China Team
8. Green Comm Racing
9. Oracle Racing Coutts Energy Team website