The tension was palpable as the second day of racing began in Cowes. The forecasts announced boisterous conditions and the crews were able to testify to this on the race zone in Cowes: there was 16 to 20 knots of wind, if not more in the gusts, and the current which is so typical of the Solent picked up a slight chop. Faced with these conditions and with safety in mind, the organisers of the Extreme Sailing Series had decided earlier on in the day to split the fleet into two groups. Due to race in the second group of the day, Edmond de Rothschild Group set sail for the area around Egypt Point shortly after 1600 hours, whilst the first six catamarans from Group 1 headed back to Venture Quays. It all started well, but when they got three-quarters of the way through the race, with Pierre Pennec and his men battling for pole position, they collided hard with Artemis Racing, which stopped them in their tracks. Hervé Cunningham, the bowman aboard the boat looks back at the incident: “The day had begun well as we got a good start which enabled us to move up to the front of this reduced fleet. We were first to round the first mark and were really smoking along, even though we didn’t have a significant lead over Luna Rossa and Artemis Racing. The wind was pumping out around 18 knots but with the enforced reef in the mainsail conditions were manageable. On the second beat, we were in contact with Artemis Racing.We were approaching the windward mark, both on port tack. Aboard the boat, we quickly identified what was going on and understood that Artemis wouldn’t have time to tack in front of us. With this kind of wind strength everything happens really quickly and we warned them very early on that they mustn’t tack. We were really alert and aware of the upcoming situation. Unfortunately Santiago Lange opted to tack and it was already too late by then. Despite that we reacted very quickly: Fouch’ dumped the jib, Christophe the mainsail traveller and Pierre bore aware, but we didn’t get clear of them. We couldn’t have done any more to avoid this collision. Christophe and I were out on the wire and we ended up in the water but didn’t suffer any ‘damage’. We can’t say the same for the boat and it’s always very unpleasant to take a damaged boat back to our shore crew as we’re well aware that they’ll have to do a vast amount of work on her tonight so we stand of chance of sailing and defending our chances tomorrow. They’re already on the case and we know that they’ll do everything they can.”
Indeed, following this collision, there is considerable damage aboard Edmond de Rothschild Group. The port bow on the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has folded 90°. Such damage will require hours of work for the shore team and Marie Dixneuf in particular, who is the composite specialist. Supported by Cyril Ducrot, the boat captain, she’s going to have to make a whole new bow to enable the crew to take part in racing tomorrow. This may seem simple on paper, but the reality is very different with a night of no sleep in prospect for the two préparateurs.
Back alongside, Pierre Pennec and Thierry Fouchier had to explain the situation to the event jury as protests were lodged by both boats. It will be up to the judges to decide whether Edmond de Rothschild Group or Artemis Racing are at fault in this collision. The decision won’t be known until tomorrow morning but the outcome is very important as whichever catamaran is deemed to be within their rights will be re-ranked. This means that the jury will award them points as redress. The calculation will be based on the average of the races run yesterday.
In the general ranking, after two days of competition, Luna Rossa is leading the way ahead of the crew on The Wave Muscat, whilst Edmond de Rothschild Group is lying in third place on the provisional podium. However, this result isn’t definitive as it doesn’t take into account the possible redress mentioned above which is awarded by the jury.
Ranking for the Cowes Grand Prix at the end of the 2nd day
- Luna Rossa (ITA) – 60 points
- The Wave, Muscat (OMA) – 51 points
- Edmond de Rothschild Group (FRA) – 43 points
- Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) – 42 points
- Alinghi (SUI) – 42 points
- Team GAC Pindar (GBR) – 42 points
- Oman Air (OMA) – 33 points
- Artemis Racing (SWE) – 27 points
- Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) – 26 points
- Niceforyou (ITA) – 24 points
- Aberdeen Asset Management (UK) – 23 points
- Team Extreme (EUR) – 12 points