Coloured by light airs in 2011, the Nice Grand Prix was much more breezy this year. Deprived of any racing on Thursday given the strong winds and heavy seas, which made sailing overly perilous, the eight competing crews really made up for lost time later on. For three days, the Extreme Sailing Series fleet delighted the crowds, who were out in force along the famous Promenade des Anglais. On the water, the sailors also relished the racing, as the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group explains: “We’ve really been spoilt: we enjoyed the season’s best weather conditions so far, with a wind of between 15 and 20 knots everyday, sunshine, action and for us a win to boot! I’m massively lucky to be able to sail with such a crew. Conditions were physical and tough, but despite all that they were always just where they were supposed to be and maintained a clarity of mind, which proved indispensible. We sailed carefully and very cleanly. Aboard the boat, the manœuvres linked together effortlessly and this fluidity, associated with our very good speed upwind, made the difference. This speed bonus is the fruit of a collective effort with Arnaud and Hervé. Another very important point was the starts. It was clearly our weak point in Cardiff and here we always managed to pull off some very good starts on the whole.”
This victory was an important one for Gitana Team. Having had a rough ride during the last two Grands Prix, which were held in Porto and Cardiff, Pierre Pennec and his men were keen to come back from that and power up again with one event to go till the end of the season: “We are competitors through and through and the minute we hit the water we’re keen to put up a good performance. Here, we were at a critical point in the season after two bad results for the team in Porto and Cardiff. From that point, either we were going to crumble or be able to hold our heads high. The crew dug deep and we knew how to sail intelligently and cleanly. Now we’re holding the necessary cards to be able to round off the season on a high. Indeed for us Nice was about getting back on track as well as climbing back onto the podium, so as we can set ourselves up for the best possible result in Rio,” explained Hervé Cunningham, headsail trimmer on the Gitana Extreme.
During the prize-giving, Pierre Pennec couldn’t disguise his delight and thanked those responsible for Gitana Team’s existence: “A huge thank you to Benjamin and Ariane de Rothschild, who enable us to enjoy moments such as these on the water. It was a highly emotional Grand Prix and on the last race, given our lead at the final mark, I was able to really make the most of the end of the race. This evening, we’ll certainly savour this victory and it is something we share with the entire Gitana Team, Sébastien and Hubert who prepare the boat and the Edmond de Rothschild Group.”
Thanks to the performance by Pierre Pennec and his crew, Edmond de Rothschild Group is the only team, which has managed to put a stop to the hegemony of the catamarans from the Sultanate of Oman in this Extreme Sailing Series 2012.
The final event of the championship will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 6 to 9 December 2012. This final stage will be incredibly tense as the provisional overall standing shows that the results aren’t set in stone. Indeed, though Leigh McMillan boasts a very comfortable lead with 61.5 points, astern of him there is very little separating his pursuers and Pierre Pennec and his men are adamant that they will move up the leaderboard. Oman Air is currently in second place with 54 points and Edmond de Rothschild Group is now lying in third place with 51 points. Finally, in fourth position, with 48.5 points, we find Red Bull Sailing Team, which has lost ground after their sixth place in the Nice Grand Prix.
The team speaks out
Bernard Labro, bowman: “We’re really happy to have secured the win here. We’re in France and we’ve got ourselves back in contention for the end of the championship. We couldn’t have hoped for better. We’ve been waiting for this moment since the start of the year and we’ve stood out in the best way possible way here. We had the bit between our teeth on arriving here in Nice. On a personal level I took some time to digest the racing in Porto as I reckoned the umpires made a wrong decision, which cost us very dearly. After that, Hervé Cunningham and I were absent from Cardiff, as we were involved in another race, and we promised ourselves that we would take a win here. However, this victory is down to a massive amount of teamwork. There are five of us aboard and each of us has given 100% this weekend. We were on the pace from the outset and the confidence has been very important. We need to use the confidence we’ve racked up here to take us forward to the next Grand Prix.”
Cyril Dardashti, General Manager of the Gitana Team: “I’m very happy that Pierre Pennec’s crew has scored a win for the second time in Nice. These guys love the breezy conditions and they’ve proved that throughout the three days of racing. They were able to take the pressure, despite the blatant team racing by the two Omani boats competing on the circuit! At the start of the season, we scored some good podium places, but victory escaped us. It’s a done deal now and we’re going to have to ride that positive dynamic for the last Grand Prix of the season. The team has experienced some tough times, but it has been able to come back from all that in the most spectacular way and this evening Pierre Pennec and his men have brought a smile to the whole of the Gitana Team. Victory in the annual championship looks to me to be a tough ask as The Wave has a good lead, but with the 1.5 scoring coefficient applied to the last two Grands Prix we are right on the button to go and hunt down a second place with a deficit of just three points in relation to the other Omani boat.”
Provisional standing for the Nice Grand Prix after 28 races
- Edmond de Rothschild Group - 173 points
- The Wave Muscat – 161.3 points
- Oman Air – 159 points
- GAC Pindar - 134 points
- SAP Extreme Sailing Team - 121 points
- Red Bull Sailing Team – 120.7 points
- Alinghi – 102 points
- Zoulou – 69 points
Provisional overall standing for the Extreme Sailing Series after six Grands Prix
- The Wave Muscat – 61.5 points
- Oman Air – 54 points
- Edmond de Rothschild Group - 51 points
- Red Bull Sailing Team – 48.5 points
- GAC Pindar - 38.5 points
- SAP Extreme Sailing Team - 33 points
- Alinghi – 28 points
- Zoulou – 23.5 points
The crew of the Extreme Edmond de Rothschild Group
Pierre Pennec (Skipper / Helmsman),
Arnaud Psarofaghis (trimmer and traveller),
Hervé Cunningham (headsail trimmer),
Bernard Labro (bowman)
Romain Petit (trimmer),
The Extreme Edmond de Rothschild Group supports the Joves Navegants foundation
The family of Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has always had a passion for nautical activities, a commitment embodied today by the Gitana Team. As such the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations have quite naturally been sensitive to the mission of Joves Navegants and touched by the profound collective commitment to helping these young people in precarious situations.
Inspired by the methods of British Sailing associations, which help young people in difficulty, some enthusiastic sailors who have settled in Palma, Mallorca, decided to create Joves Navegants. Aware of the complicated situation for certain youngsters on the island in serious economic and family difficulties, they have chosen to share their passion. The foundation organises several types of trips out to sea on the yacht, Galaxie. These days out involve journeys of discovery, awareness campaigns for sustainable development, participation in races and training aids to enable certain youngsters to envisage sailing as a professional career.
The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation will be supporting Joves Navegants in the organisation of trips out to sea during the summer, enabling the necessary technical improvements to be made on the Galaxie and making it possible for a team to take part in the “Ruta de la Sal” race in April.
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