Increase in power
Windy, physical and sunny are three adjectives which perfectly describe the second day of competition in the Extreme Sailing Series in Oman. In these conditions the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group have shown themselves to be especially at ease and their performance has been pertinent. Tied on points with three other boats yesterday after the first six races of the Muscat Grand Prix, the catamaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has the edge over her rivals this evening. With three victories out of the five races contested today, Pierre Pennec and his men have racked up a first place in the provisional ranking and have managed to get a few precious points ahead of their closest rivals.
The breeze of around fifteen knots which has accompanied the Extreme 40 fleet throughout the afternoon has not just enabled another five races to be run, but has also provided spectators with a very fine battle on the Omani race zone. However, although these steady conditions are perfect for putting on a show, they require a great deal of energy from the men aboard the catamarans, and notably the three crew responsible for trimming and manoeuvring the one designs. Thierry Fouchier, who trims the headsails aboard Gitana Extreme with Hervé Cunningham, gives us the lowdown on this second day of competition:Everything went well for us and even though we’ve still got some flaws, we’re working to improve on them as the days go on. These aren’t the most extreme conditions we’ve encountered on the Extreme Sailing Series, but this second day of racing in Muscat has been physical. The manœuvres have to link together perfectly so as we don’t lose time unnecessarily at the marks and that requires constant work and a great deal of attention on our behalf. I also believe that getting the crew to hike out is very important as you can see a real difference opening up according to weather or not you’re doing that. Today I think we were a little notch above the others when sailing close-hauled, because when we’ve wanted to accelerate in relation to the fleet we’ve managed to pull it off. This ability to pull away and this extra speed really helps Pierre to get his mind away from the boat, which enables him to better apprehend the tactics on the race zone. In the manoeuvres we were well synchronised and today we managed to stay clear of any penalties, which are really crippling when you want to rank well because the minute there’s wind, you lose a lot of ground. Our philosophy is to sail cleanly by trying to head to where we want to go. That doesn’t necessarily mean heading off to the best place on the line, but going out with enough room to be able to get up to the speed we want. For the time being, we’ve done pretty well at it but there are still three days of competition left so we’ll have to stay concentrated and try to repeat the performance over the next few days.”
After two days of open-water races outside The Wave Marina, the eleven competing crews will get even closer to the Omani public from tomorrow onwards. Indeed the next three days of competition will see the fleet of Extreme 40s sailing right next to the sea walls at the entrance to the port, so as the spectacle for onlookers will be even more impressive. With the arrival of shorter as well as more technical courses, the men of Edmond de Rothschild Group believe that a whole new series of racing will begin tomorrow: “For the third day of racing, we’re switching configuration. The committee will set us off on some short ‘stadium’ courses involving a lot more manœuvres, tighter tactics and hence a lot more risk for both the boat and the crew. In light of what’s to come, our ten point lead isn’t a comfortable one but it’s good to be in this position all the same,” concluded the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group.
The first warning signal should sound offshore of Muscat tomorrow, Tuesday 22 February, shortly before 1400 hours local time, that is 1000 hours GMT.
The crew speak out
Pierre Pennec, skipper-helmsman: I’m really happy with how the day’s gone, both in terms of the result, as we have a ten point lead over the crew in 2nd place this evening, and the work carried out aboard. Hervé, Fouch’ and Christophe had a superb day, whether it be on a technical level, hiking out or in the fluidity of the communication and information. With a wind oscillating between 14 and 17 knots and growing waves in the afternoon, it was very physical for my crew. Given the forecast wind, we decided this morning that we wouldn’t take any risks. That’s what we did but the crew was really at ease and powerful, which enabled us to win three of the five races run.”
Marie Dixneuf, préparateur with Cyril Ducrot: Windy days are generally the most stressful as there is a greater risk of collision or technical failures. At the end of an afternoon of racing like we’ve had today, the checks we carry out each evening, with Cyril (Ducrot) are a little more in-depth as the gear is naturally subjected to greater stresses. Right now we’re going to check the lines and sheets and look closely at all the deck hardware, especially as both sand and earth in Oman can jam up the systems. We’re also going to pay close attention to the daggerboards and rudders as it’s pretty commonplace during races, given the speed of the boats, that the lines or nets damage the appendages a little.”
Provisional ranking for the Muscat Grand Prix on 21 February (after eleven races)
  1. Edmond de Rothschild Group– 101 points
  2. Alinghi – 91 points
  3. The Wave, Muscat – 89 points
  4. Red Bull Extreme Sailing – 80 points
  5. Artemis Racing – 76 points
  6. Oman Air – 74 points
  7. Emirates Team New Zealand – 64 points
  8. Luna Rossa – 62 points
  9. Team Extreme – 36 points
  10. Niceforyou – 32 points
  11. Team GAC Pindar – 21 points
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