It was a full pressure day at the Extreme Sailing Series in Nice, France, as the gusty conditions, short courses and reaching starts tested some of the world's best sailors to their limits - including current Series leader Leigh McMillan whose team The Wave, Muscat found themselves limping back to port after a collision on the start line in the final race of the day with Alinghi and Red Bull Sailing Team.
The crash, which could be heard by the gathering spectators on shore at the Promenade des Anglais, also left the Austrians out of racing and both teams have a long night of repairs ahead to be back on the water tomorrow.
15 knots of breeze and gusts that reached 23 knots by the final race combined with a tight start line is what the sailors attributed today's drama too at the Bay of Angels. In the final race of the day as the eight Extreme 40s charged to the start line at full pelt, the Swiss team Alinghi careered into The Wave, Muscat resulting in serious damage not only to the Omani boat's hull but also causing them to smash into the Austrian team Red Bull Sailing Team. For McMillan, whose team craned their Extreme 40 out of the water in the evening to make essential repairs, the damage could potentially have serious consequences in his bid for the Series championship with vital points up for grabs in this penultimate event of the year if they are not back on the water tomorrow. McMillan explained, "We didn't have much room to manoeuvre on the start line so there were a lot of incident close calls. The last race was just getting too tight on the start line and there was a big incident, I couldn't say at this stage whose was at fault but I can say the damage to our boat is pretty severe. We are going to be up all night and probably still working on it in the morning. Hopefully we will be back on the water for the afternoon's racing."
The Austrian double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara's team will also be craning out their Extreme 40 Red Bull Sailing Team tonight - and Hagara says missing a day of racing is out of the question. "It was quite a good day for us until that last race. It just came down to one bad race. The boat has a big hole in it and it will be a long night for us as we try to repair the damage. We have to get it fixed by tomorrow, we need to race and we will do everything possible to repair the boat." Both Red Bull Sailing Team and The Wave, Muscat were awarded average points for the final race they missed, leaving them both in podium places in first and third respectively, while Alinghi were deducted six points.
Morgan Larson's team on Oman Air did well to stay out of serious trouble - just. Despite losing trimmer Andy Maloney overboard, and narrowly avoiding a capsize in ninth race after a big bare-away at the first mark, Larson led his team to three race wins, and sit in fourth place overall. "It felt like it could have gone either way, I even said to the guys, "I think we're going over, hang on!" We kept hiking at the back, the boat fell down and off we went!"
explained Larson. "We lost Andy over board, a laser sailor who has spent his whole life in hiking straps, because he missed the hiking straps but when you push that hard it is going to happen. All in all we held it together and it felt good out there."
Pierre Pennec seems determined to repeat history and win the Act in Nice for a second consecutive year and with that win his first Act of the 2012 Series. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild rarely finished out of the top three today and two race wins leaves them just 0.7 of a point behind Red Bull Sailing Team in second place. "It's great sailing in the breeze. This has been the first day of big wind racing we've done since the beginning of the season and it really gives the crew a chance to show their physical and technical abilities. Tactically, our goal was to avoiding other boats as much as possible on the start line, and I am thankful that we don't have any repairs to do tonight."
The local boat Team Extreme Ville de Nice are another who find themselves with a night of repairs ahead after snapping their tiller extension in race eight as skipper Erik Maris explained, "The day was fun - windy, sunny and more manageable conditions then yesterday. The starts were really difficult and race eight was fatal for us as it broke our steering system so we had to abandon that the last few races of the day. We should be back tomorrow."
GAC Pindar and SAP Extreme Sailing Team showed moments of real brilliance today both claiming race wins throughout the day currently sitting in fifth and sixth respectively.