The all-French team of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild celebrated victory in Act 7 of the Extreme Sailing Serie on home soil in Nice, France, only securing their win in the final moments of the final race. It was an incredible finish, played out in low wind speeds but with plenty of high drama.
The 11 international Extreme 40 teams competed in 29 races over five days of competition, at the Extreme Sailing Series debut in Nice with a mix of open water courses and stadium racing with the course was set just meters off the beach.
Going into a final double points race, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
, skippered by Pierre Pennec, was in a dangerous position with the Swedish team of Artemis Racing
trailing the French team by just three points. It meant that if Artemis Racing
finished ahead of Pennec's team, they could not afford to finish less than one place behind to guarantee victory. Terry Hutchinson's team on board Artemis Racing
, jumped the gun at the start, and had to re-start, as Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
sailed away. Hutchinson's crew made up swift ground and, unbelievably, got ahead of Pennec. The French team was clinging on, one place behind, only to incur a gybe penalty. Pennec's team came out of the penalty but was it too late for them to get back in contention? From the shore it certainly looked to be the case but the French crowd kept on cheering to encourage the team to keep going. In the end, it was Britain's Ben Ainslie who drove Oman Air
across the finish line first to claim the final race win, but Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
held their nerve and crossed the line just a few seconds and, importantly, just one place behind Artemis Racing. They had done it! Their second victory of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series, after their win in the inaugural act in Muscat, Oman, that also takes them into the overall lead in the 2011 series standings.
"I feel really happy especially about what we have achieved after the Cowes regatta,"
said Pierre Pennec. "We have improved on onboard communication and how we work as a team. This is crucial moving into the end of the season because to win out of luck is good, but to win feeling that the level of our team has gone up a notch is even better. I don't feel the pressure of being at the top of the leaderboard in the overall championship. I stopped giving myself a hard time after the events in Boston and Cowes. I think that the crew manages to reach a high level especially in the crucial races. I try to sail as best as I can in each Act and not to make mistakes and above all to think about each race, and not the overall result. I never said to myself that we were going to win here in Nice."
It was a bitter pill for the Artemis Racing
team to swallow, missing out on victory by just one point, especially for skipper Terry Hutchinson who missed out at the Boston, USA, event in a similar scenario against Dean Barker's Emirates Team New Zealand.
The Swiss team of Alinghi
completed the Act 7, Nice podium in third place holding off a challenge from the Italian Luna Rossa
team. "Overall, third is a good result but we are a little disappointed,"
said skipper Tanguy Cariou. "We were better yesterday and I think that we had the potential to do better today but we lost the rhythm compared to Artemis Racing or Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, so congratulations to them."
For three-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie, skipper of Oman Air
, who won the final race, he had a frustrating event even though the team managed to climb from seventh yesterday to finish fifth in the Nice rankings. Disappointed not to be on the podium as they were at Act 6 in Trapani, Ainslie will skipper the team again at the penultimate event in Almería.
For Jean-Pierre Dick who competed in his first Extreme 40 event as skipper of Team Extreme Cote d'Azur
it was an experience he enjoyed even if the 'stadium' was much smaller than the round the world stage he normally competes on, "We had a lot of fun,"
said Dick. "It was great to be here in Nice, in my hometown, surrounded by these top skippers."
With seven of the nine-event world tour now completed, the skippers contending for the 2011 overall title will only have that on their minds at the penultimate event in Almería, Spain (12-16 October) and the final in Singapore (7-11 December) as Max Sirena, skipper of Luna Rossa
, confirmed, "We are still in the game being second for the 2011 championship but we don't feel very happy about our performance here in Nice. We need to do better in Almería to have a chance to win in Singapore."
Extreme Sailing Series Act 7, Nice, France standings after 29 races
Position / Team / Points
1. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
(FRA) Pierre Pennec 229 points
2. Artemis Racing
(SWE) Terry Hutchinson 228 points
(SUI) Tanguy Cariou 215.5 points
4. Luna Rossa
(ITA) Max Sirena 209 points
5. Oman Air
(OMA) Ben Ainslie 185 points
6. Red Bull Extreme Sailing
(AUT) Roman Hagara 179.5 points
7. Emirates Team New Zealand
(NZL) Dean Barker 163 points
8. Team GAC Pindar
(GBR) Ian Williams 160 points
9. The Wave, Muscat
(OMA) Leigh McMillan 156 points
10. Team Extreme Nice Côte d'Azur
(FRA) Jean-Pierre Dick 119 points
(ITA) Alberto Barovier 118 points