Light winds dominated the opening day of Act 7 of the Extreme Sailing Series in Nice. The beautiful resort in the heart of the French Riviera provided plenty of sunshine and sparkling Mediterranean waters for the 11 Extreme 40s to commence their battle for supremacy.
Roman Hagara's team on Red Bull Extreme Sailing
dominated the day, but the surprise result came from Nice-born local hero, Jean-Pierre Dick. Before racing began, Dick who is helming Team Extreme Nice Côte d'Azur
in the colours of his home city, said, "We haven't trained much and, to be honest, we will do our best but we are realistic about what we can do. I have a little bit of knowledge of racing multihulls but I am an ocean sailor. My 'stadium' is normally much bigger than this!"
His humility was expected but not, as it turned out, was his team's performance on the water.
The four Extreme 40 races were set in an 'open water' configuration today on the Bay of Angels to make the most of the conditions, but still close enough for the sunbathers basking on the beach to get a glimpse of these 40-foot catamarans as the Extreme Sailing Series made its debut in Nice. Act 7 opens to the public on Friday through to Sunday which will see the fleet racing in 'stadium' format as close to the Promenade des Anglais as possible.
Jean-Pierre Dick and his crew consisting of 2011 Solitaire du Figaro winner Jérémie Beyou as tactician, trimmer Billy Besson and bowman Arnaud Jarlegant called the right tactics and found boat speed when needed to score a second, third and fourth place finishing the end of day one in third place overall:
"My first day on an Extreme 40 was great and with a good result,"
said Dick. "We had a lot of fun and didn't expect to do as well as we did. It's great to be here in Nice, in my hometown, surrounded by these top skippers. I can't wait to move into Stadium Racing and to race in front of the public."
The regular all-French fixture on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
skippered by Pierre Pennec, sailed consistently to score two third places and a fourth, their worst result a seventh, to claim second place overall, on equal points with their French rivals on Team Extreme Nice Cote Azur.
But without doubt, the top boat of the day was Roman Hagara's Red Bull Extreme Sailing.
Hagara and his crew of Hans Peter Steinacher, the returning Will Howden and bowman Craig Monk won three out of the four races - clearly on form in the light and challenging conditions, and top the leaderboard going into the second day.
"It was really hard today, we had almost no wind, a lot of sun and it was really hard to race these boats,"
said Hagara. "But we went out really good at the start all the times, out of four starts we had one OCS but the other were really good. Then we were in the front of the fleet and it was easy for us. I like these wind conditions, always in the Tornado when it was light we were good."
It wasn't such a pretty story for Dean Barker returning to the helm of Emirates Team New Zealand
. Their best result of the day was a ninth place leaving them firmly at the bottom of the rankings. And The Wave, Muscat
, victors in Cowes and Trapani, also struggled in the light airs finishing the end of the day tenth place.
McMillan was pragmatic both about the conditions and their chances, "It is going to be a really tough event especially because in lighter winds it becomes more of a lottery. We'll do our best to keep sailing well but certainly there will be some different teams who are in the mix here and we'll probably find out that there are some light air specialists here. Now we're in the mix for the Overalls - we've done the hard work but it does get harder from here because the guys will be paying a bit more attention to us now and we've probably got to be more aware of people gunning for us."
With only two points separating Alinghi
from Oman Air
and Luna Rossa
, the opening day is just a shakedown of what is to come over the next four days here in Nice.
Extreme Sailing Series Act 7, Nice, France
Overall standings after four races (28.9.11)
Position / Team / Points
1. Red Bull Extreme Sailing
(AUT) Roman Hagara 35 points
2. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
(FRA) Pierre Pennec 31 points
3. Team Extreme Nice Côte d'Azur
(FRA) Jean-Pierre Dick 31 points
4. Artemis Racing
(SWE) Terry Hutchinson 29 points
(SUI) Tanguy Cariou 24 points
(ITA) Alberto Barovier 24 points
7. Oman Air
(OMA) Ben Ainslie 22 points
8. Luna Rossa
(ITA) Max Sirena 22 points
9. Team GAC Pindar
(GBR) Ian Williams 21 points
10. The Wave, Muscat
(OMA) Leigh McMillan 17 points
11. Emirates Team New Zealand
(NZL) Dean Barker 8 points