On the edge, then over it' - this was Extreme Sailing Series Race Director Phil Lawrence's description of conditions in Nice today that resulted in the cancellation of the first day's racing at the penultimate Act of the Extreme Sailing Series.
The forecast was 14 to 17 knots but the French Riviera over delivered, where the wind was blowing a steady 25 knots, with gusts of 30 knots throughout the day. That combined with a strong tide and rolling waves meant lots of bow down, hull flying action as the 8 Extreme 40s battled the elements to keep their 40ft catamarans upright.
Shortly after the fleet left the dock, Race Director Phil Lawrence made the call to postpone racing by one hour but the strong wind conditions showed no sign of abating, eventually resulting in the cancellation at 15:30 local time.
Phil Lawrence explained, "When we arrived on site there was already 20 knots of wind and building fast with large waves rolling through the course. As we were about to start racing, the wind jumped up to 25 to 30 knots with two metre breaking waves, so we postponed and sent the fleet back to the dock. Several boats sustained minor damage in the boat breaking waves, as they sailed in. When we made the final call to abandon racing for the day, the wind was a constant 29 knots with large gusts and the sea state was still worsening. We have added additional morning sessions on Saturday and Sunday to get the racing back on schedule."
"This is some of the windiest conditions we have sailed in but the biggest problem was the waves,"
said SAP Extreme Sailing Team's Danish skipper Jes Gram-Hansen on coming ashore. "They were pretty big and that made it quite scary to do the bear-aways so it was the right decision to cancel the racing. These boats are difficult to sail and capsizing is a part of the game but we are ready and looking forward to tomorrow."
Double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara and his men on Red Bull Sailing Team are known for relishing the more extreme conditions but even for him, today was one the edge resulting in a snapped halyard.
Local boat Team Extreme Ville de Nice were another who fell victim to the conditions, suffering minor damage as skipper Erik Maris explained, "We blew the track on the way back to the harbour because of the wind and waves and maybe the track itself was weak. It was lucky we were on our way back to the harbour otherwise we couldn't have raced."
On racing in these conditions, "We've done a few training sessions on the Extreme 40 in about as much wind and waves as today, but racing-wise we've never competed in these conditions. We don't normally see these kind of conditions in Nice: waves, wind, sun, so hopefully tomorrow it will be a bit more manageable."
Both Red Bull Sailing Team and Team Extreme Ville de Nice are confident they will make their repairs in time for tomorrow's racing.
The second team hailing from France, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, won the Act in Nice last year, but as skipper Pierre Pennec said, the conditions are a far cry from 2011, "Last year the wind was really light - completely different from today - and we performed really well. But generally we are a very pretty physical and technical crew we definitely prefer the breeze. I think it was the right decision to cancel racing today - the starts and sailing upwind would have been difficult as we are battling winds and the sea."
Three more days of racing remain at the Extreme Sailing Series in Nice, and with the conditions expected to subside enough to begin racing on Friday 19 October, the teams are gearing up for plenty of action.