The final days eight races delivered the best stadium action of Act 6 with 17+ knots of breeze and the Extreme 40 fleet finish box directly in front of the spectators, generating spontaneous applause from them with the action just metres away.
The highlight came at the finish of the fourth race of the day when Red Bull Extreme Sailing, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Luna Rossa charged into the finish area under gennaker, hulls flying, neck and neck fighting for the lead at the ultimate gybe mark to the line. Roman Hagara's Red Bull Extreme Sailing dived in on the inside and got a nose ahead, the three boats made the tight hand-brake turn launching themselves for the finish line set just 20m away. There was no room for a photo finish - the line was only wide enough for two boats but Hagara held his nerve and his miniscule lead to cross first ahead of Pierre Pennec's team. This was the Stadium Sailing that the Extreme Sailing Series is known for at its very best.
Going into the final double-points race, four boats were still in with a chance to claim victory with just 8.5 points separating The Wave, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Oman Air - Luna Rossa was adrift by 14.5 points but mathematically it was still possible. In the end, Red Bull Extreme Sailing claimed the race win but Leigh McMillan's team kept their nerve to finish second and clinch victory.
"It has been the toughest week we have had, well one of the toughest weeks I have ever had on the water," said McMillan. "Everyday we have been grinding it out trying to get some good races, we are thrilled to have won in Trapani and somehow we have won two in a row. I thought it would go to Alinghi or Oman Air. Alinghi started off really well and Oman Air have been incredible all through the week, right on the pace. So to actually have managed to beat both of them as they were pushing us all the way is great."
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild were struggling in the first half of the Act but slowly found their form. "I am happy, much better than in Cowes, as we did a good job. But still we have to improve," said bowman Hervé Cunningham. "It would be easier for us if we started well and stayed in the top of the leaderboard from day 1 but it's not happening. We are all really happy we managed to sneak into second position on the leaderboard. We all said this morning that there was no pressure and we would stick to our plan, focus on ourselves and we would see how it goes, and it went well! The level of the fleet is still rising so we must focus and keep improving to sail the best we can."
Ben Ainslie at the helm of Oman Air once again demonstrated how quickly he has got a handle on these boats and raced strongly throughout the afternoon, only a poor start in the final race was the team's undoing. "I've really enjoyed it," said Ainslie. "We have a lot of improvements to make and I am just learning the ropes, the guys are fantastic and have pulled me through. It's great to be in the top three for my first event."
For the Italian team of Luna Rossa, the favourites of the crowd here and positioned as favourites to win Act 6 by many of the pundits, but Trapani didn't go the way skipper, Max Sirena, had hoped. "It is what it is," said a disappointed Sirena. "We are going to spend this week working out what went wrong so we can work out what we need to improve." A bit harsh on himself perhaps considering how close it was going in to the final race.
In the penultimate race the Swiss team Alinghi, who had led Act 6 for the first two days and were performing well, was involved in a port/starboard collision with Team GAC Pindar resulting in serious damage to the transom, and requiring a swift haul-out by crane. Tanguy Cariou's team was given redress and they retained their sixth place in the overall rankings.
The Sicilian town of Trapani has welcomed the Extreme Sailing Series with open arms for a second year in a row. An estimated 35,000 people enjoyed the top level sporting event on the water, with many more visiting the Extreme village for the evening entertainment. The event also showcased local kids racing in the Optimist Marinepool regatta and two Olympic 49er teams going head to head, the fifth man guests got the ride of their lives and the Race Village was packed every night to watch the bands and dance acts on the main stage.
It has been a memorable Act here in Trapani, next stop is Nice for Act 7 between 28 September to 2 October. Artemis Racing will be back and Team Extreme will be racing under the colours of the city of Nice with solo offshore ace Jean-Pierre Dick at the helm.
Extreme Sailing Series Act 6 at Trapani supported by Telecom Italia
Overall standings after 34 races (18.9.11)
Position / Team / Points
1. The Wave, Muscat (OMA) Leigh McMillan 283 points
2. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA) Pierre Pennec 274 points
3. Oman Air (OMA) Ben Ainslie Mashari 266.5 points
4. Luna Rossa (ITA) Max Sirena 263 points
5. Red Bull Extreme Sailing (AUT) Roman Hagara 260 points
6. Alinghi (SUI) Tanguy Cariou 256.9 points
7. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) Adam Beashel 206.5 points
8. Team GAC Pindar (GBR) Ian Williams 171 points
9. Niceforyou (ITA) Alberto Barovier 161 points
10. Team Extreme 'Sailing Seacily' (EUR) Sebbe Godefroid Thery 145 points
Extreme Sailing Series 2011
Overall standings after 6 Acts
Position / Team / Points
1. Luna Rossa 51 points
2. Groupe Edmond de Rothschild 50 points
3.The Wave, Muscat 49 points
4. Emirates Team New Zealand 49 points
5. Red Bull Extreme Sailing 43 points
6. Alinghi 39 points
7. Artemis Racing 38 points
8. Oman Air 31 points
9. Team GAC Pindar 17 points
10. Niceforyou 15 points
11. Team Extreme 13 points