Yann Guichard's men proved to be unstoppable at the first round of the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series in Sète, France.
Yann Guichard claimed overall victory after 20 races over the four-day regatta, firmly throwing down the gauntlet to the other seven teams for the remainder of the season.
The forecasted Mistral conditions finally kicked in truly entertaining the crowds packed along the Môle, the beaches and the headland. The Extreme 40 crews were pushed to the limit in the strong gusts, teetering on the edge of disaster numerous times.
Second place on the overall podium went to Loick Peyron on Oman Sail Masirah who finished no lower than fourth in any of the final five races propelling them ahead of Paul Campbell-James' The Wave, Muscat:
"Maybe my experience helped a little in taking second from The Wave, Muscat,"
said Peyron, "But it is not just me, it is a team effort and without these guys it would be nothing. 'CJ' did a tremendous job and I am very happy, this is exactly what we were looking for to see both teams on the podium - it is a perfect finish. Second was the right place for us - Groupe Edmond de Rothschild were really consistent all event and deserve to win. We are pretty happy with the result, it wasn't easy but every day was better, sometimes it was very bad but that gives us space to improve for next time."
It was the podium result many had predicted with a showdown between Guichard and Peyron, but there is little doubt that Campbell-James, the 'junior' on the tour, is firmly in the fray and will become more of a threat as the season progresses:
"We didn't get much luck today, it just didn't go right for us. We had some bad luck and caught some bad wind shifts in every race! I didn't think we had finished on the podium - I am so pleased we managed to hold on to our place although I would have liked it to be a little higher," said Campbell-James. "I am glad to see our team mates Masirah on the podium, but I would have liked to have beat them! It is still only the first event and we will make sure we put in the training to come back stronger at the next event in Cowes."
Britain's Mike Golding scored two wins on the final day to put Ecover Sailing Team in fourth place overall - a great result for the team who came so close to winning on the previous days, but saved the best till last:
"We finished on a nice high, we had two bullets today and a second so we got over that little mountain of finishing first today which is awesome," said Ecover helmsman, Leigh McMillan. "The first in the final race ended up being a double pointer which resulted in a fourth place overall which is a great come back for us. All of us have bonded as a team and it's a fantastic finish for us. This sets us up for the rest of the year and I think shows that we have the potential to be a threat to the other teams so watch out for Ecover!"
The teams 'played' hard on the final day under extreme pressure - the mark roundings were close and fraught with danger, keeping the on-water referees busy as they handed out the penalties. Franck Cammas' Groupama 40 had mixed fortunes on the final day with a 2,1,4,5,8 scoreline after incurring a penalty in the final race which relegated them to fifth overall, 10 points ahead of The Ocean Racing Club and Red Bull Extreme Sailing on 81 points apiece in sixth and seventh. Team GAC Pindar completed the leaderboard in eighth on 55 points.
Sète has proved to be a tricky and demanding venue out on the water but the sailors have enjoyed the challenge and the spectator vantage points were fantastic for the crowds who packed along the Môle, the beaches and the headlands to get the best view. The French round of the Extreme Sailing Series took place alongside L'Escale de Sete, a traditional maritime festival, that provided a beautiful contrast between the old and the new.
Round 2 of the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series takes place in the UK during Cowes Week between 31st July and 5th August. This hugely popular spectator event will, once again, see the fleet race directly off The Green in West Cowes.