It was a light and slow start to the first day of the final round of the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series but the racing burst into life as the wind steadily built over the afternoon.
Racing within the strict confines of the Almerian port made for a thrilling spectacle. Six of the teams here are vying for the 2010 overall rankings, four of them - The Wave, Muscat, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, Ecover Sailing Team
and Oman Sail Masirah
- all hoping to secure places on the podium, whilst Groupama 40
and Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team
are scrapping over fifth. Rumbo Almeria
and Team Emirates New Zealand
are wild card entries for the Spanish event.
The eight teams took to the water early in the afternoon for two races outside the harbour walls giving them the opportunity to race in open water - Franck Cammas (Groupama 40
) and Ecover
(Mike Golding) each scoring a win - before heading back inside the port for the 'stadium' format of racing as the crowds arrived at the Race Village. The first four short 10-minute races saw the competition unfold as anticipated - a win for Yann Guichard (Groupe Edmond de Rothschild
), a win for Paul Campbell James
(The Wave, Muscat
), quickly followed by another win apiece. Then suddenly in the penultimate race, with the wind kicking in at over 12 knots, gusting 15, it all went horribly wrong for the young Omani team: "We literally got stuck on the race mark in the penultimate race then a couple of other little jury errors that cost us a penalty in the last race as well. We probably lost 15 points just there - if we'd avoided those errors we'd be on top of the pack
," said Campbell-James. Those 'errors' left Yann Guichard at the top of the leaderboard with 45 points, four points ahead of Ecover Sailing Team, as the French crew demonstrated just why they are the team to beat.
Mike Golding's team ensured the Brits kick-started their bid for the podium by finishing inside the top three in all but one of the races - a minor wobble soon put right as helmsman Leigh McMillan explained: "Boycey (Jonathan Taylor) gave us a stern talking to after the first in-port race where we sailed ourselves into sixth place. He told us to sort our lives out and we did! After that we were suddenly in the top three in every race and pulled back up
It proved an enjoyable if steep learning curve for Dean Barker
's team on Emirates Team New Zealand
who were racing an Extreme 40 for the first time. Barker was clearly taking a pragmatic approach to their participation: "We have to find the balance between controlled aggression and stupidity in the multihull environment! Learning what we can get away with in terms of boat positioning and control
." After today's seven races his crew had learnt a fair bit!
The whirlwind stadium format of the racing saw the fleet race on courses no longer than 800m and a starting area 200m sq! Each leg taking just over two minutes, there is hardly time to think, let alone strategise. "We enjoyed it although our results weren't that great
," commented Barker. "It's hard, and not knowing the boats is a big handicap especially on the courses here. A really steep learning curve but we're enjoying it
." The Kiwi team came into contact with Rumbo Almeria (Mitch Booth) at the start of the final race as Barker explained: "We were lined up for the start and had a pretty nice position but then one of the other boats bore off towards us and we were half way through a tack so it was impossible… We had nowhere to go and we couldn't really avoid it
Sunday's racing is expected to be full-on with a strong forecast of 18-22 knots of breeze - inside the confines of the port, it will be a white-knuckle affair: "It's going to be all on
," said McMillan. "There is not a lot of room to get out of the way and there are brick walls everywhere!"
At the same time, the big breeze may come as a gift to The Wave, Muscat: "We're still in the fight which is key for the first day
," said Campbell-James. "With the breeze on tomorrow, and we know we're strong in the breeze and Gitana are not, so bring it on. The win is obviously huge in our mind and we're gunning for the top spot
There were numerous close calls and fierce competition and the next few days will not be any different: the Spanish public are in for a thrilling finale. The Spanish round of the Extreme Sailing Series in the region of Andalucia finishes on Tuesday 12 October embracing the Bank Holiday weekend.
Extreme Sailing Series™ Almeria Results after Day 1
1 Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, Yann Guichard, 45 points
2 Ecover, Mike Golding, 41 points
3 The Wave, Muscat, Paul Campbell-James, 38 points
4 Oman Sail Masirah, Loick Peyron, 38 points
5 Groupama 40, Franck Cammas, 28 points
6 Rumbo Almeria, Guillermo Altadill, 25 points
7 Red Bull Extreme Sailing, Roman Hagara, 21 points
8 Team Emirates New Zealand, Dean Barker, 18 points
Extreme Sailing Series™ 2010 Overall Standings after Trapani
1 The Wave, Muscat 28 points
2 Groupe Edmond de Rothschild 27 points
3 Ecover Sailing Team 25 points
4 Oman Sail Masirah 24 points
5 Groupama 40 12 points
6 Red Bull Extreme Sailing 12 points
7 The Ocean Racing Club 8 points
8 Team GAC Pindar 3 points
For more information visit: www.extremesailingseries.com