Yann Guichard’s Groupe Edmond de Rothschild may have retained control at the top of the leaderboard after five races today but the pressure is on from Paul Campbell-James' team on The Wave, Muscat who are excelling here in France moving up to second overall. Paul, or ‘CJ’ as he is known, is the youngest skipper on the circuit but an experienced match racer known for his aggressive starting tactics and he is certainly coming into his element now: “We were like a fishing boat with seagulls flying behind us! It's been a great day, amazing racing, just so full on. The boys have done a fantastic job, we wrestled it around the course and are generally moving up the fleet so doing okay,” said CJ back on the dockside.
The first day of the first round of the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series may have proved challenging for America’s Cup helmsman Loick Peyron and his crew on Oman Sail Masirah, however, it is now no surprise to see the 2009 defending Extreme Sailing Series champions gelling well and getting it right on the water: "Things are falling into place gradually, it takes a bit of time and it's perfectly normal,” said Peyron. “The crew were used to another helmsman, and I was used to another crew… Maybe I was lacking a bit of confidence as well, but it's coming back and getting good results obviously helps. The good thing is that even when we start very badly we manage to get back in the game and overtake other boats." Scoring a win in the final race today has fast tracked them up the leaderboard from sixth to third.
Again the wind direction proved a challenge for the race committee as it shifted from the north to north-west, and the best breeze came in the first race of the day with a good 10 knots, gusting 12, that saw the Extreme 40 hulls flying high and the bows digging in at the downwind mark roundings – the upwind legs taking no more than four minutes and downwind less than two! The public and VIPs basked in the sunshine whilst the eight teams went out of their way to keep them entertained.
Mike Golding’s Ecover got off to a flying start and nearly had the first race in the bag… Leigh McMillan, Ecover’s driver, did a great job on the first leg choosing the right side of the upwind course, tacking back onto starboard and rounding the mark first just seconds ahead of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. At the final downwind mark Guichard's crew made a rare crew error briefly losing control of their gennaker and the Ecover team looked to have the race in the bag… But a twist in their huge gennaker cut their downwind speed in half. Guichard's men were through and like yesterday took the first race of the day. Behind, like thoroughbreds let loose on the straight, The Wave, Muscat and Oman Sail Masirah came storming down to claim second and third. With Mitch Booth’s team in fourth this relegated an unlucky Ecover to fifth.
The fastest man round the planet, Franck Cammas’ and his Groupama 40 crew shone in the second race cruising to victory – literally, furling their gennaker with 50m to go to the finish line! Unfortunately, the next race didn’t quite go to plan incurring a penalty for touching The Wave, Muscat, and then a second penalty for not performing the first properly! Relegating them to last place and Cammas’ team are now fifth on the overall leaderboard, compared to third yesterday.
Red Bull Extreme Sailing had to sit out the second race with a hydraulic problem, likely the mainsheet ram, but Olympic Gold double medalist Roman Hagara came back in style to score two straight wins – not bad considering they still had hydraulic issues - moving them up to fourth overall on the leaderboard at the end of play today. Nick Moloney’s crew on Team GAC Pindar are struggling to find their form scoring three 6th places, a 7th and an 8th. However, driver Andrew Walsh has some solid Extreme 40 experience and Moloney’s team have been regular visitors to the podium over the last three seasons, finishing 3rd overall in 2007 and 2008.
With two days of racing to go “it isn’t over till the fat lady sings” as the French commentator said. Not sure the French crowd fully got the analogy but it was entertaining listening to the commentator trying to explain it!