On the penultimate day of the Extreme Sailing Series at Cowes Week, the pace was fast and furious. After a light wind first afternoon race in 8 knots, the wind accelerated to 15-18 knots and the Extreme 40s were off – power reaching at speeds of 20-25 knots. It was fast, it was wet and hugely physical for the crews as they pushed hard, playing a balancing act on a high wire. It was potential capsize conditions - the windward hulls flying insanely, leeward bows digging into the waves – misjudge the situation and it would be game over. The fifth man guests were having the ride of their lives and the spectators were loving it… After the morning’s offshore race – won by Groupe Edmond de Rothschild – the predicted cold front swept through The Solent, unleashing a couple of downpours on the crowds – before the clouds broke and the sun reappeared along with a brisk northerly breeze. It was perfect racing conditions and the stage was set for some of the most exhilarating racing the Cowes crowd had seen this week. Six of the 8 boats including Veolia Environnement, Groupama and Team GAC Pindar claimed a race win this afternoon – their first of the regatta - along with Roman Hagara’s Red Bull Extreme Sailing.
Going into the penultimate day, only a handful of points separated the top three boats on the leaderboard… Young gun, Paul Campbell-James and his crew onboard The Wave, Muscat, shot out of the starting blocks to claim the first race – were they going to completely steam roller the afternoon? Not quite, Nick Moloney’s Team GAC Pindar boys claimed the next victory to the enthusiastic support of their corporate guests on the VIP balcony. Then ‘CJ’ came back with another two bullets – they seemed to be on a roll but in the last three races of the day, only managing a 5th, 6th and a 4th. But, once again, they had done enough to stay at the top of the overall leaderboard with 208 points extending their lead over Britain’s Mike Golding by 18 points. “We had a great morning race and a solid day and our competitors had shockers! So we are really pleased and have a good lead. It puts us in a strong position for tomorrow.”
Today was about timing the starts right - arriving bang on the line at full pelt - as Golding explained: “It was all about the starts and we found a good place to be in and it was going well, but we had other boats piling in and I hate seeing collisions. We had a little bump at the bottom mark and I don’t like to see that. Generally, we are clinging on to that podium position, I know we are close and we have to have a good day tomorrow.”
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild has come within 5 points of Ecover Sailing Team – a penalty in race 26, relegated them to 8th but the team managed to finish in the top half of the fleet in most races to hold their third place overall.
Loick Peyron had a day he and the Oman Sail Masirah crew would probably rather forget. They were fighting but getting nowhere and in the penultimate race a collision with one of The Solent marks put a crack in the hull. They rapidly headed for the dock but a bit of gaffer tape application had them back out racing for the final race of the day – a good effort but to no avail, finishing 4th overall on 166 points.
With Mitch Booth, skipper of The Ocean Racing Club, forced to retire from the UK round after breaking his front beam yesterday, there will be eight Extreme 40s on the startline tomorrow afternoon.
The teams have raced 31 races so far in this UK round and tomorrow is the final day of the Extreme Sailing Series at Cowes Week – the racing off Egypt Point is scheduled to start at 5.00pm and the final race of the event is a double pointer. No doubt it will go to the wire…