The UK round of the 2009 iShares Cup circuit kicks off tomorrow, with Day 1 of the iShares Cup at Cowes Week. Today’s practice races saw three different victors over 3 races with Jean-Christophe Mourniac (LUNA), Yann Guichard (Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild) and Nick Moloney (BT) winning the final practice race today. Tricky conditions in the light and shifty breeze, and some over-zealous starts, has not provided a clear form guide but a good shakedown for the Extreme 40 crews ahead of the serious business that starts tomorrow at 2.00pm.
After two rounds on the six-stage European circuit the iShares Cup leaderboard is still wide open, especially now current overall leaders BMW ORACLE Racing have been forced to miss the Cowes event due to commitments testing their new America’s Cup boat in San Diego, USA. Of the nine racing teams, this puts Oman Sail’s Masirah in pole position after their win at the second round in Hyères, France last month. However, Masirah are on equal points with Gitana Extreme-Groupe LCF Rothschild, winners of the season opener in Venice.
Pete Cumming, skipper of Masirah: “We’re in an ideal position, and obviously after Hyères we’re going into this event pretty confident but at every event different teams come back stronger and stronger so you’d be a fool to count anyone else out of the game. The only time we ever really look at the results is going into the final double points race because you can’t do anything about everyone else, so we’ll just keep our heads down and try and sail clean and not pick up any stupid penalties – which I think will be pretty tricky here!”
BMW ORACLE Racing are planning to rejoin the iShares Cup circuit at the next venue in Kiel, Germany, later this month – with up to 24 races at each venue, James Spithill and crew can still be in contention for the title at the halfway stage of the series.
Just behind Gitana Extreme, Oman Sail’s stable mate Renaissance, skippered by Loick Peyron, is one point behind in fourth overall, whilst the French multihull squad on Groupama 40 are just four points further adrift in fifth. Groupama 40 has a new skipper for the iShares Cup at Cowes Week, as Franck Cammas this week set off on a transatlantic record attempt on the giant multihull Groupama 3. He will be replaced by Olympic catamaran sailor and former 470 class world champion Gildas Philippe. Meanwhile, on Team iShares crew Winston McFarlane steps in for fellow Kiwi Jonathan Macbeth. McFarlane has sailed with Team New Zealand in several America's Cups. Extreme 40 class creator Mitch Booth is, once again, the helmsman for BT standing in for an injured Darren Bundock.
The iShares Cup racing will take place on a short shore-side course set just off Egypt Point, on Cowes Espalanade. The third venue will bring new challenges to the crews, including the Solent’s strong tides and rocky coastline to avoid, and some strong breezes. Tim Hancock, Race Director, confirmed: “Tomorrow the forecast wind is going to be southerly, about 12-15 knots. Saturday’s current forecast is south-westerly 10-12, Sunday it’s going lighter but the wind will swing around to the north-west, and Monday will be the windiest day, on a north-westerly currently forecast around 16 knots, although there’ll be gusts of more than that I’m sure.”
The iShares Cup sailors will be joined by some celebrity sportsmen and women… On Monday Arctic adventurer Ben Fogle will be sailing with fellow Champagne G.H.Mumm Cordon Rouge Club member Mike Golding on Ecover; record-breaking offshore sailor Dee Caffari will join Shirley Robertson on Team iShares on Sunday; while Iwan Thomas, Olympic and Commonwealth 400m medallist, will be sailing on Ecover on Friday.
Racing kicks off on Saturday, 1st August at 2pm, with a full afternoon of up to eight short, sharp races planned. The iShares Cup racing continues on Sunday, 2nd and Monday, 3rd August – all the racing can be viewed from the iShares Cup Race Village at Egypt Point, Cowes, with live commentary from Cowes Radio. The all-new Extreme Bar is open to the public all week and provides a perfect spectator spot to watch all the iShares Cup and Cowes Week action - open daily from 11am until 8pm (11pm on Monday, 3rd August and Friday, 7th August).