The penultimate round of the iShares Cup 2009 will be staged on its smallest, trickiest inner-city course when the fifth event of the 2009 Extreme 40 Sailing Series kicks off next week in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 25th-27th September. The six-event European series sees the iShares Cup return to the Dutch capital for the third consecutive year, with nine teams again racing the 40ft long catamarans on Amsterdam's narrow waterways in the IJ-haven.
The ultra-tight racecourse is surrounded by high buildings which create sudden gusty winds, making the Amsterdam venue one of the trickiest on the circuit. But the iShares Cup is all about bringing racing right into the heart of the city, and the Dutch crowds will pack the shore walls to take in the Extreme 40 action, whilst some local residents can even watch from their apartment windows above the sailing area.
“This will be the most tricky and smallest racecourse of the series this year,” explained Event Director Gilles Chiorri, “We are also visiting Amsterdam a bit later in the year this season, so we can expect to have some windier conditions, which will not make life easy for us but will be very spectacular in such an urban venue.”
Sailing begins with a practice and media day on Thursday, 24th September, when the iShares Cup crews will be joined by Sven Coster, a top Dutch sailor who has twice represented the Netherlands at the Olympics. The nine Extreme 40s will line up for some exciting speed trials, to see who is fastest over this unique course.
The iShares Cup races will then take place every afternoon from Friday, 25th-Sunday, 27th September from 2.00pm, with up to eight short, sharp races a day. Head to the IJ-haven to watch the world’s best sailors battling it out, hear live commentary of all the races in both Dutch and English by Cowes Week commentator Steve Ansell and Dutch Extreme 40 sailor Wouter Samama, and see daily prizegivings around 1730pm. There will also be the iShares Cup public bar, merchandise and a grandstand viewing area. Visit the event microsite at www.iSharesCup.com/Amsterdam to see maps of the venue and get all the latest scores, videos and news.
There are two events to go in the six-stage iShares Cup series, which means 20 points still to play for on the overall leaderboard. Oman Sail Masirah have won the past three events in a row to lead on 37 points, but their top spot is under threat, with just a three point lead on second and third placed Gitana Extreme-Groupe LCF Rothschild and stable mate Oman Sail Renaissance, who are tied on 33 points.
Gilles Chiorri, iShares Cup Event Director, stresses: "Loick Peyron (Renaissance) and Yann Guichard (Gitana) will certainly be the guys to watch out for in Amsterdam, given the tight spot they're in with their equal points. We'll witness a close match, on the smallest racecourse of the season, and conventional tactics will have to be put aside momentarily. Covering a direct rival in such a compact fleet is not an easy task, and one has to bear in mind that in Amsterdam, more than anywhere else, keeping out of trouble is key. The risk of collision with another boat or with a wall is possible, and that stress added to the pressure of an equal points situation will make for tense situations.”
Behind these two Groupama 40 will be chasing hard for a podium position as well, as Chiorri adds: “As far as the final podium is concerned, Groupama 40 can still hope to squeeze their way in, and we've seen that Franck Cammas was on top form recently." In fact, Cammas has just won his third Trophée Clairefontaine last week – a series of short races aboard one-design catamarans, a format which is similar to that of the iShares Cup.
Meanwhile Team iShares, BT, LUNA, Holmatro and Ecover could all shuffle their finishing place in the final two events (BMW ORACLE Racing will miss this round due to their America’s Cup commitments). There are no discards in the iShares Cup, so every race counts, and the final race of each event is worth double points, so expect a high-tension finale in both Amsterdam (25th-27th September) and Almeria, Spain (10th-12th October).