Light winds and heavy tension dominate the final day

Great starts, impressive speed and slick manoeuvres allowed Yann Guichard’s crew of Gitana Extreme Groupe LCF Rothschild to dominate in Venice, taking the lead yesterday (Sunday 17 May) after 10 races.

Winning the first race on Sunday, the French team proved omnipresent in the leading group, making very few mistakes and gradually capitalising on points after each race to move closer to victory.

The wind direction yesterday forced the Race Committee to set-up oblong courses leaving few tactical options to the skippers, and more than ever winning the first mark was key. Show-wise, it was absolutely perfect with the boats coming under gennaker, flying a hull, just metres away from the race village.

Loïck Peyron’s Renaissance (Oman Sail), had a great start to the final day and won two races in a row before collapsing in the final confrontation. Groupama 40 were on good form as well, posting a win and second place yesterday, while Gitana Extreme and BMW Oracle Racing were having a ‘shocker’ in race 14.

At the end of the latter, Renaissance was third only two points away from the America’s Cup team. Pressure was building up, with the perspective of the last race of the day counting for double points. By that time Renaissance had moved into second place, and tension was high as anything could happen for second, third and fourth places.

And indeed, it did. Renaissance’s risky start option did not pay off and Peyron ended up at the back of the fleet whilst Mike Golding’s Ecover was leading at the first mark, before being relegated to last place in the final race with so many points at stake. BT captured the last victory of the iShares Cup event in front BMW Oracle Racing, while Gitana Extreme came third and secured overall victory.

Yann Guichard explained: “It’s a great feeling to win here, I guess we were coming knowing we were somewhere in the top five, but winning the first event is fantastic! We concentrated on our starts, communication within the team was excellent and we did not lose our focus. There is a lot of pressure on the helmsmen as the boats are very close, and it’s very demanding physically for the crew but we were working perfectly together. That’s one in the bag, and five to go! We really enjoyed the format, I think it’s been great for the spectators as well. We’ll go back to training soon, as the next event in Hyères will probably be more windy and a bit different, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Highlights from Day 3 of the iShares Cup, Venice

The next event of the iShares Cup Extreme 40 Sailing Series will take place in Hyères-TPM (France). As Gilles Chiorri, OC Events Director, explained: “Moving on from Venice to Hyères-TPM is probably the best demonstration of the variety the iShares Cup offers in terms of racing conditions. The sailors have had to adapt to a tricky and very tight course in the Bacino San Marco (Venice). The game will be different in France with a more open and windy venue, and with the Mistral likely to kick in, we can expect a few hair-raising moments.”

More comments from the iShares Cup skippers:

James Spithill, BMW ORACLE Racing, second overall: ‘It was obviously very light and today was definitely a different style of racing with a reaching course and I thought we were pretty weak at it so I think we’re happy to walk away with a second. Gitana were definitely on top of their game. So a lot of good lessons have been learnt and I think we’ll be better for it. (Venice was) fantastic, what a great venue, got to love it, we really enjoyed it.’

Loïck Peyron, Renaissance (Oman Sail), third overall: ‘I’m not used yet to the medal race – I never do that, you know! That’s for young people, looking for Olympic medals so you have to manage that a bit better! No, it was really nice, really interesting. I guess we did a nice crew job and a nice team job too by training together, by trying to do better and better together which is the game and for sure it could be worse. Gitana did a very, very good job, for sure. I’m afraid I trained them a bit too much! I’m very happy to have a big team like BMW ORACLE Racing between a French team and an Oman one, that’s perfect. Here you have to be careful all the time – the next venues, especially Hyeres in fact are wider, I hope, maybe with more wind so need strong crews. We can feel that everybody can do something well some teams seem to have maybe some difference but it’s never finished, never.’

Mike Golding, Ecover, 10th overall: “I don’t think the racing will get any more difficult than it is here in Venice, where the course is very confined – if you don’t get you start right you’re out! The main thing is that we’re enjoying it a lot, I’ve got great guys on board and we don’t have any speed issues, it’s only a matter of learning now. I think that you probably almost have to do a year of this to know how to do it. I never thought I could turn up and expect instant gratification. (…) So yes, we’re thinking about taking part in the circuit in 2010, you have to take a longer view. We’ll see how it goes.”

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