EFG Bank - Sailing Arabia The Tour 2013. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

EFG Bank - Sailing Arabia The Tour 2013. (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Overall standings: Team AISM 1st, BAE Systems 2nd, EFG Bank (Monaco) 3rd – Short race leg brings drama in the dark for crews –

Dubai-based Team AISM has maintained the overall lead by claiming the fourth leg of the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour following a night of drama for the world-class crews from around the world and the Gulf region competing between Dubai and northern Emirate Ras Al Khaimah.At only 53 miles up the coast from Dubai to Al Hamra is the second shortest leg on the bruising 15 day and 760 nautical mile EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour and should have been routine.  But due to Custom’s procedures in Dubai taking longer than anticipated, the scheduled mid-morning start was delayed until 14:50, forcing crews to re-equip themselves and their boats ready for a night time finish.The result was a race of intense fighting in darkness with the wind ranging from zero to as much as 17 knots, with the boats reaching or sailing downwind with Bertrand Pace’s overall leader, AISM, continually a nose ahead. Following AISM into Al Hamra were the youthful Team Messe Frankfurt led by Marcel Herrera and in third team BAE Systems.Yet the finishing order does little to tell of the drama that unfolded for the teams at around 20 miles out from the finish and an hour and a half after it turned dark. Just at a time when the boats were being pushed to limit sailing high under their big spinnakers, the fleet came across an area densely populated with fishing boats and their nets.

As Cedric Pouligny, skipper of BAE Systems described the high jump manoeuvre they had to perform each time they ran into a net: “Basically you went from 10 knots of speed to zero, then you had to broach and make even more heel before the boat could get off again.” Broaching normally occurs when a boat is overpowered in a gust, the rudder loses control and the boat is forced over on its side, but was necessary on this occasion effectively to lift the keel over the net.Unfortunately the result on this leg was determined by those who got through the fishing nets the fastest.

EFG Sailing Arabia Tour Fleet (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Speaking following another action-packed leg and night of drama Issa Al Ismaili, Director of Events at the race’s organiser Oman Sail said:“Firstly congratulations to team ASIM who continue to prove best equipped to deal with every challenge the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour offers including on this occasion fishing nets. Obviously such a test at night was not planned for. But that is sailing and this world-class regatta is having to overcome unique challenges on every single leg. Even this leg to Al Hamra at only 53 miles, the second shortest on the race schedules has pushed crews to face the unknown. We’re delighted all have made it safely to Ras Al Khaimah and our preparing themselves for the next round of in-port racing.” After their disappointing result on the Abu Dhabi to Dubai leg yesterday, Marcel Herrera’s University of Plymouth team on Messe Frankfurt had managed to get back in with the lead trio and were into fourth place when they encountered the nets. “I think we hit eight fishing nets – along with every other boat, but the other boats seemed to broach a bit more when they hit them,” said Herrera. “We ploughed through them and managed to get a good technique going so that we didn’t get caught.”Because of this Messe Frankfurt emerged in second place and as the wind dropped subsequently they were closing on first placed AISM  as they crossed the finish line at 21:49 (local time), three and a half minutes after Pace’s team. “It makes up for yesterday,” said Herrera.AISM crewman Benoit Briand said that through the day their speed was good and being ahead they had been able to control their opponents before they encountered the fishing nets. “We were lucky that we got over them quite easily, our keel seemed to pass over the nets.”

The AISM team was also pleased that Messe Frankfurt came home second as it puts more distance between themselves and second placed BAE Systems in the overall results. “Bertrand is going to be even more difficult to beat. He is going to be hard to catch,” admitted BAE Systems skipper Cedric Pouligny.One of the most dramatic moments occurred when team BAE Systems and EFG Bank (Monaco) got caught on the same fishing net at the same time and started to get drawn into the middle of the net so that at one point they came very close to colliding, only 2m apart.

Mohsin al Busaidi’s Renaissance came home in fifth place. The Omani skipper, the first sailor from the Middle East to sail non-stop around the world, reckoned that his team had hit maybe seven nets. “We got stuck in the first one. It was a surprise because we were all together and only two boats got stuck and other boats got through.” Al Busaidi’s solution was speed: “If you are going more than 10 knots you can pass it. We stopped once for three or four minutes and at other times we were slowed down from 10 knots to 5 and then we were off again. Fortunately Mohammed in our team is a fisherman…”

Most disappointed last night when they got in was Dee Caffari’s women’s team on Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat and Kay Heemskerk’s Dutch team on TU Delft. Having been caught in nets and then further suffering after the wind went light, they finished outside of the time limit and have been scored ‘TLE’ (time limit expired) or seven points for this leg.“It was disappointing that we didn’t get to start until five hours late and then to sail through miles of fishing nets in the dark,” said Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat’s Liz Bayliss, one of two Americans in the all-female team that also includes four Omanis.Their race effectively came to a grinding halt when they got entangled in a fishing net and remained that way for more than an hour. “We hit something and then we got stuck – the fishing boat finally came over to us and cut the net but retrieved both ends of it. There were nets everywhere,” Bayliss continued.

After the late finish the two in-port races are being held today off Al Hamra with the first start attended by H.H Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud Al Qasimi, Crown prince of RAK and commencing at 11.00am. 

Competing aboard identical Farr 30 yachts, the EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour has attracted nine crews representing five different nations, led locally by Oman’s Team Renaissance, Royal Navy of Oman, Team BAE Systems and the all – female Team Al-Thuraya Bank Muscat. Two teams will compete on behalf of the UAE, Team Abu Dhabi and Team AISM. International crews include EFG Bank (Monaco), Team Delft Challenge – TU Delft (Holland) and the Team Messe Frankfurt (EU).

Taking in four countries and eight ports of call, EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour is a showcase of everything that the Gulf has to offer in terms of state-of-the-art facilities and idyllic sailing conditions Leaving Manama on February 10th, EFG Bank Sailing Arabia – The Tour calls at Doha, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Dibba and Mussanah and ends February 25th in Muscat.  The racing will include in-port racing at selected locations

Dueling it out Sailing Arabia the Tour 2013 (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Extreme 40's Race In iShares Cup In Hyeres, France (Photo by Lloyd Images / Oman Sail)

Extreme 40's Race In iShares Cup In Hyeres, France (Photo by Lloyd Images / Oman Sail)

Whilst football fans around the world obsess about the selection of their World Cup national squad, all bar one of the Extreme 40 teams have now confirmed their ‘squads’ for the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series that kick-offs in a week’s time on the south coast of France at Sète from 27th-30th. Eight international teams will be on the start line to battle it out over five events across Europe this summer. At the mercy of the on-water referees, the teams racing their high-speed 40′ catamarans will be hoping to avoid any ‘sending offs’! But on race courses that on average only equal the size of six football pitches, the teams are constantly engaged in close combat that frequently result in punishable infringements.

(Photo by Thierry Martinez/Sea&Co/OC Events)


Across the fleet of 32 sailors there are two double Olympic Gold medallists, 61 World and 37 European Championship titles, 20 Round the World navigations, 20 America’s Cups sailed and 39 sailing records held or broken amongst the 14 nationalities.

Three top French skippers will be taking the helms of Extreme 40s this year – Franck Cammas, Yann Guichard and Loick Peyron. Franck Cammas, fresh from his Jules Verne Trophy record-breaking circumnavigation, will drive Groupama 40. Cammas will be joined by former America’s Cup sailor Tanguy Cariou (FRA) as his tactician: “We’ve spent the winter capturing the Jules Verne Trophy with an amazing team onboard Groupama 3, and so Groupama 40 looks pretty small!” Cammas joked. “But we like these close-quarter regattas. Our business is all about sailing so, big or small, in a team, or alone, it’s not important. It’s all about the sailing.”

Experienced offshore multihull sailor, Yann Guichard will once again be helming the Gitana Team entry, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. Guichard finished an impressive second last season: “2009 was the year we discovered the Extreme Sailing Series and the style of Extreme 40 regattas: the notion of sport as a spectacle! We soon learnt that consistency pays and to perform well in this series and to post good results, you need to navigate really well and not have any on-the-water contact with your competitors.”

(Photo by Yvan Zedda / Gitana SA)


The final French skipper is ‘Mr Multihull’ himself, Loick Peyron who recently helmed Alinghi in the 33rd America’s Cup. Peyron has ‘jumped ship’ from one Oman Sail Extreme 40 to the other and for 2010 will skipper and helm Oman Sail Masirah. Peyron will be joined by the 2009 skipper, now trimmer and team manager, Pete Cumming (GBR). The Sultanate of Oman, as in the previous seasons, has a second entry in the circuit with The Wave, Muscat, skippered by British talent Paul Campbell-James (GBR). An experienced matchracer, ‘CJ’ demonstrated his aggressive starting talent on the winter Asia tour. Joining him will be the first Omani who has progressed through the Oman Sail Academy and now racing as a professional sailor, Khamis Al Anbouri (OMA).

(Photo by Mark Lloyd)


Following his debut in the inaugural Asian Extreme Sailing Series, double Olympic Gold Medallist Roman Hagara (AUT) will be joined by his Olympic crew Hans-Peter Steinacher (AUT) for the Red Bull Extreme Sailing entry. Racing alongside Hagara will be Gabriele Olivo (ITA) and David Vera (ESP), both of whom participated in the last Volvo Ocean Race with the Spanish Telefonica team. Red Bull Extreme Sailing boasts a good balance between offshore and inshore racing experience and talent and will be strong contenders for a podium position.

Veteran Extreme 40 sailor, Nick Moloney (AUS) is back as skipper of the new entry Team GAC Pindar. From the America’s Cup to the solo Route du Rhum and Vendée Globe, and the Jules Verne Trophy, Moloney has seen it all! Helming the British entry Team GAC Pindar is British Tornado sailor Andrew Walsh. Joining them will be Fraser Brown (NZL), another very experienced Extreme 40 player and Team Pindar’s Olly Smith (GBR): a promising combination of talent.

Finally, one of Great Britain’s most accomplished single-handed sailors ever, with two IMOCA World Champion titles, a third in the solo Vendée Globe, Mike Golding returns to the circuit with an all-British line up in the Ecover Sailing Team. Golding will receive a shot in the arm from the combined Olympic Tornado talents of Leigh McMillan, Team GBR’s catamaran helmsman at both the Athens and Beijing Olympics, and Will Howden. Golding commented: “Training has gone really well. Will and Leigh have a great synergy onboard, so it has been a very smooth process working in the role changes. 2009 was a learning curve for all of us, and I hope this year will see us raise the bar in terms of performance on the water. Leigh will be fantastic on the helm, and we intend to make an impact on the leaderboard this season”.

(Photo by Mark Lloyd)
And with just one final team racing under the flag of The Ocean Racing Club in Slovenia, due to announce early next week, there will now be eight teams on the start line: “It’s a hugely impressive line-up again this year, the quality and depth of experience of the sailors increases year on year and guarantees us some spectacular action,” said Event Director, Gilles Chiorri. With more days racing than ever before, the four-day events will challenge every aspect of tactics, speed and finesse for the top international sailors.

Extreme 40 Sailing In Hong Kong (Photo by Marco Hong/OC Events )

Extreme 40 Sailing In Hong Kong (Photo by Marco Hong/OC Events )

As the inaugural Extreme Sailing Series Asia gets off to a successful start in Hong Kong (20-24 November), OC Events, organisers of the Extreme Sailing Series, take a look back at the highlights of the 2009 iShares Cup, revealing the key statistics from the series third season, and preview the 2010 European Extreme Sailing Series.
 
For the planned six events in 2010, four countries are already confirmed, with events taking place in the UK, Germany, France and Spain. Venue announcements will be made over the coming months, but it can be confirmed today that the final round of the Extreme Sailing Series 2010 will take place in the region of Andalucia, Spain, at the port of Almeria over the national holiday weekend in mid-October.

Almeria hosted the 2009 finalé and recently published the results of an Economic Impact Report produced by the Council of Tourism, Commerce and Sport for Andalucia confirming that the event had generated 2.7m Euros of return on their investment. Over 75,000 spectators attended the Spanish event in October this year. A total of 15,000 tourists visited the city, 92% visiting because of the event and 80% of visitors expressed their intention to return. Hotel occupancy was up by 19.2 per cent compared to the same time in 2008, with more than 606,000 overnight stays. The visitors scored the event 8.1 points out of 10, considering the event to be ‘well organised’.

Seven teams who competed in the 2009 European series have already expressed their commitment to return in 2010 ahead of the publication of the official Notice of Race.

Extreme Sailing Series Racing In Hong Kong (Photo by Guy Nowell/OC Events)

Extreme Sailing Series Racing In Hong Kong (Photo by Guy Nowell/OC Events)

The full media evaluation report of the 2009 iShares Cup will be published shortly by independent agency Havas Insight. In the meantime, enjoy some of the key statistics from the highly successful 2009 circuit that saw 48 of the world’s best sailors compete in 108 races across six European venues with only two capsizes, compared to five in 2008, but six collisions…!

To find out more about the current Extreme Sailing Series Asia, CLICK HERE…

2009 FACTS AND FIGURES:

Entries:

BT (EUR) – Nick Moloney (AUS)
Ecover (EUR) – Mike Golding (GBR)
Holmatro (NED) – Carolijn Brouwer (BEL)
iShares (EUR) – Shirley Robertson (GBR)
Gitana Extreme-Groupe LCF Rothschild (FRA) – Yann Guichard (FRA)
Groupama 40 (FRA) – Franck Cammas (FRA)
LUNA (FRA) – Erik Maris (FRA)
Oman Sail Masirah (OMA) – Pete Cumming (GBR)
Oman Sail Renaissance (OMA) – Loïck Peyron (FRA)
BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) – James Spithill (AUS) (Venice/Hyères only)
WIRSOL Team Germany Kiel Sailing City – Roland Gabler (GER) (Kiel only)
Rumbo Almeria – Fernando Echavarri (ESP) (Almeria only)

Sailors:

48 sailors across 12 teams
52 World Championships
17 Olympians
7 Olympic medalists (4 Gold)
27 America’s Cup participations
17 Round the World navigations
11 different nationalities

Racing:

108 races: Venice 17; Hyéres 19; Cowes 20; Kiel 19; Amsterdam 17: Almeria 16

Regatta wins: Oman Sail Masirah 4 (Hyéres, Cowes, Kiel, Almeria); Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild 2 (Venice, Amsterdam)

Number of 1st places: Oman Sail Masirah 36; Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild 19; Oman Sail Renaissance 16 (9 out of the 12 teams, all scored 1 or more race wins during the season)

Best number of race wins per venue: Oman Sail Masirah 11 (Cowes); Oman Sail Renaissance 5 (Kiel, Amsterdam); Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild 5 (Almeria)

2 capsizes: Holmatro at Cowes (practice day); Ecover at Kiel, day 1 (5 capsizes in 2008)

6 collisions: Oman Sail Renaissance hit Ecover (Hyéres); Team iShares hit spectator boat (Cowes); Oman Sail Renaissance hit WIRSOL Team Germany (Kiel) and Gitana Extreme hit WIRSOL Team Germany (Kiel); Oman Sail Renaissance hit Ecover (Amsterdam, practice day); BT hit Oman Sail Masirah (Amsterdam)

7 disqualifications: Groupama 40 (Venice); Oman Sail Renaissance (Kiel); Holmatro, Team iShares and BT (Amsterdam); LUNA and Team iShares (Almeria)

Venues:

Venice, Italy
Hyeres-TPM, France
Cowes, England
Kiel, Germany
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Almeria, Spain

(2007 x 4 rounds / 2008 x 5 rounds)

Spectators (estimated):

2009 200,000

(2007 57,000 / 2008 150,000)

VIP entertainment:

2,124 VIP guests were entertained in the VIP facilities at the six events in 2009

93% of VIP guests agreed that the iShares Cup fell within the top three events they had ever attended.

Misarah Crew With Trophy  (Photo by Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OCEvents)

Misarah Crew With Trophy (Photo by Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OCEvents)

Oman Sail Masirah has won the iShares Cup 2009, but it came down to the last leg of the last race on the last day of the last regatta at the iShares Cup Almeria in Spain, with Gitana Extreme-LCF Rothschild pushing Oman Sail Masirah right to the very last minute with a superb final performance. Pete Cumming and his crew held their nerve despite the strong comeback of Yann Guichard and the Gitana Extreme crew who took 2nd overall with Loick Peyron’s Oman Sail Renaissance completing the 2009 podium. Tens of thousands of spectators, the biggest stadium audience of the year, packed the port of Almeria to witness the heart-stopping tension of the final race of the season. No hull flying today, but heart stopping it still was!

Masirah completed a six-month trail of glory with a double victory in Almeria as thousands watched. All crew members put in a performance which overshadowed all efforts from other teams to not only take the victory in the Almeria leg of the iShares Cup but the title of 2009 iShares Cup champions!

Renaissance also battled hard until the last minute to take an admirable fourth overall in the Almeria leg ensuring a double Oman victory as they took third place in the 2009 iShares Cup series.

The culmination of six venues and 118 races all boiled down to the last race on the last day of the last venue as ten boats all lined up, but only three were in contention for the 2009 iShares Cup title.  The electricity in the air from the 40,000 spectators, including Her Excellency Dr. Rajiha Bint Abdulameer Bin Ali, Oman’s Minister of Tourism, His Excellency Eng. Sultan Hamdoon al Harthi, Head of Muscat Municipality and the Municipal Council as well as His Excellency Oman’s Ambassador to Spain was flowing as the start gun went for the first race. Masirah got off to a near-perfect start and led all the way and maintained their lead throughout the day. In the final race Masirah had a marginal lead, but not enough to rest on their laurels. In the last race Masirah wisely opted to keep the only other contender for the top podium position at this stage, Gitana Extreme-Groupe LCF Rothschild, in their sights to ensure their overall win.
As the finishing horn was sounded for Masirah’s finish a huge cheer went up from the crowded waterfront as the new heroes were given a standing ovation and applause.

Renaissance sailed on the edge all day to score an equally credible third overall to bookmark the podium with the proud colours of the Oman flag. To have not one, but two teams, on the podium in such a high profile international event is testament to the support in Oman given to the teams and the aspirations of reigniting the maritime heritage of Oman. Her Excellency Dr, Rajiha Bint Abdulameer Bin Ali, was incredibly proud of both teams, “I am so proud to have been able to watch Oman Sail’s Masirah winning the series in front of thousands of spectators in Spain. I dedicate this victory to the wise leadership of His Majesty and his vision in bringing this project into fruition. I want to thank all the team in Oman sail and in particular the team on Masirah for reaching first place – it was not an easy victory. I didn’t realise how difficult this was until I came to Spain and watch Oman racing myself. My congratulations to the team.” His Excellency Eng. Sultan Hamdoon al Harthi was just as impressed by the victory that unfolded in front of him, “It is a matter of pride for Oman that Masirah and Renaissance dominated the iShares Cup, not just in Spain but also the entire series. To win first and third overall is a result of unprecedented performance.”

misarah-crew-celebrate

Misarah Crew Celebrate ( Photo by Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OCEvents )

 
Two Omani trainees have supported the teams during the summer, both of whom will now be sailing for Oman Sail in the next series themselves. Masirah team member Khamis Al Anbouri summed up the mood of the team  “Winning the iShares Cup is just one of Oman Sail’s steps in encouraging young Omanis to start sailing and showing them the hard work required to achieve success. I am very proud to be part of this team and I look forward to competing now in the next series as a full crewmember. I would also like to thank my wife for all her support and encouragement as I strive to become the very best and to make Oman a household name. Congratulations also to Ahmad Al Harthy for his result this weekend- a truly proud weekend for Oman!”

 
Oman Sail Masirah has won the iShares Cup 2009, but it came down to the last leg of the last race on the last day of the last regatta at the iShares Cup Almeria in Spain, with Gitana Extreme – LCF Rothschild pushing Oman Sail Masirah right to the very last minute with a superb final performance.

Almeria’s usually strong winds never materialized, with light winds adding to the nerves of the 10 teams challenging for the Andulician final event of this benchmark season for the Extreme 40 Sailing Series.

Tens of thousands of spectators, the biggest stadium audience of the year, packed the port of Almeria to witness the heart-stopping tension of the double points final race of the season. No hull flying today, heart stopping it still was!

iShares Cup Almeria:
1. Oman Sail Masirah 132 points
2. Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild 129 points
3. Groupama Extreme 112 points
4. Oman Sail Renaissance 96 points
5. LUNA 96 points
6. Team iShares 83 points
7. Holmatro 82 points
8. BT 79 points
9. Rumbo Almeria 73 points
10. Ecover 89 points

iShares Cup 2009 overall:
1. Oman Sail Masirah 53 points
2. Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild 52 points
3. Oman Sail Renaissance 42 points
4. Groupama Extreme 41 points
5. Team iShares 27 points
6. BT 26 points
7. LUNA 26 points
8. Holmatro 24 points
9. Ecover 10 points

iShares Fleet in (Photo by Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OCevents)

iShares Fleet in (Photo by Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OCevents)

Misarah Holed (Photo by Th Martinez / OC Events)

Misarah Holed (Photo by Th Martinez / OC Events)

In race 4 of the first day of the iShares Cup Amsterdam, a collision between Oman Sail Masirah and BT on the first windward leg has put Masirah out of action. A port/starboard incident, saw BT trying to duck Masirah but to no avail. Oman Sail Masirah are waiting anxiously for the crane to haul them out. A big blow for Pete Cumming and his crew who are the overall iShares Cup series leader going into this penultimate round, and they will be looking for redress for the races they miss today. In the strongest breeze of the day so far, gusting over 10 knots, there was plenty of action from the start with LUNA, over the line at the start searching to go back made contact with BT, who had been forced to tack on top of them as Holmatro called starboard. On this tight racecourse here in Amsterdam the building breeze makes the racing even more fraught. Race 4 was won by Gitana Extreme with Franck Cammas on Guichard’s heels but this win puts them at the top of the iShares Cup Amsterdam leaderboard, halfway through today’s racing.

Pete Cumming takes up the story: “It was the first beat of race 4 and it was a clear case of port and starboard. BT were coming in on port and we could see from about 10 seconds out they were going to hit us. The wind had got up and we knew as they accelerated, the bows dug in and holed us under the waterline and the crack goes right underneath. The damage is about 2-foot forward of the back beam on the port hull and it compressed the whole side of the boat in – it’s quite a big job to rebuild that. We didn’t have our best races in the first couple today so we’ll get average points from those races – we’ll just have to see how it goes. It’s an unfortunate situation and we’ve ended up sitting on the shore with our boat full of water.”

A total of 8 races were staged today on the tiny IJ-Haven – the racecourse just 750-meters long and 250-meters wide – on the start line you could literally step from one boat to the next and then on to the canal wall! There is only just enough room for the nine-boat fleet to line up and as soon as they cross the line, the boats, just a few feet from the concrete walls, are yelling for water causing a domino effect across the fleet. The conditions were generally light but on a fairly regular basis the breeze built up to over 10 knots making the IJ-Haven become a hazardous place to be, although the crowds loved it! There were plenty of penalties and at least one other collision and probably a few more scrapes and close shaves that were not visible from the shore.

Team iShares skipper, Shirley Robertson, who scored a win in the penultimate race today and lies in 5th place overall: “Many of us remember the first year we came to Amsterdam… it was pretty windy and it brings back all of those memories of all the points around the canal where you had a few moments! You just have to sail slightly differently and be prepared to see things that you might not before – look for opportunities and be a bit punchy!” It was certainly a case of avoiding the wind holes and taking advantage of the gusts, which resulted in many place changes throughout the fleet. Two wins apiece for Oman Sail Renaissance (Loick Peyron)and Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild (Yann Guichard) and individual race wins for Holmatro (Mitch Booth), Groupama (Franck Cammas), iShares (Shirley Robertson) and LUNA (Erik Maris) have kept the points close on the Round 5 leaderboard. Only 2 points separate Loick Peyron from Guichard and Guichard from Cammas, and 1 point between Mitch Booth, Robertson and Maris (see leaderboard for full results).

Forecast is for slightly lighter winds tomorrow which may reduce the ‘incident’ rate but at this crucial stage of the race, no one is giving an inch and that counts here on the IJ-Haven!

Collision Between Masirah and BT In Amsterdam (Photo by ThMartinez/Sea&Co / OC Events )

Collision Between Masirah and BT In Amsterdam (Photo by ThMartinez/Sea&Co / OC Events )

iShares Cup Kiel Wirsol German Team (Photo by Th Martinez / OC Events)

iShares Cup Kiel Wirsol German Team (Photo by Th Martinez / OC Events)

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).

iShares Cup Fleet In Kiel, Germany (Photo by Th Martinez/Sea&Co / OC Events)

iShares Cup Fleet In Kiel, Germany (Photo by Th Martinez/Sea&Co / OC Events)

Oman Sail Masirah could not have produced a more nail-biting finish to round 4 of the iShares Cup at Kiel, Germany. Last off the start line, their Oman Sail stablemate Renaissance, the only ones who could snatch victory, got a strong start to be third at the first race mark with Masirah 9th. At the finish line Renaissance clinched first place, whilst Masirah came in 8th putting them on an equal 149 points! “It was way closer than we would have liked and we went across the line thinking we had blown it,” said Pete Cumming. But on count back Cumming’s team on Masirah came out on top, scoring 6 wins here in Kiel compared to Loick Peyron’s 5 first places. Completing the overall podium at the iShares Cup Kiel was Franck Cammas’ Groupama whilst Yann Guichard’s crew on Gitana Extreme, although finishing 2nd in the final race, are 4th overall. The racing was highly aggressive and, at times, completely nerve-racking. 50,000 spectators fully appreciating the intense racing over the 3-day event – even in the pouring rain! Oman Sail Masirah also retain their top spot on the overall series leaderboard going into the penultimate round in Amsterdam…

 Going into the final day of the iShares Cup Kiel event, the podium was wide open – Oman Sail Masirah, Oman Sail Renaissance, Groupama and Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild all had a shot at the podium. In the tricky conditions that dominated the first two days of racing, nothing was certain, and the 10-boat fleet were set more challenging downwind start races. Mike Golding’s Ecover got back in the water in time to compete, recruiting Nick Houchin in place of the injured Bruno Dubois.

In a building breeze, 10-12 knots, the racing soon became fast and furious – the boats accelerating quickly as the big gennakers were hoisted. The first race was full of action – Yann Guichard’s crew on Gitana Extreme were over the line at the start and forced to restart, Oman Sail Masirah incurred a penalty that relegated them from first to seventh. Groupama and Oman Sail Renaissance went on to share the spoils in first and second. The racing was intense, every team pushing to the maximum – ten Extreme 40s piling into the windward mark just seconds apart, hoisting their massive gennakers, on the edge of their limits… The crowd could hardly bear to watch, surely there would be a collision…it was nerve-racking racing.

By the penultimate race Oman Sail Masirah’s lead had been reduced to 14 points with 20 points up for grabs in the double-points final race. Gitana Extreme were back in the podium fray only 7 points behind Groupama. And Team iShares, BT and Holmatro had their own battle going on mid-leaderboard.

iShares Cup Extreme 40 Oman Sail's Masirah skipper Pete Cumming and Oman Sail's Renaissance skipper Loick Peyron  (Photo byTh Martinez/Sea&Co / OC Events )

iShares Cup Extreme 40 Oman Sail's Masirah skipper Pete Cumming and Oman Sail's Renaissance skipper Loick Peyron (Photo byTh Martinez/Sea&Co / OC Events )

Pete Cumming takes up the story: “In the final race we treated it as any other race regardless of who was attacking us in second… We knew we wanted to be on the right at the start so we set up near the committee boat and we had worked a nice gap to leeward that we were just going to accelerate through when the German team squeezed into the gap and we were luffed up really hard. We lost all momentum on the start, the fleet accelerated and we had almost engaged reverse gear at that point! But the message back to the team was just stay confident, do your job and don’t get flustered. It was way closer than we would have liked obviously and we went across the line thinking we had blown it. We were getting different messages coming from different RIBS and didn’t know what to do until we had it confirmed by the race officer. Before the season started, it was all about going up against the French multihull stars but, in my mind now, I’ve got the multihull experts on our boat. I can’t speak highly enough of the guys and we are as strong as anyone on the race course. We’re over the moon!”

Oman Sail Renaissance skipper, Loick Peyron, said after racing: “For the last race we were near the leaders and it was interesting to count all the boats behind us… We had a lot of problems with mathematics in our heads! In fact, everybody had a problem, even the committee who took a while to confirm who were the winners. We saw the ‘red boys’ had some troubles but not enough so we are really happy to have these sort of moments within our team.”

Extreme 40 Shares skipper Shirley Robertson following Groupama 40  skipper Franck Cammas at top mark. (Photo byThMartinez/Sea&Co / OC Events)

Extreme 40 Shares skipper Shirley Robertson following Groupama 40 skipper Franck Cammas at top mark. (Photo byThMartinez/Sea&Co / OC Events)

Groupama skipper, Franck Cammas: “We were really on it today but, unfortunately, we had a penalty which I thought unfair. The direct consequence was a 9th place in the third race today. We began to realise that second place overall that we wanted to reach was flying away. We had to concentrate and be careful because Gitana Extreme was becoming a real threat. Finally, we did it and we are on the podium this evening.”

Round 5 of the iShares Cup in Amsterdam over the 25-27 September. With their third event win in a row, Oman Sail Masirah can go into the penultimate event of the 2009 iShares Cup with confidence: “We know Amsterdam is a bit of a lottery so we knew we had to push hard at this regatta to put that buffer in place. But you never know – everyone thought we had it in the bag here but your lead can shrink to zero in a moment but that is the great thing about this series.”

Extreme 40 Holmatro skipper Mitch Booth (Photo by Th Martinez/Sea&Co / OC Events)

Extreme 40 Holmatro skipper Mitch Booth (Photo by Th Martinez/Sea&Co / OC Events)

  

Pete Cummings and Masirah Team (Photo by Th Martinez/Sea&Co/OCEvents)

Pete Cummings and Masirah Team (Photo by Th Martinez/Sea&Co/OCEvents)

Pete Cumming’s crew on Oman Sail Masirah have done enough to stay at the top of the leaderboard with 104 points and go into the final day of racing in pole position. Yann Guichard’s team Gitana Extreme raced a great final race to finish in 2nd place putting them in second place overall, whereas Groupama’s 7th place relegated the team to 3rd place overall. But only 1 point separates these two French teams. It’s all on for the final day at the iShares Cup Kiel.

 

iShares Cup Kiel Day 2 (Photo by Th Martinez/Sea&Co / OC Events)

iShares Cup Kiel Day 2 (Photo by Th Martinez/Sea&Co / OC Events)