Oman Sail In Muscat (Photo by Lloyd Images/Oman Sail)

Oman Sail In Muscat (Photo by Lloyd Images/Oman Sail)

In just ten days time the final of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia will kick off at The Wave, Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman, with six international teams competing for the inaugural title. The Series will end on a high with the Extreme Beach Party, a two day grand finale for the public over the Omani weekend.

Khamis Al Anbouri, bowman on Oman Sail Masirah, currently topping the leaderboard, is looking forward to returning to his home port. “We are pumped up and ready to take on the World!” he laughed. “It’s great to be coming back to Muscat and for the home crowd to see first hand the five other top teams competing on the circuit. They are promised an awesome spectacle.”

Six teams, racing radical 40-foot catamarans, started their battle for the inaugural title in Hong Kong at the end of November, before heading to Singapore mid-December… And now they arrive in the Sultanate of Oman for the grand final that takes place from the 1st-5th February. Global brands such as Red Bull and BT back two of the racing teams, and China has also entered a team for the first time.

Going into the deciding round, Pete Cumming (GBR) and his crew onboard Oman Sail’s Masirah have a 5-point lead over Nick Moloney’s (AUS) BT, tied with new team China Team, skippered by Thierry Barot (FRA). Just one point behind them, also tied, is The Wave, Muscat, helmed by Paul Campbell-James (GBR) with Omani powerhouse Nasser Salim Al Mashari (OMA) as his bowman and newcomer to the Extreme 40 circuit, Red Bull Extreme Sailing, skippered by double Olympic Gold medallist Roman Hagara (AUT) with his Olympic crew Hans-Peter Steinacher (AUT) as tactician. In sixth place is another double Olympic Gold Medallist, Shirley Robertson (GBR) skipper of Rumbo Almería joined by double Olympic Silver Medallist Ian Walker (GBR).

bt-by-th-martinez

Nick Moloney on BT In London (Photo by Th Martinez/OC Events)

 
The Extreme 40 multihulls are ‘speed machines’ that race close to shore on tight courses, unlike most sailing events – and in this final event they will be competing in short, exciting, 15-minute races starting each day at The Wave, Muscat from 2pm. Race Director, Gilles Chiorri (FRA) will be throwing everything at the teams including possible speed trials, slalom courses and even some match racing – an interesting prelude to the much-anticipated mammoth multihull battle between America’s Cup antagonists Alinghi and BMW ORACLE Racing. (Note: traditionally match racing is only competed in monohull boats).

His Excellency Eng. Sultan Hamdoon Al Harthi, Head of Muscat Municipality said “The Extreme Sailing Series Asia is the first of a number of high profile sporting events that will be taking place in Oman this year and we are looking forward to watching some of the world’s best sailors compete right on our shoreline. Oman has a rich maritime heritage and this event is a perfect tool to help showcase the potential of the Sultanate as a key sailing location internationally.”

The first three days of racing will be dedicated to hosting VIPs, national and international media, while the 4th and 5th February will see Al-Hail beach, to the West of the capital Muscat, transformed into the ‘Extreme Beach Party’. Each morning from 10am there will be a five-a-side football tournament featuring members of the Omani national football team, winners of the 2009 Gulf Cup of Nations, volleyball matches, the Red Bull Street Style team for the Muscat leg of the international leg of the freestyle football competition, ‘try-sailing’ sessions, as well as family activities, food stands and entertainment.
 
Roman Hagara, skipper of Red Bull Extreme Sailing, has edged up the leaderboard, finishing second overall in Singapore after a disappointing sixth at the first event in Hong Kong where they struggled to overcome gear failure problems. “We are ready to race and proud to be invited to this beautiful country. It is not our first visit and we look forward to meet a lot of friends. I am sure that we will enjoy it. We expect a competitive but fair race.”

The Asian circuit follows hot on the heels of the award-winning Extreme Sailing Series Europe that, in just three years, has become a top five fixture in the international sailing calendar. The fleet which will race in Muscat includes three double Olympic gold medallists, a double Olympic Silver Medallist, 29 World Championship titles, 9 round the world navigations, 23 Olympic games attended and 10 America’s Cup sailors.
 
OC Events, organisers of the series, has brought the circuit to the Middle East and Asia for the first time to demonstrate the potential of a full-scale series in 2010/2011. Mark Turner, CEO of OC Group, explained, “Developing a series here in the Middle East is the next step in the evolution of this ground-breaking circuit. Never before has there been top-level racing, right in the heart of cities, within metres of the shore, designed to entertain the public, media and VIP’s – not just other sailors. It’s unique for the cities and it is unique for our sport.

“The GCC region is ideal for high-integrity sailing events and we are bringing the circuit here to demonstrate to key stakeholders and the media what a full scale circuit with top level on-water action coupled with high-end VIP corporate hospitality and an all-inclusive shore side entertainment package can deliver. The Muscat event promises to be a spectacular conclusion to this inaugural Extreme Sailing Series Asia.”

The Extreme Sailing Series Asia: Muscat is supported by the Muscat Municipality and Oman Sail, the Ministry of Tourism backed initiative to reignite the Sultanate’s maritime heritage and inspire young Omanis to achieve their potential through sailing.

Current standings after two events:

1 – Oman Sail Masirah: Pete Cumming (GBR)
2 – BT: Nick Moloney (AUS)
3 – China Team: Thierry Barot (FRA)
4 – The Wave, Muscat: Paul Campbell-James (GBR)
5 – Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team: Roman Hagara (AUT)
6 – Rumbo Almería: Shirley Robertson (GBR)

Extreme Sailing Series Asia Fleet (Photo by Guy Nowell/OC Events)

Extreme Sailing Series Asia Fleet (Photo by Guy Nowell/OC Events)

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.

Extreme 40s Racing In Victoria Harbour During The Extreme Sailing Series Asia  (Photo By Guy Nowell / OC Events)

Extreme 40s Racing In Victoria Harbour During The Extreme Sailing Series Asia (Photo By Guy Nowell / OC Events)

 Extreme Sailing Series Asia, Hong Kong Day Four.   All change at the top of the leaderboard as Oman Sail Masirah dominated the fleet, winning four out of five races, and snatching the lead from BT. Shirley Robertson’s ‘Rumbo Almeria’ is currently lying in third overall. The final day of racing takes place tomorrow followed by the prize giving in the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.

With four wins in five races, the European Extreme Sailing Series Champion skipper Pete Cumming was pleased with their performance today, “We are racing with 50% of our original crew so to be back at the top of the leaderboard is real testament to how hard our new crew members Khamis [Alanbouri] and Leigh [McMillan] are gelling with the team. Khamis, in particular, has had a brilliant day. Every day he is improving and it is really satisfying to see him become an integral part of our team. This is only his third full day of top level competitive racing and we aren’t going easy on him, putting him in tough racing conditions but he’s rising to the challenge each and every time.”

It was the last race of the day that was the undoing for the team as Pete Cumming explained. “It was a school boy error and a lesson that you only need to learn once. We had a bad furl at the mark and were too focussed on the mark rounding and not on getting the kite away correctly. It’s tough in these race conditions, but we are all learning from our mistakes and it won’t happen again.”

For BT it was a disappointing day having dominated the previous two days racing in both the longer Around the Island Race and the shorter, sharper racing more familiar to these professional Extreme 40 teams.

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)

 

IShares Fleet In Amsterdam (Photo by Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OCEvents)

IShares Fleet In Amsterdam (Photo by Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OCEvents)

The best breeze of the day filled in for the final three races today producing some extreme racing – close calls, collisions, penalties and a nail-biting, final double-points race – entertaining the 10,000 strong crowd lining the IJ-Haven. There were seven different race winners in this penultimate event, that was more about tactics than boat handling. Gitana Extreme sailed brilliantly under pressure to win the penultimate iShares Cup Amsterdam event ahead of Oman Sail Renaissance, whilst Groupama fought back to win the final race and fill the last spot on the podium in third. Overall series leaders, Oman Sail Masirah, put their day 1 disaster behind them, finishing 5th in Amsterdam to retain their overall lead, ahead of Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild and Oman Sail Renaissance, going into the final iShares Cup event in Almeria only two weeks away…

The nine-boat Extreme 40 fleet saved the best till last at the iShares Cup Amsterdam event today to produce a thrilling three-lap finale that had the 10,000-strong crowd of spectators cheering the boats home all the way. The penultimate round of the six-stage European iShares Cup series, held on the confined IJ-Haven canal in Amsterdam, saw predominantly light airs but finally this afternoon, a good 8 knot breeze filled in to see the 40-foot catamarans lifting their hulls. It was perfect catamaran sailing – the excitement levels going into fifth gear for both sailors and spectators. As the breeze increased the size of the IJ-Haven racecourse seemed to decrease! The boats accelerating faster round the tiny racecourse and, not surprisingly, a number of collisions ensued.

For Oman Sail Masirah skipper, Pete Cumming, the team did the job they needed to do to keep the overall series lead, despite the unsettling experience of being seriously holed on the first day:
“That was a good day for us, we won the first and the fourth race and had average results in the three others. We have been up and down during the all events but I have to say that it’s hard to keep positive and motivated after the big crash we had on Friday. Our shore team did an amazing job to fix the boat. Tonight we are on equal points with Gitana in the overall series which keeps the pressure on for the last event in Almeria. The conditions will be very different to here, more like Cowes or Kiel and it’s what we like. It’s going to be a fantastic battle for the overall iShares Cup!”

Gitana Extreme Crew (Photo by Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OCEvents)

Gitana Extreme Crew (Photo by Th.Martinez/Sea&Co/OCEvents)

The stage was set for the showdown between Gitana Extreme skipper, Yann Guichard, and Oman Sail Renaissance supremo, Loick Peyron, with Guichard coming out on top. “Since the first start today we were in the game and we sailed well despite the pressure of those last races. Once again, our teamwork was key to our success. That final race was under a lot of pressure, we knew that we could not let Loïck put more than two boats between us, and we finished right behind him! It was an ideal scenario, and we’re really happy with that new victory. As we foresaw, everything will unfold in Almeria. We really wanted to win in Amsterdam not to regret anything, and to fight for victory, The top three boats are now one point apart, and the fight between Masirah, Renaissance and ourselves will be amazing. I also wanted to congratulate the Oman Sail Masirah team, who came back strong despite their incident.”

Erik Maris’ crew on LUNA showed flashes of brilliance during round 5 scoring a race win and a second place that left them in 7th place; whilst Nick Moloney’s BT team struggled with boat speed and had to settle for 8th. Britain’s Mike Golding, who is gaining confidence in this extremely aggressive class, thrilled his supporters with a second place in the final race – Fraser Brown leaping to his feet rousing the crowd to cheer more! It was a great finish for this team who had such a traumatic time in round 4 in Kiel suffering an aggressive capsize that left their regular crew Bruno Dubois with a serious head injury.

The final round of the 2009 iShares Cup is only two weeks away, taking place in the Andalucian city of Almeria over the 10th-12th October. The finale promises to be best yet – read the story online.
Oman Sail Masirah and Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild are on equal points (43), Masirah in pole position based on winning three of the rounds so far compared to Gitana Extreme’s two victories, but Oman Sail Renaissance are just 1 point behind them and Groupama 10 points behind the leader. And there will be a big fight over the middle-ground with less than 3 points separating BT, Team iShares, Holmatro and LUNA. Don’t miss it!

Groupama Podium Finish (Photo by Yvan Zedda)

Groupama Podium Finish (Photo by Yvan Zedda)

Today, Groupama won the last race hands down, enabling the skipper from Aix en Provence to regain his smile as he snatched third place behind Yann Guichard and Loïck Peyron, who take first and second place respectively. As was the case in Kiel, the French sailors are at the front of the pack with a French triple in the top spots once again!

If we look in detail at the points separating the top five competitors in the final ranking, it is easy to understand the tension which was palpable throughout the day! With the wind still a little undecided as to whether it was going to fill their sails, today’s five races were rather convoluted to say the least and rather reminiscent of the four race yesterday. Franck Cammas: “One thing for sure after these three days racing in Amsterdam, is that with Groupama 40, we still haven’t worked out how to deal with light conditions. In light wind we’re not so at ease. We aren’t able to follow the others. This was my first participation in the light stuff on such a narrow race zone. We unquestionably need to make progress! The minute the wind kicked in, things went better. In fact on Friday, thanks to the breeze, it was a good day for us!”

The famous quote by competitors that says that “anything can happen in a race prior to crossing the finish line” is something that certainly applies to Franck’s crew this weekend: “With Groupama 40, we won the lottery in the last race. Our rivals weren’t as strong which enabled us to overtake two of them and make it to a podium finish, which certainly wasn’t something we could have envisaged at the end of the previous race!”

The skipper from Aix en Provence clearly already has his mind geared towards the last event of the season: “In Alméria, it’s likely to be windy and it will be a whole different ball game! Roll on Spain!”

ishares-cup-amsterdam-by-yvan-zedda

iShares Cup Amsterdam Action (Photo by Yvan Zedda)

Finally, it is important to salute the performance by Yann Guichard and his men, outright winner in this Dutch stage. Bagging three victories of the 17 races contested, Gitana Extreme- LCF Rothschild Group climbs to the highest step of the podium and above all is tied on points with Masirah in the general championship ranking.

Suffice to say that the next meeting for the Extremes 40s will take place in Alméria, Spain, on 10th, 11th and 12th October and it is going to have a decisive role in this championship! This sixth event will round off the iShares Cup 2009.

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).