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.”
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
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!
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).
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
Capsize & collisions in gusty conditions on day 1 of the iShares Cup Kiel: “It was carnage out there…” said Oman Sail crew David Carr. Ecover’s capsized between races 3 and 4, resulted in a broken mast. The mast was cut away from the overturned boat, and both boat and mast were towed back to the iShares Cup pitlane. Ecover crewman Bruno Dubois received a nasty cut to the head requiring stitches. And then after a full on day of racing, in the final race, Loick Peyron’s Renaissance hit the new Wirsol Team Germany Kiel Sailing City resulting in major work overnight for both boats. It didn’t all go Oman Sail Masirah’s way today in the difficult and gusty conditions on Kiel Fjord but after 7 races on day of 1 round 4, Pete Cumming’s team are, once again, at the top of the leaderboard.
Mike Golding back on shore told the press: “Bruno’s had a scan and is being kept in overnight but otherwise he’s fine. It was a very quick capsize, the conditions had been very gusty and none of us were expecting to have a problem like that outside of the racecourse. We were between races and we had just boarded our guest and were heading back to the start area when a big gust came in, fully downwind, both bows went in and we just pitch-poled very, very quickly. All of us were in the water – even the experienced Extreme 40 guys were amazed at how fast the boat rotated. When we came up from under the net we saw Bruno had a head injury and were pretty shocked”
And about racing again: “We will right the boat next and we have a spare mast here so we will make an assessment of what’s here and try and get the boat back out on the racecourse. We’re here to be racing so we want to get the programme back on track.”
The conditions for racing on the short and tight courses on the Kiel Fjord were demanding and pretty nerve-wracking for the Extreme 40 crews as the wind gusted over 30 knots (56 km/h) – this is sailing at the sharp end of the sport. It required slick boat handling and 100% focus.
Oman Sail Renaissance skipper, Loick Peyron, collided with Wirsol Team German Kiel Sailing City in the final race of the day as they tried to bear away behind the local team resulting in a black flag disqualification: “A little puff of wind, then boom – no more rudder, we were flying with no tiller – so after that you have a few seconds to pray. It can be dangerous but that is part of the game. I think it’s the first time I hit another boat and I don’t like that.” After two race wins, the disqualification cost them second place on the leaderboard which has been occupied by Franck Cammas’ Groupama Extreme who sailed well, scoring one victory and no worse than 6th place.
iShares Cup Race Director, Gilles Chiorri explained the damage to the German team: “There is serious damage to the port hull of the aft beam –it is where the aft beam is moulded to the hull so they will have a long night of repair work. I am pretty confident they will be racing tomorrow”
Overall iShares Cup series leaders, Oman Sail Masirah skippered by Pete Cummings, and now also occupying the top of the leaderboard at the end of day 1 in Kiel, had this to say: “The wind strength went from 5 knots up to 25 knots – it would just hit like that. So, yeah, it was all on! It’s really brilliant racing though and you can hear the crowds cheering you down the racetrack. Really unfortunate for Ecover – it’s just really tight racing and everyone is pushing hard, and when you’re at this level that’s how it is. You’ve got to be on top of your game that’s for sure.”
Day 2 of Round 4 of the iShares Cup at Kiel is expected to be just as demanding, if not more with stronger gusts forecast.
iShares Cup Kiel Day 1:
Oman Sail Masirah 61 points
Groupama Extreme 51 points
Oman Sail Renaissance 47 points
Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild 46 points
BT 38 points
Team iShares 37 points
LUNA 36 points
Holmatro 32 points
Wirsol Team German Kiel Sailing City 22 points
The 10 teams competing in the fourth event of the 2009 iShares Cup are ready for three days of fiercely contested Extreme 40 racing, which kicks off tomorrow, August 28th. With just one point separating the top two boats on the overall leaderboard, and some changeable conditions forecast, Kiel looks set for another exciting showdown between these legendary sailors.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend,” commented Ecover skipper Mike Golding. “Kiel is a great location, the racing will be fast and furious, and the conditions are expected to build over the weekend. We’ve had some good training this week, the mark roundings need to be clean and quick and we’ve focused a lot on this. I hope that we will see some improvements over this weekend and that we can close the gap on the teams ahead of us. It has the potential to be one of the best race courses so far!”
All the teams have been training as hard as possible – new entry Wirsol Team Germany Kiel.Sailing City have been sailing their Extreme 40 solidly for the past two weeks, while others have been setting up practice races. The teams are racing so seriously that yesterday there was even a collision in training, with LUNA sustaining damage, although they will be back racing today.
“We experienced a really bad crash yesterday. We had to lift the boat out of the water and our shore team worked all afternoon and all night long to make sure that the boat is ready for tomorrow! We should be back on the water this afternoon and will make sure that everything is ok,” explained Luna crew Philippe Mourniac.
Huge crowds of up to 100,000 spectators are expected to watch 40 World Champions, Olympic medalists, America’s Cup heroes and round the world record-breakers fight it out. “Thanks again to the city of Kiel for welcoming us back again this year. It was an absolutely phenomenal event last year and we are expecting as many spectators as last year. Hearing the crowd cheer is amazing and encourages us to provide the best competition and spectacle,” commented BT skipper Nick Moloney.
At the front of the fleet all eyes will be on Oman Sail Masirah and Gitana Extreme-Groupe LCF Rothschild, with just one point separating the two teams overall at the halfway point in the 2009 iShares Cup. “We are just one point off the lead but we have no particular strategy for Kiel,” said Gitana skipper Yann Guichard. “This event should be really windy and gusty, we will do our best to sail well but there’s nine other good teams, all really full on and nobody will let the victory go!”
Pete Cumming, skipper of Masirah, added: “When we look at the skipper and crew line up, we could think that our team is a lot less experienced. But we keep the same team since last year, we trained a lot and I think it’s the key to our success for now.”
A familiar face returns to the helm of Holmatro, where Extreme 40 class founder Mitch Booth takes over the reins. He got off to a great start by taking today’s first practice race win. “It’s good to be back full-time in the circuit and specially with Holmatro as it’s my original team,” he said. “It’s like coming back to the family. We are all good friends, we used to sail together and it’s always good fun.” Darren Bundock also returns to the helm of BT, having recovered from injury which saw him step aside earlier this season.
Racing begins tomorrow at 2.30pm, with up to eight races scheduled every afternoon and can be watched from the Kiellinie shoreline.