Sunday, 11 October 2009

iShares Cup: Ecover Drama as Opening Day Goes to BT

Start of race one off Almeria. Image copyright Thierry Martinez/Sea&Co/OC Events.

by Emily Caroe

At the end of day 1 of the final iShares Cup regatta in Almeria, Mike Golding's Ecover suffered serious damage to both hull and transom in a collision with LUNA. Gitana Extreme (Yann Guichard) won the final race by a good margin ahead of Oman Sail Masirah (Pete Cumming) who remain the dominant team in the scrap for the overall iShares Cup podium. BT finished the day at the top of the iShares Cup Almeria leaderboard with overall favourites Oman Sail Masirah in 2nd and the Dutch team of Holmatro in 3rd. Gitana Extreme and Oman Sail Renaissance are on 24 points apiece in 4th and 5th, Guichard gaining the upperhand courtesy of his last race win. The public of Almeria turned out in force to enjoy this new sailing spectacle held in glorious conditions, cheering all the boats, especially the Spanish team 'Rumbo Almeria', as they raced within touching distance of the shore.

Racing in Almeria port. Image copyright Thierry Martinez/Sea&Co/OC Events.

Mike Golding must be the unluckiest man on the iShares Cup circuit this year – a collision in the second round in Hyéres, a capsize in the fourth event in Kiel, another collision in Amsterdam and now a crash here in Almeria which has left a big hole at the back of the port hull and serious transom damage. None of the collisions have been Ecover’s fault and in today’s incident with LUNA, skipper Jean-Christophe Mourniac found himself powerless to bear away as the tiller extension had become unlocked. As Mourniac pulled on the helm the tiller arm just got longer, and without any steerage the collision was inevitable. “We lifted straight out and, hopefully, the repair will all be done for tomorrow,” said Mike. Asked if he felt like a marked man, Mike responded: “Well, it's two regattas in a row, our only salvation is that we weren't in the wrong. It's slightly unfair that the boat in the right always has worst damage! It puts a dent in the regatta but we've repaired the boat before and it can be done again. The boys are all really professional and I know it won't phase them.” To their credit the LUNA support crew immediately went to the aid of Ecover with the guys scrambling on to the bows to keep the stern out of water. It was a shame for LUNA who were on fire today winning the first and third race.

Damage to Ecover as a result of being hit by Luna. Image copyright Thierry Martinez/Sea&Co/OC Events.

The 10-boat Extreme 40 fleet completed four races today on a short 400-meter course in a light 5 knots of southerly breeze with the starts and first turning mark proving critical. It was BT who excelled with a 4th, 1st, 3rd and 5th place. Skipper Nick Moloney said: “It has been a tough season for us so far and it’s great to finally step on to the event podium in first place today.”

Close racing on day one off Almeria. Image copyright Thierry Martinez/Sea&Co/OC Events.

The three contenders for the overall 2009 iShares Cup podium – Pete Cumming (Oman Sail Masirah), Yann Guichard (Gitana Extreme – Groupe LCF Rothschild) and Loick Peyron (Oman Sail Renaissance) – did not have everything go their way. The Oman Sail stablemates out-performed Guichard in the first two races but Guichard came back strongly with a 3rd and 1st. The pressure is just going to increase each day: “We know it's going to be very close and we have prepared ourselves for a really hard battle in Almeria. There isn't really another gear we can find as we've been sailing at 100% all year so we've just got to keep doing what we're doing, stick to our original plan and hopefully it will come good,” said Cumming. “We are most nervous of Gitana Extreme - in the light winds they have always done well like in Venice and Amsterdam. They are a light crew so Gitana pose the biggest threat and being on equal points going into this final round definitely piles on the pressure."

The ten competing skippers: from left to right, Franck Cammas (Groupama Extreme), Jean-Christophe Mourniac (Luna), Yann Guichard (Gitana Extreme - Groupe LCF Rothschild), Nick Moloney (BT), Shirley Robertson (iShares), Mitch Booth (Holmatro), Mike Golding (Ecover), Loick Peyron (Oman Sail Renaissance), Fernando Echavarri (Rumbo Almería) and Pete Cumming (Oman Sail Masirah). Image copyright Thierry Martinez/Sea&Co/OC Events.

Fireworks at the event opening in Almeria. Image copyright Thierry Martinez/Sea&Co/OC Events.

A final mention for the new Spanish team ‘Rumbo Almeria’ skippered by Tornado Olympic gold medalist, Fernando Echavarri, who scored two third places in their first iShares Cup event.

iShares Cup

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