Saturday, 27 June 2009

iShares Cup: Round 2 of the 2009 iShares Cup Hyères-TPM

by Emily Caroe

Just a week to go until the French port of Hyères in the region of Toulon Provence Mediterranée (TPM) welcomes the return of the iShares Cup fleet – and if last year’s event is anything to go by it will be another jaw-dropping display of Extreme 40 competition.

Round 2 of the 2009 iShares Cup will take place between 3rd to 5th July at the Mediterranean venue famous for its Mistral conditions. All eyes will be on current leaders Gitana Extreme - Groupe LCF Rothschild… The all-French team finished first or second in 12 of the 17 races to take Round 1 in Venice. But with very different conditions expected for Hyères, will they be able to repeat the performance?

Yann Guichard commented: “In Hyères I’m expecting all the various kinds of conditions possible! At this time of year, we can hope for some stiffer winds on the Var region’s race zone, and perhaps with some added thermals picking up in the middle of the day. I know the race zone well, as does Pierre Pennec, because we’ve often sailed here during the French Olympic Sailing Week (SOF). This time though it will be different as we’re going to be racing right next to the harbour wall, which will be a big first. This can change a lot of things so we’re going to have to get our bearings again.

Our victory in Venice was reassuring, however, we remain clear-headed and we’ll be starting from scratch again in Hyères - it’s a very different race! From my point of view, there are five teams that stand out and all of them are in with a chance of winning the second leg of the circuit. If I had to name one team in particular it would be the runner-up in Venice - BMW ORACLE Racing. James Spithill and his men are versatile and if the three days of racing are disputed in breezy conditions, they’ll certainly be very strong. It promises to be exciting.”

In response America’s Cup BMW ORACLE Racing skipper, James Spithill, commented: “We have been hearing only good things about what to expect from conditions at Hyères so looking forward to a bit more breeze than Venice. Although with the Extreme 40s we have discovered it doesn’t take much to get the hull flying for some exciting racing. This will be our first time at Hyères so a new challenge.”

Behind the two leaders there are another eight hugely talented teams capable of causing an upset. Among the four French skippers looking for a home-win are Groupama 40’s helm Franck Cammas, Erik Maris on LUNA, and Oman Sail Renaissance skipper Loick Peyron. Then there’s Oman’s Masirah, who took third at Venice, whilst BT, iShares and Holmatro have all been putting in plenty of practice in Hyères. Another legendary catamaran sailor also joins BT for the Round 2 of the iShares Cup… Extreme 40 class co-creator Mitch Booth standing in for an injured Darren Bundock as BT skipper Nick Moloney explained: “Darren has been very difficult to replace but we have managed to replace an 11-times World Champion with a 10-times World Champion – a stroke of luck on our part!”

Hyères is renowned for the famous Mistral breeze, a steady wind which blows offshore and can produce some exhilarating sailing conditions. The 2008 iShares Cup saw some spectacular hull-flying conditions, capsizes and dramatic recoveries, as the iShares Cup teams fought to control the powerful Extreme 40s. After the inland waterways of Venice, the iShares Cup teams will now be racing on the stunning turquoise seas off Hyères.

“This year we are bringing everything on the racecourse back even closer, with the boats passing just along the jetty,” explained Events Director, Gilles Chiorri. “The iShares Cup is a great sporting competition and it is also a great public spectacle with lots of attractions and interaction for the public.”

This will be the second season that Hyères-TPM has played host venue to the iShares Cup and this year with ‘Venue Partner status. Hubert FALCO, Président de la Communauté d’Agglomération, TPM (Toulon Provence Mediteranée) commented: “We are delighted to welcome the iShares Cup and its impressive line-up of national and international skippers as a kick start to the summer season. This event provides an amazing opportunity for our fellow citizens to witness these Formula 1 machines of the sea performing at a high level competition just a few meters from the shore with our incredible Hyères islands as background. This great sailing event that allows public participation, fits perfectly in our desire to combine tourism and economic activity for a sustainable and quality development of our region.

So we are warmly welcoming all the teams from all around the world and can't wait to see the exciting racing that we will share with them.”

iShares Cup

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