Guichard sets pace in Extreme Sailing Series

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The Independent Online

In a fast and furious start to the Extreme Sailing Series it was Frenchman Yann Guichard, second overall last season, who set the early pace in Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, but pushed by the man who was ninth in 2009, Britain's Mike Golding.

The man from Warsash on the Hamble River, in Hampshire, has recently added a Maserati to his driveway and has reshuffled the crew of his 40-foot catamaran Ecover, bringing in the Olympic pairing of Leigh McMillan, to drive, and Will Howden with Jonathan Taylor doing the athletic bits. The extra pace was immediately in evidence.

Fortunes were immediately reversed in the following race as Ecover slipped to sixth, pipped by solo sailor, multihull expert, America's Cup helmsman and soon to partner Jean-Pierre Dick in the two-handed non-stop round the world Barcelona Race, Loick Peyron.

In this series he is again sailing for the Oman Sail team, which won the series last year and which is part of a richly funded, long-term initiative using sport to promote tourism.

The Sultan has chosen sailing to run a schools programme at home as well as compete in other events such as the Tour de France a la Voile and the transatlantic Route du Rhum later this year.

Winner was a long-time, though much younger, competitor to Peyron, Franck Cammas, who recently set a new record of under 48 days seven hours 44 minutes for sailing non-stop round the world. He is running the 40-foot Groupama cat campaign in parallel to training for and building a new boat for the Volvo round the world race next year.

Race manager Tim Hancock welcomes the quick-fire race format:

In a series that comprised 108 races last year, one or two good results early on are no substitute for consistency, but they are a good psychological boost.

The courses being set were innovative. British race manager Tim Hancock has persuaded the eight teams to race over a P-shape for fleet races doing three laps in about 15 minutes while the match races take only about eight minutes over an L-shape, preceded by four minutes of jockeying for the best starting position.

The local mayor, Francois Commeinhes, has given his full backing to the event – as well as using it as a platform to campaign for the release of two French journalists being held hostage in Afghanistan. The locals lined the dock wall, were entertained by non-stop commentary, and were relieved from the heat by some cloud and the 12-knot south-westerly.

Watch footage of the series by clicking here.