Pierre Pennec wins Extreme Sailing Series in Muscat

The first silverware of the 2011 grand prix season went to Pierre Pennec and his French team on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, comfortable winners of the Extreme Sailing Series opening regatta in Muscat, Oman.

They kept their 40-foot catamaran at the front of the fleet throughout the four days and, though at one time threatened by second-placed Terry Hutchinson, American skipper of the Swedish America’s Cup team Artemis, they were always more consistent in both light and fresh winds.

The other podium place went to the Austrian Red Bull team, skippered by double Olympic gold medallist Roman Hagara, with British Olympian Will Howden in his crew. Dean Barker and Team New Zealand were three points further behind in fourth.

On a late charge was Britain’s Paul Campbell-James, overall European series winner last year when with Muscat’s The Wave, now at the helm of Italy’s Prada-backed Luna Rossa. But three firsts and a second in the final day’s seven races, including double points for winning the final race of the 32 in total, still left them fifth out of 11.

Still coming to terms with multihull racing was Britain’s Ian Williams, twice a world match racing champion but short of learning time in a boat and event where short sharp races in boats that have an ability both accelerate and decelerate in a short space of time can produce dramatic changes in fortune.

His GAC Pindar Team will also be contesting the world match racing tour this year. Last place in that just would not be thinkable.

The second regatta will be in Qingdao in mid-April while plans are still developing for the circuit to be joined by 49-er high performance Olympic dinghies and, at the trio of regattas in the Mediterranean in September and October, by the usually lake-based D35 catamarans.

The lead in the Barcelona two-handed round the world race, which Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron have held for a month despite a 48-hour stopover for repairs in Wellington, was being threatened by Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez as they closed to within 10 miles.

Even closer were eighth-placed Wouter Verbraak and Andy Meiklejohn as they decided not to stop for mast repairs to Hugo Boss in Wellington, even though it means they cannot raise a full mainsail, as they were chased by Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella about a mile behind.