Whilst football fans around the world obsess about the selection of their World Cup national squad, all bar one of the Extreme 40 teams have now confirmed their 'squads' for the 2010 Extreme Sailing Series that kick-offs in a week's time on the south coast of France at Sète from 27th-30th. Eight international teams will be on the start line to battle it out over five events across Europe this summer. At the mercy of the on-water referees, the teams racing their high-speed 40' catamarans will be hoping to avoid any 'sending offs'! But on race courses that on average only equal the size of six football pitches, the teams are constantly engaged in close combat that frequently result in punishable infringements.
Across the fleet of 32 sailors there are two double Olympic Gold medallists, 61 World and 37 European Championship titles, 20 Round the World navigations, 20 America's Cups sailed and 39 sailing records held or broken amongst the 14 nationalities.
Three top French skippers will be taking the helms of Extreme 40s this year - Franck Cammas, Yann Guichard and Loick Peyron. Franck Cammas, fresh from his Jules Verne Trophy record-breaking circumnavigation, will drive Groupama 40. Cammas will be joined by former America's Cup sailor Tanguy Cariou (FRA) as his tactician: "We've spent the winter capturing the Jules Verne Trophy with an amazing team onboard Groupama 3, and so Groupama 40 looks pretty small!” Cammas joked. "But we like these close-quarter regattas. Our business is all about sailing so, big or small, in a team, or alone, it's not important. It's all about the sailing."
Experienced offshore multihull sailor, Yann Guichard will once again be helming the Gitana Team entry, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. Guichard finished an impressive second last season: "2009 was the year we discovered the Extreme Sailing Series and the style of Extreme 40 regattas: the notion of sport as a spectacle! We soon learnt that consistency pays and to perform well in this series and to post good results, you need to navigate really well and not have any on-the-water contact with your competitors."
The final French skipper is 'Mr Multihull' himself, Loick Peyron who recently helmed Alinghi in the 33rd America's Cup. Peyron has 'jumped ship' from one Oman Sail Extreme 40 to the other and for 2010 will skipper and helm Oman Sail Masirah. Peyron will be joined by the 2009 skipper, now trimmer and team manager, Pete Cumming (GBR). The Sultanate of Oman, as in the previous seasons, has a second entry in the circuit with The Wave, Muscat, skippered by British talent Paul Campbell-James (GBR). An experienced matchracer, 'CJ' demonstrated his aggressive starting talent on the winter Asia tour. Joining him will be the first Omani who has progressed through the Oman Sail Academy and now racing as a professional sailor, Khamis Al Anbouri (OMA).
Following his debut in the inaugural Asian Extreme Sailing Series, double Olympic Gold Medallist Roman Hagara (AUT) will be joined by his Olympic crew Hans-Peter Steinacher (AUT) for the Red Bull Extreme Sailing entry. Racing alongside Hagara will be Gabriele Olivo (ITA) and David Vera (ESP), both of whom participated in the last Volvo Ocean Race with the Spanish Telefonica team. Red Bull Extreme Sailing boasts a good balance between offshore and inshore racing experience and talent and will be strong contenders for a podium position.
Veteran Extreme 40 sailor, Nick Moloney (AUS) is back as skipper of the new entry Team GAC Pindar. From the America's Cup to the solo Route du Rhum and Vendée Globe, and the Jules Verne Trophy, Moloney has seen it all! Helming the British entry Team GAC Pindar is British Tornado sailor Andrew Walsh. Joining them will be Fraser Brown (NZL), another very experienced Extreme 40 player and Team Pindar's Olly Smith (GBR): a promising combination of talent.
Finally, one of Great Britain's most accomplished single-handed sailors ever, with two IMOCA World Champion titles, a third in the solo Vendée Globe, Mike Golding returns to the circuit with an all-British line up in the Ecover Sailing Team. Golding will receive a shot in the arm from the combined Olympic Tornado talents of Leigh McMillan, Team GBR's catamaran helmsman at both the Athens and Beijing Olympics, and Will Howden. Golding commented: "Training has gone really well. Will and Leigh have a great synergy onboard, so it has been a very smooth process working in the role changes. 2009 was a learning curve for all of us, and I hope this year will see us raise the bar in terms of performance on the water. Leigh will be fantastic on the helm, and we intend to make an impact on the leaderboard this season".
And with just one final team racing under the flag of The Ocean Racing Club in Slovenia, due to announce early next week, there will now be eight teams on the start line: "It's a hugely impressive line-up again this year, the quality and depth of experience of the sailors increases year on year and guarantees us some spectacular action," said Event Director, Gilles Chiorri. With more days racing than ever before, the four-day events will challenge every aspect of tactics, speed and finesse for the top international sailors.