Chris Bake and his Team Aqua have confirmed their leadership today, winning the fleet regatta ahead of Torbjorn Tornqvist’ Artemis and “lucky” Ceeref. Also winner of the DHL Trophy and second of the match race event earlier in the week, Aqua has received the Championship Tour leader’s gold wheels.
Team Aqua, with Chris Bake at the helm, winner of the first regatta of the RC 44 Championship Tour 2009. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.
by Bernard Schopfer
The last day of the Puerto Calero Islas Canarias RC 44 Cup was a punch-up between Team Aqua and Artemis, separated by only four points before the last three races of the event.
The conditions were once again light this morning, with 5 knots of breeze and a flat sea. At the helm of Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1, José Juan Calero took the best start of race one. Ideally positioned at the Committee boat, the Spaniard tacked rapidly, heading to the right of the course and benefiting from a nice shift to increase its lead. Sailing well and fast, Team Aqua reached the windward mark in second, whilst Artemis was struggling in the middle of the fleet. Involved in a fierce battle for third overall against Organika and ESP 1, Ceeref managed to reach the mark in third despite a disastrous start.
Following a procession during the downwind leg, the teams headed back up to the windward mark, with the Spaniards leading the show ahead of Aqua. The right of the course was once again favourable and most teams headed there. Not very inspired this week, BMW ORACLE Racing chose the left and kept loosing ground and positions, ending up last at the windward mark. The Spaniards soon after brilliantly won their second race of the event, just ahead of Team Aqua and Ceeref. Artemis crossed the line in fifth, loosing precious ground to Bake’s team as the end of the event was nearing.
The seventh fleet race took place under grey clouds and the first drops of rain. Determined to maintain the pressure on Aqua, Torbjorn Tornqvist’s crew sailed a beautiful beat to lead handsomely around the windward mark, ahead of Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back - who was finally showing its full potential. Struggling to make sense of the wind shifts, Team Aqua was way behind, rounding the mark in seventh position, on a virtual tie with Artemis… The suspense was on for the rest of the regatta. The team from the UAE sailed an excellent downwind leg and benefited from its competitors’ mistakes to climb back up to fourth – and overall leader again. Controlling the fleet, Artemis remained untouchable during the last lap. As for Bake, he gained one more place whilst Ceeref saved its provisional third place on the podium by going from last to fifth, maintaining a 1 point lead over Organika, fourth for the second time in a row.
The third and last race started soon after under a cold rain. Taking risks in order to try to win the championship, Artemis took a premature start and seemed to have lost all hopes to win the race. While the other seven boats tacked immediately to port, Torbjorn Tornqvist kept on driving out to the left of the course. When he finally tacked back to converge with the fleet, he was back in the game, trailing Aqua by a few boat lengths and keeping the suspense on. As for Igor Lah’s Ceeref, it was once again last, letting the lead – and virtual third overall - to an excellent Organika. That’s when the wind definitely collapsed, forcing Peter Reggio to cancel the race, confirming Team Aqua’s victory ahead of Artemis and Ceeref.
Six out of eight boats have won races this week, whilst both Team Aqua and the local team ESP 1 have managed to win two of them. Winner of the DHL Trophy, the fleet race ranking and second of the match race event, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua takes the lead of the Championship Tour 2009, ahead of Ceeref and Artemis.
Chris Bake, helmsman, Team Aqua: “We didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves this morning, and decided to sail like we had sailed all races this week, putting our focus on sailing a race rather than on one specific opponent. We did very well, and managed to come back from difficult situations, for example when we were seventh of the first race and finally finished second. I am very pleased with the way the Class is growing. New teams have joined, others are expected and I think the Class is looking good.”
Dean Barker, tactician, Artemis: “We weren’t too worried about them (Aqua) this morning. We chose to race the conditions rather than them. Unfortunately, we went the wrong way in the first race, and then had a good second regatta. It’s still early days for our team. Torbjorn did a good job at the helm but he is still discovering the boats. The RC 44’s are very different to sail compared to a TP 52. They are much more lively and challenging.”
Russell Coutts, tactician, BMW ORACLE Racing: “This has been a very successful Series and I am very happy with it although our final result is disappointing. The venue is absolutely fantastic and the Calero brothers have been great hosts. The racing was interesting. We have seen six out of eight boats win a race, which says a lot about the level of the competition. I am also pleased to see that the “old” boats can win races; it proves a point. I believe that the life span of an RC 44 must be around ten years.”
Martin Kirketerp, 49er Olympic champion, grinder onboard No way Back: “These boats are comparable to 49ers in many ways. The downwind tactics are the same, you need to trust the other members of the crew, it’s fast… my goal is to progress my sailing and learn new things. My dream is to move to the America’s Cup or Volvo Ocean Race and I hope that the RC 44 can be a good platform for this. But one thing at the time: first of all I want to become good on this boat.”
Karol Jablonski, tactician, Organika: “We have improved a lot, but there is clearly also still a long way to go. We arrived here one day before the start of the event. It’s obvious that we need more time. But I’m very happy with our progress. It’s also nice to sail with this team. They were my old match-race team, four years ago. But we haven’t sailed together since.”
José Calero, father of Daniel and José Juan: “We feel like we are part of the event and we are proud to be able to help the Class by bringing the support of our people and our Island, and also by bringing in new possible owners. This is definitely the best Class we have seen since we are involved in sailing. I also want to say that I am very proud of my two sons. They have been sailing very well this week. And it is just the beginning.”
Philippe Presti, tactician, No way Back: “I am very pleased that we finished on a positive note. We have improved a lot throughout the week, and debriefed our races every evening in order to understand what our problems were. We have identified many things, and are clearly much better than we were at the beginning of the week. We will leave our boat here for a while in order to train later on in the Month. We will then take it to Cagliari by truck.”
Fleet-race, final results after 8 races including the DHL Trophy (double points):
(Ranking, name of team, helmsman, results, points)
1) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 3, 6, 1, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3 - 20 points
2) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 4, 2, 2, 2, 4, 3, 5, 1 – 24 points
3) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 2,3, 6, 4, 6, 5, 3, 5 - 37 points
4) Team Organika, Maciej Navrocki, 8, 5, 7, 7, 1, 2, 4, 4 – 38 points
5) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1, José Juan Calero, 5, 1, 4, 5, 8, 6, 1, 6 – 40 points
6) BMW ORACLE Racing, Daniel Calero, 1, 4, 5, 8, 7, 4, 8, 7 – 46 points
7) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 7, 7, 8, 1, 5, 8, 7, 2 – 51 points
8) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 2, Carlo Morales, 6, 8, 3, 6, 3, 7, 6, 8 – 53 points