Sunday, 1 March 2009

RC44: Team Aqua dominates the day, wins the DHL Trophy and Takes the Lead in the Fleet Race Event

With two victories, a second and a third place, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua is the winner of the day. Also on great form, with two second and two fourth places, Torbjorn Tornqvist remains in Bakes’ wake in the overall ranking, whilst Maciej Nawrocki’s team Organika – with Karol Jablonski at the tactics – shows great signs of improvement.

by Bernard Schopfer

It was another challenging day off Puerto Calero, with a changing weather and shifty wind that gave gray hairs to some of the tacticians. On great form, Chris Bake and his tactician Cameron Appleton got it all right, winning two races (including the DHL Trophy coastal race) and adding a second and a third to conclude the day with a small lead over Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis.

The wind was blowing from the shore at 5-7 knots when Race Officer Peter Reggio launched the first race of the day, allowing the RC 44’s to glide on flat water. Starting in the middle of the line at full speed, Team Aqua rapidly took the lead, ahead of the local team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero 2. Just behind them, Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis kept pushing hard, making no mistakes whatsoever and getting closer to the Canaries crew after each manoeuvre before finally overtaking them during the second beat.

Penalised by a premature start, BMW ORACLE Racing and Ceeref slowly improved their positions, reaching the fifth and sixth spot respectively whilst Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back and Maciej Nawrocki’s Organika regularly lost ground to close the fleet.
Having dominated proceedings throughout the race, Chris Bake nearly let victory slip from his grasp when Artemis made the best of the shifts during the last downwind leg, only finishing a couple of meters behind Aqua. The two Spanish teams took the third and fourth spots, confirming their good results from the previous day.
The second race coincided with a change of weather that would influence the rest of the day. Big black clouds were starting to grow on the north of the Island, whilst the wind was increasing, inciting most teams – except Ceeref and Artemis - to opt for a jib no 2.

Recalled at the start, Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back tried to find some clear air on the right of the course and benefited from favourable wind strength to reach the windward mark in the lead, just ahead of the two Spanish boats. ESP 1 even briefly took the lead at the leeward mark, but got penalised for not respecting the two boats length priority rule and letting enough space to Artemis. A massive shift to the right then completely reshuffled the cards. Struggling to anticipate it, Russell Coutts and Karol Jablonski ended up trailing on the left of the course whilst the rest of the fleet was reaching at full speed towards the windward mark. Team Aqua even raised its spinnaker briefly, jibing the mark and heading for the arrival line behind No Way Back and Artemis, who remained untouchable.

The configuration of race three was completely different, with the teams beating alongside the rugged coastline of Lanzarote, hesitating between potential land effects and a stronger offshore breeze. Choosing the latter option, team Organika reached the windward mark in front of Ceeref and Aqua, who had decided to follow the coast for as long as possible. The Polish team hang on to its lead throughout the race, resisting to Team Aqua’s come back to win its first regatta in the RC 44 Championship Tour, ahead of Aqua and Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 2, often inspired today thanks to Luis Doreste’s calls.

Rain jackets were out for the DHL long distance trophy, which consisted in three windward - leeward legs followed by a beat to the entrance of the harbour. The wind shifted to the right seconds before the start, pushing the boats over the line and leading to a general recall. The DHL regatta counts for double points and nobody wanted to be late on the line...

The second attempt proved to be the right one. Sailing a beautiful beat, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua led handsomely around the windward mark, ahead of Ceeref and Organika, definitely on great form. The Polish team then managed to overtake Ceeref, and to threaten Aqua until the last beat. But the team from the UAE remained untouchable, winning with a comfortable margin ahead of Organika. Sailing slightly over the lay line, BMW ORACLE Racing let Artemis slip below them, to grab the third place by no more than a few centimetres.

With one more day of fleet racing ahead, Team Aqua leads the overall ranking with 15 points, ahead of Artemis (18) and Ceeref (29).

They said:

Chris Bake, helmsman, Team Aqua: “This is a good day; the team is on great form and we have managed to deal with some issues very well. We took excellent starts in all races, and tried to sail fast & smart. It was difficult to read the course. But our positioning and good speed made it easier.”

Kevin Kelble, pitman, Team Aqua: “Our on-board communication is good, and we talk a lot. Andrew Estcourt also plays a big role in our strategy; he is constantly exchanging views with Cam. We took great starts today, and had a good speed, which has helped us to keep all our options open.”

Maciej Nawrocki, helmsman, Organika: “This is our first victory in a fleet regatta, and we are very happy; it is definitely our best day since we joined the Class. Karol (Jablonski) did a great job, and he is definitely the key to our success. He made the right calls, and helps us to keep positive even when we have a hard time. I am also improving at the helm.

Pieter Heerema, helmsman, No Way Back: “We won a race today, but this was mainly through luck. In reality, we are still struggling for speed and we don’t seem to have the right setup. Our boat handling is good and I am happy with the boys. But altogether we are not doing well.”

Torbjorn Tornqvist, helmsman, Artemis: “We had ups and downs, but overall I think it was a good day. I am very impressed with the way Team Aqua sailed today, they did a great job. Personally, I am getting more confident at the helm. At the beginning, I was struggling to find the right angles downwind, but I am getting there.”

Fleet-race, provisional results after 6 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 - 15 points
2) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 4, 2, 2, 2, 4, 3 – 18 points
3) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 2,3, 6, 4, 6, 5 - 29 points
4) Team Organika, Maciej Navrocki, 8, 5, 7, 7, 1, 2 – 30 points
5) BMW ORACLE Racing, Daniel Calero, 1, 4, 5, 8, 7, 4 – 31 points
6) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1, José Juan Calero, 5, 1,4, 5, 8, 6 – 33 points
7) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 2, Carlo Morales, 6, 8, 3, 6, 3, 7 – 37 points
8) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 7, 7, 8, 1, 5, 8 – 42 points


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