Thanks to a third and a first, the American team - with Larry Ellison at the helm and Russell Coutts calling the shots - takes the lead of the fleet regatta ahead of Team Aqua and Islas Canarias Puerto Calero.
BMW ORACLE Racing leads Ceeref in the second race of the fleet regatta. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44 class.
by Bernard Schopfer
For most RC 44 team owners, the first fleet regatta coincides with their return at the helm for the first time since the last event. The transition is usually sharp, and they sometimes need a couple of regattas to get their feeling back. Larry Ellison didn’t need such an adaptation as he already steered the match race earlier in the week. He showed from the first race that he was well in the game, taking a very good start and finishing third of the first race before winning the second regatta, grabbing an early lead in the tournament.
The conditions were once again light and the wind unstable in direction today. The first race started at lunch time, with 5-7 knots of wind. Both Torbjorn Tornqvist (Artemis) and Maciej Nawrocki (Organika) went over the line too early and were called back, whilst Chris Bake (Team Aqua) and José Maria Ponce (Puerto Calero Islas Canarias) started perfectly, taking an early lead and reaching the windward mark ahead of the pack. Controlling the situation perfectly, Bake cruised to an easy victory whilst the Spaniards struggled to contain the attacks of BMW Oracle Racing and Ceeref, wiping the sweat out of their foreheads as they crossed the arrival line a few meters ahead of their pursuers in a superb second place.
At the back of the fleet, René Mangold (Team Austria) was doing his best to keep in touch with the other boats despite an apparent lack of speed upwind. Mangold courageously attacked Artemis in the last downwind leg and managed to overtake the Swedish boat, finishing an encouraging seventh in their first official fleet regatta.
The second race took place in similar light and fairly unstable conditions. Reading the course perfectly, Russell Coutts advised his helmsman to carry on to the left of the course after their excellent start, reaching the first mark in Ceeref’s wake. The American team kept in touch with the leader during the downwind leg and rounded the leeward mark close enough to be in an optimal position to attack. Sailing its own race rather than controlling Ellison, Igor Lah lost the lead and didn’t manage to get it back despite his constant pressure during the last downwind leg.
Sailing an excellent regatta, José Juan Calero almost benefited from BMW ORACLE Racing and Ceeref’s jibing dual to grab the second place. The Spaniards finsished the race in third, only one second ahead of Team Aqua.
Showing great potential, Team Sea Dubai, with Yousef Laheg at the helm for the first time, finished both races in fifth. No Way Back, Artemis, Organika and Team Austria swapped positions in the second half of the fleet in both races.
Two fleet races and the coastal DHL Trophy are scheduled tomorrow. The plan for the DHL Trophy is to sail a 6 Miles long windward - leeward course before heading back towards Cagliari on another 6 Miles long leg.
Alan Smith, crewmember, BMW ORACLE Racing: “The race course was pretty tricky today, and we were wondering which one was the good side of the course. Russell did a great job at sending us in the right place, and we had two very good races. It was tough because the sea breeze wasn’t turning right as it should. There were also some land effects; it’s a bit like a little bay of Valencia. Our current result is good, but we have to be careful: last month in Puerto Calero we were also in the lead after two races and we finished sixth.”
Igor Lah, helmsman, Ceeref: “I am satisfied with our day: we are still well in the game after two races and everything is possible. We were in the lead in the first race until BMW ORACLE Racing took us over. I’m not sure what happened. We didn’t control; we defended. The last downwind leg was exciting; it was very close.”
Yousef Laheg, helmsman, Team Sea Dubai: “This was my first race at the helm, so I was a bit nervous. I wasn’t thinking too much about who’s on the other boats: it’s just a race and they are sailors. But afterwards I thought: this is pretty cool!
The start was a great moment. I am used to sailing Lasers so I wasn’t surprised. There’s no “beginners luck” in the start, so I just went for it without thinking too much. It was great.”
Chris Bake, helmsman, Team Aqua: “the focus today was to get me back into the game as quickly as possible, and it went well. I felt well as soon as I took the helm; the boat set up was excellent and we managed to take a great start in the first race. We pushed hard all through the day, and I am happy with our result.”
Fleet race, provisional results after two races:
(Ranking, name of team, helmsman, results, points)
1) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 3, 1 – 4 points
2) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 1, 4 – 5 points
3) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Juan Calero, 2, 3 – 5 points
4) Team Ceeref, Igor Lah, 4, 2 – 6 points
5) Team Sea Dubai, Yousef Lahej, 5, 5 – 10 points
6) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 7, 6 - 13 points
7) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 6, 9 - 15 points
8) Team Austria, René Mangold, 7, 8 - 15 points
9) Team Organika, Maciej Nawrocki, 9, 7 – 16 points
Reminder: match-race final results after 9 flights:
1) Artemis, Dean Barker, 9/0, 9 points
2) No Way Back, Philippe Presti, 6/3, 1 penalty, 5 points
3) Ceeref, Sébastien Col, 6/3, 1 penalty, 5 points
4) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 5/4, 5 points
5) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton 4/5, 4 points
6) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Juan Calero, 2/7, 2 points
7) Team Organika, Karol Jablonski 2/7, 2 points
8) Team Sea Dubai, Markus Wieser, 2/7, 2 points
9) Team Austria, Christian Binder, 1/8, 1 point