Wednesday, 29 April 2009

RC44s: Team Aqua joins BMW ORACLE Racing on top of the Cagliari RC 44 fleet regatta

Two more difficult races were completed Saturday. Thanks to a first and a third, Chris Bake and his team climbs up the top of the provisional leader board, alongside Larry Ellison and the BMW ORACLE Racing boys and ahead of the brilliant Spaniards from Puerto Calero Islas Canarias.

'Deal Breaker', Larry Ellison's BMW ORACLE Racing RC44, in a fleet race start off Cagliari. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW ORACLE Racing.

by Bernard Schopfer

The conditions were once again very difficult in Cagliari today, with a light and unstable breeze coupled with a strong chop. Team Aqua - who was second after day one - scored the best results with a first and a third, rejoining BMW ORACLE Racing on top of the provisional leader board. The juniors from Yacht Club Cagliari, who were the guest stars on board the RC 44’s, had a privileged view on what it feels like to sail a forty four footer in chop and light wind: tough for the nerves, very technical and unforgiving.

The first race of the day took place on the Eastern side of the gulf of Salinas and off the famous “Sella del Diavolo”, an impressive rock that looks - according to the locals - like the Devil’s saddle. The conditions were indeed diabolical for the helmsmen, sail trimmers and for the chief Race Officer Peter Reggio.

Chris Bake and his Team Aqua took a perfect start at the pin end of the line and carried on to the left of the course, tacking towards the windward mark in a controlling position. Artemis and Team Sea Dubai fought for the second place throughout the race. Showing great nerves against the “rock stars”, Sea Dubai’s Yousef Lahej managed to overtake Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis during the last downwind leg, grabbing a stunning second place. The RC 44’s remained very close throughout the race, swapping positions at every mark rounding. Despite an excellent start, Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back lost ground to finish sixth. The last four boats crossed the arrival line within ten seconds!

The breeze then died and the teams had to wait two hours until the next start, after motoring back to the usual racing area off Cagliari.

BMW ORACLE Racing chose the pin end of the line and sailed towards Cagliari’s impressive cliffs range, benefiting from a nice right shift and good pressure to take the lead ahead of Puerto Calero Islas Canarias and Aqua. Despite promising signs that led some of the teams to choose a smaller jib, the wind started to drop once again. It then suddenly shifted massively to the right during the last leg, increasing to 12-15 knots and making it difficult for some of the teams to cross the line under their asymmetrical spinnakers without broaching. Luckily the shift didn’t have any effect on the ranking. BMW ORACLE won the race ahead of Ceeref, Team Aqua and Puerto Calero.

The Race Committee then bravely tried to launch a third regatta, moving the course again and again before announcing the inevitable return to the harbour.

Tomorrow’s races will start one hour earlier than today. The plan is to sail two normal courses and the coastal race DHL Trophy. According to PredictWind, the conditions should be better than today. However all weather models have had difficulties to predict the local breezes.

They said:

José Juan Calero, helmsman, Puerto Calero Islas Canarias: “It was harder today than yesterday. But I am very happy because we were eighth of the first race after our awful start and we managed to climb back up to fifth. We then had a good second race. I found it very difficult to drive the boat today and I am happy that we managed to maintain our third place overall.”

Torbjorn Tornqvist, helmsman, Artemis: “I didn’t think that the steering was too difficult despite the waves and light wind. I think the main issue was tactical. I am not entirely satisfied with my day. We had a good first race, following an excellent start. But then we struggled to find the favoured side of the course.”

Pieter Heerema, helmsman, Team No Way Back: “We took two good starts and our speed was good, but we went in the wrong direction. It was very difficult to read the course and we obviously got it wrong. We also had a small jib in the second race, so we were completely underpowered. The good news is that we are much faster than we were in Lanzarote, and that we are getting more confident with the boat.”

Noel Drennan, trimmer, BMW ORACLE Racing: “It was a very difficult day for the trimmers and the helmsmen but it worked out very well between Daniel Fong, Larry Ellison and myself; we had a good combination. I was watching out of the boat, looking out for big waves and wind shifts. We also took very good starts, which obviously helped. We kept an eye on team Aqua and Ceeref throughout the day, but the conditions made it difficult to control properly.”

Fleet race, provisional results after four races:
(Ranking, name of team, helmsman, results, points)

1) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 3, 1, 4, 1 – 9 points
2) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 1, 4, 1, 3 – 9 points
3) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Juan Calero, 2, 3, 5, 4 – 14 points
4) Team Ceeref, Igor Lah, 4, 2, 7, 2 – 15 points
5) Team Sea Dubai, Yousef Lahej, 5, 5, 2, 7 – 19 points
6) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 7, 6, 3, 5 - 21 points
7) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 6, 9, 6, 8 - 29 points
8) Team Organika, Maciej Nawrocki, 9, 7, 9, 6 – 31 points
9) Team Austria, René Mangold, 7, 8, 8, 9 - 32 points


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