Sunday, 31 May 2009

RC44s: Crazy Conditions on day one of the RC 44 Austria Cup fleet regatta

The Slovenian team Ceeref, with Igor Lah at the helm and Paul Cayard at the tactics, makes the best of the massive shifts, strong gusts and rain and hailstones showers on day one of the fleet race event of the RC 44 Austria Cup.

René Mangold's Team Austria had an excellent day today,with a 4th and a 5th. Image copyright GEPA pictures/Marie Rambauske/RC44 Class Association.

by Bernard Schopfer

The Austrian weather carries on playing tricks with the sailors on Lake Traunsee, resulting in exciting, surprising and eventful regattas.
The sky was blue for the start of the first race and the wind moderate. BMW ORACLE Racing, with boat captain Ian Vickers at the helm and Russell Coutts calling the shots started at the pin end of the line and carried on to the left of the course with Team Puerto Calero and No Way Back. Led by the local team Austria, the other teams went to the right and benefited from a big right hand shift.

However, the best strategy proved to be the middle one. Playing every shift with a great vista, Torbjorn Tornqvist and Dean Barker reached the windward mark ahead of the pack, leading Organika, Team Sea Dubai and team Austria. Winner of the match race event yesterday, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua was trailing at the back of the fleet, proving once again that everything is possible in this Class thanks to its strict one-design concept.

On great form, Dean Barker carried on calling perfect shots, allowing Tornqvist to extend its lead and win the race with a huge margin. The situation was more complicated behind the leader. Indeed, the pursuers were separated by a few boat lengths and engaged in a very tight battle, exchanging positions at each mark rounding. The wind increased to 20 knots during the last spinnaker ride, allowing Team Austria to gain four places just before crossing the arrival line whilst Team Sea Dubai broached and had to cut their spinnaker halyard, abandon the race and go back to the harbour to fit in a new halyard, hence also missing the next race. Ceeref finished second, ahead of Organika and Team Austria, only too happy to cross the line in the first half of the pack.

Big black clouds started to build up over the nearby mountains before the start of race two. Most boats decided to start at the Committee Boat, resulting in a jam that forced Organika to turn back and restart after everyone. Ceeref and Artemis came out best in the middle of the line. Paul Cayard ordered a tack as soon as possible whilst Dean Barker opted for the left. Cayard’s choice proved to be the right one and the Slovenian team reached the windward mark before its opponents. The first strong gusts of wind came down the mountain soon after the mark rounding, propelling the RC 44 fleet towards the leeward mark at great speed. The wind increased to 30+ knots, resulting in the entire fleet blasting towards the other side of the lake, with some boats broaching and others urgently taking their kites down.

Ceeref, Team Aqua and No Way Back excelled in those conditions, sailing hard and very well and building up a comfortable lead over the opposition during the last beat. Nobody put the kite up during the last run because of the strength of the wind and the close angle, Ceeref crossing the line a few boat lengths ahead of Team Aqua and No Way Back. Artemis came back a long way to cross the line in fourth, just ahead of Team Austria, excellent once again.

The sun then came back and the wind dropped, forcing Race Officer Peter Reggio to postpone the next start during two hours before sending the fleet back home just before another massive storm hit lake Traunsee, with thunder, hailstones and massive gusts of wind.

They said:
René Mangold, owner, Team Austria: “We all come from Austria but this doesn’t mean that we are used to those conditions. This was actually very unusual, even for us. We had up to 32 knots at the top of our mast, and the spinnaker ride was just fantastic. We are happy with our result and it was great to see the public supporting us so much.”

Igor Lah, owner, Ceeref: “The second race was crazy. I never sailed with so much wind in my life, and I felt like on a rollercoaster. I was really concentrated on driving the boat and couldn’t look out much, but it was fantastic.”

Ray Davies, tactician, No Way Back: “We were clearly in survival mode in the second race, but Pieter (Heerema) did a great job at the helm. There were big lead changes throughout the races and it was extremely shifty. Good fun.”

Torbjorn Tornqvist, owner, Artémis: “This is the first time I sail on a lake and it is an interesting experience. It is very shifty and the steering is challenging. We have been pretty lucky with the shifts in the first race, and Dean did a great job. We were always in the right place at the right time. “

Maciej Navrocki, owner, Organika: “The first race was great but then we suffered during the second one. We broached and had to stop because the spinnaker was stuck under the boat. I have enjoyed today a lot and these are the conditions that we like most even if it is very cold. This place is great and we appreciate Lake Traunsee as a sailing destination. I am also very happy with the team; they have done a great match race and I am proud of Karol.”

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

1) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 2, 1 – 3 points
2) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 1, 4 – 5 points
3) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 5, 3 - 8 points
4) Team Austria, René Mangold, 4, 5 - 9 points
5) Team Aqua, Chris Bake 8, 2 - 10 points
6) Team Organika, Maciej Navrocki 3, 8 - 11 points
7) BMW ORACLE Racing, Ian Vickers, 6, 6 - 12 points
8) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, Daniel Calero, 7, 7 - 14 points
9) Team Sea Dubai, Stefan Linder, 11 (DNF), 11 (DNS) - 22 points


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