Tuesday, 8 March 2011

RC44: Katusha Closes Out for the Win on Day 5

Paul Cayard and Russell Coutts celebrate Katusha's victory with the customary champagne spraying. Image copyright Fried Elliott/www.friedbits.com/RC44 Class Association.

by Dobbs Davis

The Oracle RC44 Cup San Diego ended with a fabulous victory by the Russian team Katusha, after five days of feverishly competitive sailing off Broadway Pier.

Bob Little was on the wheel, with Paul Cayard calling the shots to almost close out the overall win in the first two races of the day. It left them sailing defensively for the final race, watching others wrestle it out for the remaining places on the podium.

Things didn’t look too good first thing this morning with heavy and ominous cloud over San Diego Bay, but the sun quickly broke through and the crews were sent out on time. The westerly built in the warm sunshine to around ten knots. Paul Cayard had said earlier in the week that it was all about getting in a position to win the regatta on the final day. A strong performance yesterday maintained a two-point lead over Team Aqua into the home straight. Now they just had to close the deal.

They got a big helping hand early on – Team Aqua picked up two penalties in the first race and could only recover to a seventh. Meanwhile, Katusha were battling Larry Ellison’s ORACLE Racing for the race win. Katusha had to settle for second, but it was still enough to move out to a six point lead, as ORACLE Racing’s win leap-frogged them over Team Aqua to take second overall by a single point. Artemis had been fourth going into the day, but they also struggled, scoring a sixth and dropping eight points behind Team Aqua.

ORACLE Racing finished second. Image copyright Fried Elliott/www.friedbits.com/RC44 Class Association.

The second race of the day saw Artemis come back strong and a fine win put them back into the game. But the Katusha juggernaut was still rolling, and another second place gave them an almost unassailable lead of eight points, as ORACLE Racing and Team Aqua were left fighting for fourth place. It was settled at the last cross before the finish, when Team Aqua went left, ORACLE Racing went right... the right paid, and ORACLE Racing consolidated a three point lead for second place, as Synergy also slipped in between them and Team Aqua.

The wind then made the racers and the big crowd on Broadway Pier wait for the grand finale. The delay lasted just over half an hour and when it got going it was in the lightest conditions of the week. Katusha made sure they were in the same piece of water as the only boat that could beat them overall - ORACLE Racing.

Katusha’s helmsman Bob Little commented, ‘We just sailed real conservative and didn't push anything, just got the job done. That was it. Getting the two seconds [places] helped us out a lot, [we stayed consistent by] not pushing the line too hard, and not getting ourselves too separated from the boats we were close on points with... just sailing smart.’

Team Katusha win the Oracle RC44 Cup San Diego.

Katusha may have had their worst race of the week, but they did what they had to do and followed in behind ORACLE Racing, who finished seventh. Both Team Aqua and Artemis came desperately close to taking advantage of ORACLE Racing’s result – Artemis finished third and Team Aqua fifth, both just one place short of forcing a tie-break that they would have won.

It was a particularly satisfying win for Katusha’s tactician, Paul Cayard. ‘I lived here in San Diego for 12 years and it’s been fun to be here this week. It means a lot to win this regatta in a town that I spent so much of my life in, and it’s been fun seeing all of my friends from some time past. Congratulations to all the teams, these races are extremely tough and it’s a lot of fun.’

Video round-up of ORACLE RC44 San Diego Cup:

The man behind it all, Russell Coutts - the ‘RC’ in RC 44 - was also happy with his week. ‘We are happy with second place, it was a tough regatta for us, lots of difficult conditions, but we’re very happy. This regatta in San Diego is one of our best for sure, it was just a great venue, lots of variables on the race course, lots of people here and lots of interest, it’s been fantastic. We are hoping to be back here again.’

It was great news for SEA San Diego’s President John Laun, as he reflected on their first event, ‘This is the first event for the Sailing Events Association (SEA) of San Diego. We’re a non-profit association formed to bring exactly this sort of event to San Diego, to get the local people excited about sailing and to stimulate our local economy for travel and tourism.

‘It’s really has been fantastic... we’ve had great sailing, the conditions have been exactly perfect, the venue has been great, and we’ve had spectators on the shore all week, all along Harbour Island and San Diego Bay. We’ve exceeded our expectations for delivering a really good spectator friendly event. We would hope to have the RC44s back every year, we’ve had a great time with them.’

Close racing in sight of the crowds in San Diego. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44 Class Association.

Oracle RC44 Cup San Diego Results
(After 14 races)

1st - Katusha 4,3,4,3,3,5,2,1,2,6,2,2,2,8 - 47
2nd - ORACLE Racing 2,1,5,2,5,6,5,5,4,3,4,1,4,7 - 54
3rd - Team Aqua 3,5,3,8,1,4,1,2,6,1,3,7,6,5 - 55
4th - Artemis Racing 1,10,1,4,4,3,4,8,1,4,6,6,1,3 - 56
5th - RC44 Team CEEREF 7,6,2,5,8,2,7,4,9,8,1,9,10,2 - 80
6th -Islas Canarias Puerto Calero 5,11,8,9,2,7,3,7,8,2,5,5,11,4 - 87
7th - Ironbound 10,2,11,1,10,1,8,6,10,5,11,10,7,1 - 95
8th - Synergy Russian Sailing Team 11,7,6,10,7,8,6,3,3,9,9,11,5,9 - 104
9th - AEZ RC44 Sailing Team 8,8,7,6,9,9,10,9,7,11,7,3,8,11 - 113
10th - Peninsula Petroleum Sailing 6,4,9,7,11,11,9,10,11,10,8,8,3,10 - 117
11th - No Way Back 9,9,10,11,6,10,11,12,5,7,10,4,9,6 - 120