One fine match race and a trail of carnage
With the wind finally abated, today after a short delay ashore, racing finally got underway on day three of the Little America's Cup, otherwise known as the International C-Class Catamaran Championship held on Narragansett Bay out of the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court.
On to the start line came the largest collection of C-Class catamarans assembled since the halcyon era of the class in the 1970s including the sleek state of art form of Canaan, sailed by defending champions Fred Eaton and Magnus Clark, their previous LAC winner Alpha, on loan to the well-qualified duo of multiple A-Class World Champion Glenn Ashby and BMW Oracle Racing skipper and helmsman James Spithill, along with the Canadian teams pointy bowed intermediate boat Orion, sailed by Dan Cunningham and Rob Paterson, Steve Clark's new Aethon platform with the rig from his 1996 LAC winner Cogito, the British Invictus, sailed by Paul Larsen and Gordon Kaiser and the French duo of Antoine Koch and Jérémie Lagarrigue on the 25 year old Patient Lady VI, which they have just acquired and plan to take back to France.
Today's race area was near Half Way Rock, north of the Pell Bridge, to minimise the left-over sea with the breeze now out of the northeast.
The wind at the start of the first race was 16 to 20 with puffs pushing it higher. In the first race, Ashby and Spithill set the tone, hitting the line at speed, port tacking the entire fleet. Aside from Alpha and Canaan the rest of the fleet seemed slower out of the blocks.
On the first leg disaster struck Steve Clark and Oliver Moore's Aethon, when thanks to the disturbed air off a freighter Moore was lost over the side, causing Clark to lose control of his catamaran causing it to fall over on its side, it skipper falling on to the delicate wing. Aethon ended up fully capsized resulting in her solid wingsail, the one that won Clark the LAC in 1996 and built with the precision of a Stradivarius, being turned to matchwood. This is a huge disappointment not only for Clark and Moore. Clark is the prime-mover in the C-Class, and held the International C-Class Catamaran trophy for 11 years, from 1996-2007. Clark has been as important to the class as Tony DiMauro was to the previous generation. See the full photo sequence below.
But Aethon was not the only casualty. Orion pulled out of the first race with a broken chainplate. Fortunately they were able to save the rig, although a couple of ribs were inside the wing were broken and they were able to be towed back to the New York Yacht Club with the wing laid across the platform. Patient Lady VI also suffered rudder problems which her French crew managed to fix in time to take thestarts of the second race.
Meanwhile the competitive end of the fleet had turned into a match race between Ashby/Spithill and Eaton/Clark. The Canadians overhauled the Australians on the first leg, but then there was a full on match race for the remainder of the race, as good a demonstration as anyone could wish that these complex boats can be match raced. The race culminated in a photo finish with Ashby/Spithill a nose ahead winning by just two seconds.
For the second race the wind had dropped to 12 to 14 knots. By this stage Ashby and Spithill, despite having had precious little time in the boat were looking increasing confident, Ashby flying the weather hull more regularly even at mark roundings. 2-0 to the Aussie hotshots.
However the tables were turned in race three with the wind now sub-10 knots, when the win was taken by the Canadians on Canaan.
In all three races Alpha and Canaan were miles ahead of the competition, properly racing. Despite a late start in race one and then snagging a mark and severing their port daggerboard in race two, Paul Larsen and Gordon Kaiser aboard Invictus Challenge posted a consistent 3-4-3 and at the end of play hold third place,
Racing continues tomorrow for the five remaining boats with a less boat-breaking 8-12 knot westerly forecast.
|Patient Lady VI||Koch/Lagarrigue||FRA 2||7||3||4||14|
And from Christophe Launay/www.sealaunay.com