Match racing begins at the Little America's Cup
Going into the final three days of the International C-Class catamaran championship, the fleet has now divided with the two winners of the first three days - Groupama C and the Billy Besson/Jeremie Lagarrigue-driven Hydros Lombard Odier – competing in a best of seven match racing series and the other seven boats continuing with their own fleet racing in the 'petit finals'.
Conditions remain ‘autumnal’ with a general grey-ness, drizzle, thick banks of fog lurking around Falmouth Bay and winds that were so light that for most of the day they benefitted the ‘low riders’ and the minimally-foiled.
In the heavy weight final series match racing, as expected, Groupama C and her crew of Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Franck Cammas and Louis Viat, remain the class act, scoring two bullets in two races (a third was canned). In the first race this afternoon they finished half a leg ahead of the Swiss team and a quarter leg when the crews managed to coax their boats up on their foils for race two.
Perhaps buoyed by the America’s Cup finale in San Francisco last night, in the second race, in particular, there was some genuine match racing – even a foil-borne dial-up (splash...) The boats are using the conventional match racing rules and course (ie no reaching start, starboard roundings), with port and starboard entries and a regular windward-leeward course.
“Yes, we did a dial-up – it’s the only way to protect ourselves, because if you gybe for sure, it is easier for the starboard entry to push,” explained Cammas. “I am not sure it is so fair for the port entry - the AC format is maybe better for match racing.”
The Groupama C crew managed to win the start of both races and the proceeded to extend away from their rival.
While Cammas is best known for his offshore exploits and Volvo Ocean Race wins and Jules Verne Trophy record, ORMA 60, Figaro, etc etc etc - this year he won the French match racing championship. This was sailing with his several of his Tour de France crew including tactician, Erwan Israel. “I did some match racing 15 years ago when I think I was third in the French championship," recalled Cammas. "But winning this year - it was a surprise for me!”
Match racing complicated C-Class catamarans with wings and canting rig and canting/raking boards, is none too easy Cammas reckons: “With only two people on board you cannot manoeuvre very well, you are not sure about what you can do or not do with the boat to protect your position."
Billy Besson and Jeremie Lagarrigue’s Hydros boat had a canting feature added to its wing overnight and they are set to continue to ‘improve’ their boat tonight by adding an ‘endplate’ to their wing, presumably through some form of rigid trampoline (Groupama C has a taut 3Di tramp) that is flat allowing the bottom of the wing to run across it smoothly.
In the so-called ‘petite final’ between the seven remaining boats in the competition, Cogito and Canaan both scored a 1-2 today, but the former, the 1996 LAC winner sailed by Lars Guck and Max Kramers, leads overall.
The boats took their finishing position (rather than their points and excluding the finallists) from the opening nine races into this new series and so overall Cogito now leads on five points compared to Canaan’s 10.
Today was a rotten one for the foilers who were dragging around their extra area of appendage and so the Hydros Lombard Odier crew of Dutch sailors Mischa Heemskerk and Bastiaan Tentij and defending LAC champions, Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke on Fill Your Hands both posted disappointing results - fourth and sixth places respectively.
“The pressure was pretty up and down and pretty holey, so if you were in pressure, you were looking pretty good - it made for interesting racing,” said Canaan helmsman, Billy Gooderham. “Cogito was a little faster than us downwind - just the mode they were sailing in. We had some issues – our element 2/flap wouldn’t gybe through the wing. In bigger conditions it would have just ground through the carbon a little bit and blown open! But the way the camber system works when the wing is fully cambered there is no overlap, so when you try and pull the wing through really quickly, sometimes it doesn’t gybe. We are going to make sure we file that down tonight.”
Canaan won today’s first race, leading from start to finish, starting three in from the pin and then banging the left hand side of the course with most of the rest of the fleet.
Crew on Cogito, Max Kramers, was pleased that the lowriders were getting to show their form. With the wind mostly around the 3-4 knot mark, Kramers spent most of the two races trapezing to leeward, only getting up to the high side for one upwind leg during race two.
Given the age of Cogito, she is going exceptionally well, although she has been ‘breathed on’ for this event with the fitting of a new wing that is lighter than her old one and an updated foil package with curved boards and L-rudders. “And it is sailed well – Lars [Guck] is a top guy,” says Kramers. “On days like today the curved boards and L-foils don’t help you. You are not getting much lift when you are going 6 knots.”
There was a crew change on Aethon today with 'the legend', Steve Clark, standing down to make way for catamaran ace Adam May, freshly returned from his tenure with Artemis Racing in San Francisco.
“It was good fun,” said May. “It’s nice to do a bit racing. I sailed Cogito home in the 2004 event, sailed Invictus briefly in 3 knots of breeze in Weymouth. So I just did ten times more C-Cat sailing than I’ve ever done before!”
May got Artemis Racing’s AC45 foiling in the build-up to the Louis Vuitton Cup but had jumped in the deep end with Aethon. “It was tricky in that light stuff just reading the wing and knowing the modes - I was pretty lost in the light stuff. Oliver [Moore – crew] was pulling all the strings for me – I just kept hold of the mainsheet only. We were pretty late out there so we only just lined up - I had a good start but the modes in the real light stuff. Once there was a bit of breeze it was alright and I got into it downwind and we just came through the fleet, which was quite nice.”
They came in behind Cogito and Canaan in today’s first race but were not so flash in the second, finishing seventh. “I was getting more and more into it as the first race went on,” said May. “In the second race we caught a bit of weed and there were a couple of wing things we didn’t quite do right. A short course, with more boat handling didn’t really suit me today.” Thanks to the fog and light wind, legs had been reduced to around half a mile in length.
Britain’s Invictus Challenge came into this latter half of the competition in bottom place following their capsize earlier in the week, but posted a 7-3 today.
“We are improving all the time,” said helmsman Tom Phipps. “We had a shocker in the first race. It was hard work the first race. We were really quick upwind, but then watched everyone sail away from us downwind. Then the breeze piped up a little bit more in the second race and we did okay.”
Part of the downwind issue was due to the weight of the boat in the ultra light conditions, but Phipps also admitted it was down to his inexperience sailing the boat with its wing. “I know what all the bits of string do and in theory if you do the right thing to them at the right time – that is again something we are learning. It would have been nice to have had a bit more time on the boat beforehand. We are learning on the job and I think that shows in our results.”
Tomorrow the finals and the ‘petit finals’ are scheduled to continue. However, truly emulating San Francisco, Mother Nature has other ideas with a 25 knot easterly, gusting to 35 forecast with the wind abating to a slightl more manageable 15-20 for the final day on Saturday.
More images from Helena Darvelid / SailRocket