|Four and a half points separates regatta leaders
Emirates Team New Zealand from
Artemis going in to the final day’s racing of the Region of Sardinia Trophy after two very different and challenging windward-leeward contests off Cagliari.
Fortunes ebbed and flowed between the two top teams. ETNZ’s Grant Dalton summarised it as ‘winning ugly’ after emerging in second place from a mentally bruising second race which saw Artemis recover from 10th to steal three places at the bottom of the final run.
“For a Kiwi it is comparing it with the test match which is just ugly, you are just winning ugly, trying to win. That was the story of today, everything was ugly. The sailing wasn’t good, the wind was light, the shifts were everywhere, so I think the thing with this team is that it just keeps its composure. We win some, we lose some, and today we end up further ahead than when we went out, but it doesn’t mean anything if tomorrow is going to be another day like today.
“I think that in this regatta now there are three players left, Artemis, ourselves and the Argentinians, and they are trying to gain more points for the season so they are trying to lay all over us and we end up letting Artemis get away this morning, so we end up screwing each other, so it is really difficult.”
Paul Cayard, Artemis’ tactician may have been frustrated by the sudden 50 degree windshift at the first weather mark and the private hole in the breeze, a windless no man’s land which swallowed them and Quantum Racing, but he arrived ashore to express his admiration at how the crack Artemis team had ‘hung tough’ together, battling to the finish to regain some of their lost places.
“We always knew that that second one was going to be a strange race. There was no forecast that anyone had for a wind coming from 090 degrees. So it was going to be marginal. Before the start we really felt that the left was going to be strong, that there was a lot more pressure in that bay, and we had a beautiful start second boat from the end, we were going really well to the left.
“I know everybody else felt the same way, because Emirates Team New Zealand who did not have a good start had to tack out and tacked right back, so everybody wanted left. And the breeze went 15 right, that’s sailboat racing. And then we had that strange situation at the weather mark, we tried to gybe set. With the wind 15 degrees right the gybe set made sense but there was some strange hole, the guys in front got a massive header and I thought it was a wholesale change in the wind going to the north, but actually five minutes later it was back to ninety again.
“We found ourselves in a tough spot, for sure, but I told the guys on the way in that today wasn’t even about winning the first race, but how we hung tough in the second race, kept in a clear lane, played a few shifts on the second beat, closed it up massively on the four or five boats in front of us, and then were opportunistic on the final run. We beat three boats and that is three very valuable points for tomorrow.”
Emirates Team New Zealand scored a fifth in the first race which was won clearly and conclusively by Artemis who lead from the start line and proved once again how quick they are in the 8-10 knots of sea breeze conditions, ahead of Matador (ARG).
For Artemis, winning Race 7 of the series was the perfect way to continue after victory in yesterday’s coastal race. Cayard and strategist Hamish Pepper (NZL) combined to make a strong start and Artemis were able to extend first to the favoured left side early in the first beat, timing perfectly their cross to the right to gain again and lead Portugal’s Bigamist and Spain’s Bríbon around the first turning mark.
Both the second and third placed boats then made the mistake of gybe-setting, duelling briefly as they emerged from the turn to let Matador slip by to their right. While the Argentine flagged winners of the Alicante Trophy went on to second and Bríbon third, Emirates Team New Zealand only just ran out of race track, challenging Bigamist on the finish line for the fourth place which would have kept them on top of the standings.
After a long delay awaiting for enough of a settled breeze for a second race, the contest got under way in what appeared to be a decent, but slightly unexpected easterly direction.
But at the windward mark a significant left shift, as the underlying Mistral influence made a brief appearance, regatta leaders Artemis and Quantum Racing were stranded on the edge of the breeze.
Artemis tried a jib for a short time in the headed breeze before the wind lifted progressively again to allow them to re-set a spinnaker. But it proved an expensive experience for they reached the leeward turn in tenth, going on to recover to seventh.
For the GP42s race 7 saw Islas Canarias Puerto Calero win ahead of Roma Mk 2 with Caser-Endesa third. The following race was affected by the same big windshift as the TP52s, lifting the fleet on their first leg which became extremely one sided for a period. But Islas Canarias were able to hold on to record their third successive win.
Emirates Team New Zealand go in to the final day, which is likely to yield two races at most, with a slender lead over Artemis. The forecast suggests another difficult set of wind conditions. Meanwhile Islas Canarias Puerto Calero lead the GP42 Series by two clear points ahead of the Italian duo Roma Mk 2 and Airis who have 21 points each.
On their final day strategy Grant Dalton commented: “If it is shifty and you try to play the opposition you end up stuffing yourself up. So the forecast is a little bit like today, it’ll be up and down, and so you just have to wait for what comes."
While on the competition he added: “ Artemis had a really good regatta in Alicante, they were fast and sometimes you just have really bad regattas. Look at Quantum, they are having a shocker, and next one can be a good. And so I am just longing for those days when you get 20 knots of breeze, it’s not too shifty and you can get out and have a decent sail, but at the moment its is trying to win ugly”