Tied for the top

Ellison and Chris Bake fight it out after day two of the RC44 fleet racing in Cagliari

Saturday April 25th 2009, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: United Kingdom
Conditions were once again very difficult in Cagliari today, with a light and unstable breeze coupled with a strong chop. Second after day one, Team Aqua, scored the best results with a first and a third, joining BMW Oracle Racing at the top of the provisional leaderboard. The juniors from Yacht Club Cagliari, who were the guest stars on board the RC 44s, had a privileged view on what it feels like to sail a 44 footer in chop and light wind: tough for the nerves, very technical and unforgiving.

The first race of the day took place on the eastern side of the Gulf of Salinas and off the famous 'Sella del Diavolo', an impressive rock that looks - according to the locals - like the Devil’s saddle. The conditions were indeed diabolical for the helmsmen, sail trimmers and for the chief Race Officer Peter Reggio.

Chris Bake and his Team Aqua make a perfect start at the pin end and carried on to the left of the course, tacking towards the windward mark in a controlling position. Artemis and Team Sea Dubai fought for the second place throughout the race. Showing great nerves against the 'rock stars', Sea Dubai’s Yousef Lahej managed to overtake Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis during the last downwind leg, to grab second place. The RC 44s remained very close throughout the race, swapping positions at every mark rounding. Despite an excellent start, Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back lost ground to finish sixth. The last four boats crossed the arrival line within ten seconds!

The breeze then died and the teams had to wait two hours until the next start, after motoring back to the usual racing area off Cagliari.

In today's second race, BMW Oracle Racing won the pin end and sailed towards Cagliari’s impressive cliffs, benefiting from a nice right shift and good pressure to take the lead ahead of Puerto Calero Islas Canarias and Team Aqua. Despite promising signs that led some of the teams to choose a smaller jib, the wind started to drop once again. It then suddenly shifted massively to the right during the last leg, increasing to 12-15 knots and making it difficult for some of the teams to cross the line under their asymmetrical spinnakers without broaching. Luckily the shift didn’t have any effect on the order. BMW Oracle Racing won the race ahead of Ceeref, Team Aqua and Puerto Calero.

The Race Committee then bravely tried to launch a third race, moving the course again and again before abandoning their attempts and ordering a return to the harbour.

Noel Drennan, trimmer on BMW Oracle Racing said: “It was a very difficult day for the trimmers and the helmsmen but it worked out very well between Daniel Fong, Larry Ellison and myself; we had a good combination. I was watching out of the boat, looking out for big waves and wind shifts. We also took very good starts, which obviously helped. We kept an eye on Team Aqua and Ceeref throughout the day, but the conditions made it difficult to control properly.”

José Juan Calero, helmsman on Puerto Calero Islas Canarias said: “It was harder today than yesterday. But I am very happy because we were eighth of the first race after our awful start and we managed to climb back up to fifth. We then had a good second race. I found it very difficult to drive the boat today and I am happy that we managed to maintain our third place overall.”

Artemis' Torbjorn Tornqvist said: “I didn’t think that the steering was too difficult despite the waves and light wind. I think the main issue was tactical. I am not entirely satisfied with my day. We had a good first race, following an excellent start. But then we struggled to find the favoured side of the course.”

Tomorrow’s races will start one hour earlier than today. The plan is to sail two normal courses and the coastal race DHL Trophy. According to PredictWind, the conditions should be better than today. However all weather models have had difficulties to predict the local breezes.

Fleet race, provisional results after four races:

1) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 3, 1, 4, 1 – 9 points
2) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 1, 4, 1, 3 – 9 points
3) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Juan Calero, 2, 3, 5, 4 – 14 points
4) Team Ceeref, Igor Lah, 4, 2, 7, 2 – 15 points
5) Team Sea Dubai, Yousef Lahej, 5, 5, 2, 7 – 19 points
6) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 7, 6, 3, 5 - 21 points
7) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 6, 9, 6, 8 - 29 points
8) Team Organika, Maciej Nawrocki, 9, 7, 9, 6 – 31 points
9) Team Austria, René Mangold, 7, 8, 8, 9 - 32 points

More photos on page 2....

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