Ellison takes the lead

Having steered in the match racing BMW Oracle Racing claims first day of fleet racing at the RC44's Cagliari regatta

Friday April 24th 2009, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: United Kingdom
For most RC 44 team owners, the first fleet regatta coincides with their return to the helm for the first time since the last event. The transition is usually sharp, and they sometimes need a couple of regattas to get back in the groove. BMW Oracle Racing's Larry Ellison didn’t need such an adaptation as he had already steered in the match racing earlier in the week. From the outset he showed that he was well in the game, taking a very good start and finishing third in the first race, before winning the second regatta, to grab an early lead at the RC44s Caligari regatta.

Conditions were once again light and the wind shifty today. The first race started at lunch time, in 5-7 knots. Both Torbjorn Tornqvist ( Artemis) and Maciej Nawrocki ( Organika) were over early and were called back, while Chris Bake ( Team Aqua) and José Maria Ponce ( Puerto Calero Islas Canarias) started perfectly, taking an early lead, to reach the windward mark ahead of the pack. Controlling the situation perfectly, Bake cruised to an easy victory while the Spaniards struggled to fend off the attacks of BMW Oracle Racing and Ceeref, wiping the sweat out of their foreheads as they crossed the arrival line a few meters ahead of their pursuers to take a well earned second place.

At the back of the fleet, René Mangold ( Team Austria) was doing his best to keep in touch with the other boats despite an apparent lack of speed upwind. Mangold courageously attacked Artemis on the last downwind leg and managed to overtake the Swedish boat, finishing an encouraging seventh in their first official fleet race on this circuit.

The second race took place in similar light and fairly unstable conditions. Reading the course perfectly, Russell Coutts advised his helmsman to dig out to the left after their excellent start, reaching the first mark in Ceeref’s wake. The American team kept in touch with the leader during the downwind leg and rounded the leeward mark close enough to be in a strong position to attack. Sailing their own race rather than covering Ellison, Igor Lah lost the lead and didn’t manage to get it back despite his constant pressure on the last downwind leg.

Sailing an excellent regatta, José Juan Calero almost benefited from BMW Oracle Racing and Ceeref’s gybing dual, to grab the second place. The Spaniards finished the race in third, only one second ahead of Team Aqua.

Crew on BMW Oracle Racing, Alan Smith later commented: “The race course was pretty tricky today, and we were wondering which one was the good side of the course. Russell did a great job at sending us in the right place, and we had two very good races. It was tough because the sea breeze wasn’t turning right as it should. There were also some land effects; it’s a bit like a little bay of Valencia. Our current result is good, but we have to be careful: last month in Puerto Calero we were also in the lead after two races and we finished sixth.”

Ceeref helm, Igor Lah added: “I am satisfied with our day: we are still well in the game after two races and everything is possible. We were in the lead in the first race until BMW Oracle Racing took us over. I’m not sure what happened. We didn’t control; we defended. The last downwind leg was exciting; it was very close.”

Showing great potential, Team Sea Dubai, with Yousef Laheg at the helm for the first time, finished both races in fifth. No Way Back, Artemis, Organika and Team Austria swapped positions in the second half of the fleet in both races.

Yousef Laheg, helmsman on Team Sea Dubai said: “This was my first race at the helm, so I was a bit nervous. I wasn’t thinking too much about who’s on the other boats: it’s just a race and they are sailors. But afterwards I thought: this is pretty cool! The start was a great moment. I am used to sailing Lasers so I wasn’t surprised. There’s no “beginners luck” in the start, so I just went for it without thinking too much. It was great.”

Chris Bake, helmsman on Team Aqua added: “the focus today was to get me back into the game as quickly as possible, and it went well. I felt well as soon as I took the helm; the boat set up was excellent and we managed to take a great start in the first race. We pushed hard all through the day, and I am happy with our result.”

Two fleet races and the coastal DHL Trophy are scheduled tomorrow. The plan for the DHL Trophy is to sail a 6 Miles long windward - leeward course before heading back towards Cagliari on another 6 Miles long leg.

Fleet race, provisional results after two races:

1) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 3, 1 – 4 points
2) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 1, 4 – 5 points
3) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Juan Calero, 2, 3 – 5 points
4) Team Ceeref, Igor Lah, 4, 2 – 6 points
5) Team Sea Dubai, Yousef Lahej, 5, 5 – 10 points
6) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 7, 6 - 13 points
7) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 6, 9 - 15 points
8) Team Austria, René Mangold, 7, 8 - 15 points
9) Team Organika, Maciej Nawrocki, 9, 7 – 16 points

Match-race final results after 9 flights:

1) Artemis, Dean Barker, 9/0, 9 points
2) No Way Back, Philippe Presti, 6/3, 1 penalty, 5 points
3) Ceeref, Sébastien Col, 6/3, 1 penalty, 5 points
4) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 5/4, 5 points
5) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton 4/5, 4 points
6) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Juan Calero, 2/7, 2 points
7) Team Organika, Karol Jablonski 2/7, 2 points
8) Team Sea Dubai, Markus Wieser, 2/7, 2 points
9) Team Austria, Christian Binder, 1/8, 1 point

More photos on the following page...

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