Barker on fire
Today will be remembered as the longest, and certainly one of the hardest match-racing days in the RC 44 Championship Tour history. The racing started on schedule, under a blue sky but with a very light breeze. It finished eight hours later under a stunning red sky and with a lovely 10-12 knot breeze. Race Officer Peter Reggio had to postpone racing on several occasions, re-establishing the course according to the wind variations. Luckily it all finished well, with fantastic sailing conditions and great matches.
On great form, Dean Barker managed to win the first start - and match - of the day despite being dominated by Cameron Appleton’s Team Aqua in the pre-start. Reacting one second too late at the crucial moment, Appleton let his fellow citizen escape and win the race.
All other teams opposed to Barker and his 'fab-seven' were to suffer the same fate later on in the day, succumbing to the Emirates Team NZ skipper’s aggressiveness, perfect positioning and great tactics. The best example was the match between Artemis and Ceeref. The Slovenian team, with Seb Col at the helm, was in the lead but Barker and his team kept pushing harder and harder until Ceeref made a first mistake, touching the windward mark, before getting a second 'killing' penalty a few minutes later.
“I am really pleased," commented Barker afterwards. "We worked really hard on our speed and crew work. It takes time, but it has paid off and it is great for the team. We had some really close races today, but we tried to always keep the pressure. It was a long day, with bits of waiting in the middle which made it hard to keep the focus.”
Also well inspired but unable to beat Artemis, Team Puerto Calero bravely tempted everything against Artemis during the fifth flight but could only humbly congratulate their opponent past the arrival line: there was nothing to do against this team today.
The racing became really interesting in the middle of the afternoon, once the breeze had established itself. At this stage, four teams were in a position to grab the second overall spot: Ceeref (Sébastien Col), No Way Back (Philippe Presti), Team Aqua (Cameron Appleton) and BMW Oracle Racing (Larry Ellison). As the day went by, the sailors’ muscles started to hurt and concentration and focus became the deciding factors for victory. Team Aqua, who was struggling to adapt to the new Class rule regarding bowsprit management - and its consequences on crew work - struggled towards the end of the day and it became a three way fight for the podium. Both No Way Back and Ceeref had the best run, winning one more match than BMW Oracle Racing; but were penalised after a light collision with one of their opponents. As a consequence, they finished tied with the American team. Ceeref had beaten Oracle, who had beaten No Way Back, who had beaten Ceeref while the three teams had been beaten by Aqua… It took the Jury a while to listen to - and reject - Ceeref’s request for redress, and announce that No Way Back was second overall, ahead of Ceeref and BMW Oracle Racing.
Daniel Fong, jib trimmer on BMW Oracle Racing commented: “The wind was changing a lot today, which made it sometimes hard to find the right sail for the right race. We also had to constantly adapt our trimming, which was tough; we had to constantly keep an eye out of the boat. But we did pretty well. There is just one match, against Team Sea Dubai, which we should have won. Other than this, we are quite happy with our day.”
Helmsman on No Way Back, Philippe Presti added: “This was a very long day and very hard mentally, but I am extremely pleased with the way it went. The team was great, and everyone remained focus all along, showing a great desire to win. We have made enormous progress as a team. We sailed in many different configurations today, sometimes at the contact and sometimes just trying to make our best out of the conditions. The team showed a great capacity to adapt to those different situations.”
Many other extraordinary matches took place today. Team Austria won its first ever match race, against Puerto Calero. This is with no doubt only the start for this promising team. Team Sea Dubai also had its moment of glory, beating BMW Oracle Racing and Team Austria. As for the craziest match of the day, it was with no doubt the one between No Way Back and Organika; a fabulous fight that looked more like a boxing match than a regatta.
Organika, Team Sea Dubai and Puerto Calero also finished the day on a tie, illustrating how close racing is in the RC 44 Class.
The fleet regatta starts tomorrow morning. It promises to be another fantastic event.
Match-race, final results after 9 flights:
1) Artemis, Dean Barker, 2/0, 2 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 page 2...