BMW in the chocolates

After the first day of fleet racing at the Bank Sarasin RC 44 Portoroz Cup

Thursday October 1st 2009, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: United Kingdom
Four fleet regattas took place today with a southerly breeze ranging from 8 to 15 knots. BMW Oracle Racing had an excellent day after their disappointing match race. With Ian Vickers at the helm and Russell Coutts calling the shots, the American team started the day with two bullets and finished it with two premature starts. Thanks to a great come-back in race four, BMW Oracle Racing leads the provisional ranking ahead of Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis and Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back.

The first race was also the windiest. The breeze reached 15-18 knots in the second beat, surprising the teams who were still sailing with their genoas. The new team Katusha, with recently crowned Melges 32 world champion Pieter Taselaar at the helm, took a brilliant start at the pin end of the line and looked for a while as if he would pursue his team’s winning streak. But major wind shifts en route to the windward mark reshuffled the cards, giving BMW Oracle Racing and Artemis a slight advantage.

The second race turned into a match race between BMW Oracle Racing and Artemis, followed closely by the Polish team on Organika - who had once again an excellent day - and Team Sea Dubai. The race was very close and the four last boats crossed the finishing line within five seconds. Arriving on port tack at the pin end - but with an overlap - Islas Canarias Puerto Calero managed to squeeze in nicely, forcing a group of boats arriving on starboard tack to bear away brutally, loosing precious ground and places. The Austrians, who were the furthest away from the action, didn’t give enough room and got penalised.

The breeze started to drop during race three. BMW Oracle Racing, Katusha and Modri Gaj were recalled while No Way Back started at full speed at the pin end of the line, taking the lead and building up a comfortable advantage. Finally back on good form after a difficult start in this event, Igor Lah’s Ceeref attacked the Dutch boat during the last run and finished two seconds behind the winner after a match race type leg.

The last race took place in five knots of breeze. The Committee end of the line was heavily favoured, resulting in a jam and a light collision between Chris Bake’s Team Aqua and Michael Reardon’s Modri Gaj, which was found guilty and incurred a penalty point. BMW Oracle Racing was once again recalled, but despite taking some time to recross acceptibly the team managed a superb come back, finishing fifth and keeping its provisional lead in the overall ranking.

Artemis, which was also fighting for the provisional lead, chose to start at the pin end of the line, probably hoping for a big left shift. This didn’t happen and the team struggled with the shifts, finishing sixth. The winner of the race, No Way Back, benefited from Katusha’s loose control. The Russian team built up a huge lead during the second run but didn’t manage to maintain it. During the last run, Katusha went to the right of the course when all the other boats went left; a fatal mistake that cost them the victory.

BMW ORACLE Racing helms Ian Vickers commented : “We had two very good races today. We took good starts and could sail in clean air, which obviously helps. We also had a good pace. Our last regatta was also excellent although we got a PMS. We fought back all along and managed to finish fifth.”

While Artemis' Torbjorn Tornqvist added: “It was a very tricky day and it took me a little while to get the right feeling; I was a little bit rusty at the beginning. The level is increasing with those new teams; it is a clear trend in this class. Katusha is doing very well and I am sure this team will be dangerous.”

Fleet race, provisional results after four races:
(Ranking, name of team, helmsman, results, points

1) BMW ORACLE Racing, Ian Vickers, 1, 1, 8, 4 – 14 points
2) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 2, 2, 5, 6 – 15 points
3) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 11, 6, 1, 1 – 19 points
4) Organika, Maciej Nawrocki, 8, 3, 3, 5 – 19 points
5) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 6, 5, 6, 3 – 20 points
6) Team Katusha, Pieter Taselaar, 3, 7, 10, 2 – 22 points
7) Team Sea Dubai, Yousef Lahej, 7, 4, 4, 9 – 24 points
8) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 9, 9, 2, 7 – 27 points
9) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Juan Calero, 5, 8, 7, 11 – 31 points
10) Modri Gaj, Michael Reardon, 4, 10, 11, 8 – 34 (incl 1 point penalty)
11) Team Austria, René Mangold, 10, 11, 9, 10 – 40

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