Dutch first timers claim championship

As the RC44 Gold Cup concludes with a day of desert winds in Dubai

Sunday November 29th 2009, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: United Kingdom
The scenario couldn’t have been tenser ahead of the last day of racing at the RC 44 Championship Tour 2009, with four boats in a position to win the overall championship title. Following the match race event earlier in the week, Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back was leading the overall results, 15 points ahead of Artemis (17), Team Aqua (18) and Ceeref (19). Needless to say that there was a huge pressure on the teams.

To add even more spice to this last day, the wind was blowing from a direction that the RC 44 fleet had never experienced yet in the past three years of racing in Dubai; a 10-15 knot offshore breeze coming from the desert that turned out to be as dusty as it was shifty.

Pieter Heerema, at the helm of No Way Back, immediately confirmed his ambitions, starting cleanly at the committee boat end of the line, immediately tacking out to the favoured right hand side of the course to grab the lead. BMW Oracle Racing, with Neville Crichton at the helm wasn’t far behind. Tactician Morgan Larson cleverly noticed a big right shift during the last run and managed to make the best of it to win the race. The American boat was however not a threat for the Dutch team, that finished behind them in second.

Looking good at this stage, Pieter Heerema and his team didn’t make such a good start in the next race. While BMW Oracle Racing successfully won the left side of the course, No Way Back chose the losing right and fell down to the back of the pack. The Dutch team then got penalised in a very basic port-starboard situation against Team Austria and rounded the first windward mark in last place! Was there going to be a new major upset in this eventful Gold Cup? Pieter Heerema and Ray Davies didn’t panic; but carried on sailing neatly, concentrating on boat speed and clean air working their way up the fleet. BMW Oracle Racing claimed their second race in a row, ahead of Ceeref and Artemis. The two leaders were sailing with brand new 3Di jibs that seemed very efficient! However, the real winner of this regatta was the Dutch team, finally fifth over the line and certain by now to win the overall ranking as well as the Championship Tour.

Race three was important for the middle and back of the fleet, as both No Way Back and Artemis were now already certain to finish first and second overall. Very irregular but often brilliant this week, the local team Sea Dubai had their moment of glory, grabbing the lead during the first beat and managing to keep it throughout the race, winning ahead of No Way Back and Ceeref.

One week ago, ahead of the Gold Cup, No Way Back was third overall and fourth in the overall fleet race results. The double points system for this regatta - much discussed this week - turned out massively in their favour. Last but not least, Heerema and Ray Davies have won the 2009 Championship Tour. During the prize giving, Heerema received a superb sculpture created by the Swiss artist Fred Fischer and called Fluid.

Thanks to their second placein this regatta, Artemis remained the fleet race champion 2009; the team will start the next season with brand new gold wheels! Finally, earlier in the week won the Slam Cup; a trophy awarded to the best match racer of the season.

"I am absolutely thrilled with this week and with the entire season," said Pieter Heerema, of No Way Back. "It is absolutely incredible to get such results for our first season. The key to our success is that we have been training hard and efficiently. We also decided that mistakes were not acceptable. At the beginning of the season, people were saying that it will take two to three years to get there and that it is normal to make mistakes, but I didn’t accept this. Now looking back at it I am very happy that I joined this Class. It has been a lot of fun all year round."

Dean Barker, tactician on Artemis, gave his summary of the season: "We’ve done five regattas this year with twelve races in each, and probably something like 45 matches. It’s tough to play it all in four matches and one fleet series that counts for so much… Having said this, No Way Back sailed extremely well and they deserve their win. We are quite happy with where we are; we’ve won the fleet race title and are second overall. It’s not too bad."

Paul Cayard, tactician on the new Russian entry Katusha added: "There were big shifts today, and they were pretty hard to predict. I am not really pleased with our result; it has been a difficult week and we have been too inconsistent. Full credit to No Way Back, who sailed really well. They have been fast and smart throughout the week. The key to winning is clearly to keep the same crew and to train hard between the events, which they do."

Sea Dubai RC 44 Gold Cup - Fleet race, final results after ten races:
Position, name of team, helmsman, results (DHL Trophy double points regatta in bold), total number of points

1) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 3, 3, 4, 1, 2, 4, 2, 2, 5, 2 – 28 points
2) Artemis, Tim Snedden, 5, 2, 1, 3, 4, 5, 10, 4, 3, 6 - 43 points
3) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 9, 7, 2, 2, 8, 3, 4, 8, 4, 5 – 52 points
4) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 8, 8, 7, 7, 1, 2, 12, 6, 2, 3 – 56 points
5) BMW ORACLE Racing, Neville Crichton, 10, 6, 6, 8, 5, 6, 6, 1, 1, 9 – 58 points
6) Team Katusha, Bob Little, 4, 9, 5, 6, 3, 7, 8, 10, 7, 4 - 63 points
7) Team Sea Dubai, Yousef Lahej, 1, 5, 3, 10, 6, 9, 20, 3, 6, 1 – 64 points
8) Team Austria, Christian Binder, 6, 1, 10, 9, 7, 1, 14, 5, 10, 8 - 71 points
9) Organika, Maciej Nawrocki, 7, 4, 9, 5, 8, 8, 16, 7, 8, 7 - 79 points
10) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, Daniel Calero, 2, 10, 8, 4, 9, 10, 18, 9, 9, 10 – 89 points

RC 44 Championship Tour 2009 – Overall fleet race ranking:
Position, name of team, points

1) Artemis, 10 points
2) Team Aqua, 14 points
3) No Way Back, 16 points
4) BMW ORACLE Racing 21 points
5) Ceeref, 26 points
6) Team Sea Dubai, 38 points
7) Organika, 43 points
8) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, 46 points
9) Team Katusha, 48 points
10) Team Austria, 50 points
11) Jelik, 66 points

RC 44 Championship Tour 2009, overall results:
Ranking, name of team, points

1) No Way Back, 15 points
2) Artemis, 17 points
3) Ceeref, 19 points
4) BMW ORACLE Racing 20 points
5) Team Aqua, 22 points
6) Organika, 33 points
7) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, 42 points
8) Team Katusha, 44 points
9) Team Sea Dubai, 47 points
10) Team Austria, 56 points
11) Jelik, 66 points

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