Strong opening for Spithill

Team Ceeref unbeaten in the match racing component of the RC44's Austria Cup

Thursday May 29th 2008, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: United Kingdom
Unlike yesterday, the breeze kicked in just after lunch time, allowing the RC 44s at the Austria Cup to set sail and start their match racing. The Race Committee established a very short course next to the beautiful city of Gmunden, allowing the numerous public to follow the races from the shore while eating a bratwurst and listening to an expert commentary.

The action proved to be extraordinary throughout the day, with short and intense races featuring all the situations match racing can offer, and particularly the nasty ones, putting the jury under great pressure.

The event grew in intensity as the hours passed by, reaching its climax during the last matches of the day.

The first decisive dual saw Team Aqua pitched against BMW Oracle Racing on flight 6. The two teams crossed the starting line prematurely, the American entry managing to take the lead while re-crossing the line. However, Cameron Appleton, on great form, fought his way back during the second beat, taking the lead and winning the race in great style.

Flight 8 proved to be particularly intense. Indeed, Team Hiroshi - sailing below their usual level until then - managed to beat Team Aqua by 2 seconds. At the same time, the big match of the day was opposing James Spithill - unbeaten until then - to Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle Racing with Russell Coutts calling tactics. This proved to be one of the best matches of the event, Spithill winning by six seconds after an epic dual.

The last flight of the day featured two decisive matches: Team Banco Espirito Santo (with John Kostecki at the helm) against BMW Oracle Racing (competing for the third place on the podium) and Team Ceeref against Team Aqua, competing for the overall victory.

Patrick de Barros’s Banco Espirito Santo started the race as it started the event: with a penalty. Leading for most of the race, the Portuguese entry didn’t manage to create a big enough gap to execute its 270° turn before the finish line. In a last desperate effort, Kostecki tried to force BMW Oracle Racing into its own penalty turn, but unsuccessfully.

At the same time, James Spithill managed to clearly win the last start against Team Aqua. Sailing alone in the dying breeze, Ceeref didn’t have to fight too hard to win this last race.

Team Ceeref’s victory so far has been decisive: the team hasn’t lost a single race. “We’ve had a very good day," commented Spithill. "I have made several mistakes, but the team was great and on such a day, with fairly shifty wind, boat handling is essential. There are sometimes little gusts that come out of nowhere, and we need to react with no warning; it’s quite unpredictable.”

As for Team Aqua, it finished with a brilliant second place having struggled during the beginning of the season.

Cameron Appleton commented: “I made a big mistake against Jimmy (Spithill) during the last race and this has cost us the title. However, I think that we have been sailing very well; the team did a great job. We have been preparing hard for this event and it has paid off.”

Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts’ BMW Oracle Racing are third, ahead of Patrick de Barros/John Kostecki’s Banco Espirito Santo.

Russell Coutts said: “It is great that we all managed to sail eight races today. It was very close all through the day. On two occasions, we were ahead but we finally lost the match. Both Ceeref and Aqua have sailed very well.”

Team Hiroshi-Città di Milano, the leader of the Championship Tour since the beginning of the year, finished fifth and will certainly have a long debrief tonight.

Markus Wieser’s Team Sea Dubai carries on improving with three wins today (including a one against BMW Oracle Racing). Finally, Beecom finished seventh with owner Isao Mita at the helm. The Japanese entry finished ahead of Star World Champion Mateusz Kusznierewicz and the local team Cro-Aut-Sail, who will need more time to make it to the top.

Match-race, final results:
(Name of team, helmsman, No of victories / defeats, points)

1) Team Ceeref, James Spithill, 8/0 - 8 points
2) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton 6/2 - 6 points
3) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 5/3 - 5 points
4) Team Banco Espirito Santo, John Kostecki, 5/3 – 5 points
5) Team Hiroshi - Città di Milano, Sébastien Col 5/3 - 5 points
6) Sea Dubai, Markus Wieser 4/4 – 4 points
7) Team Beecom, Isao Mita 2/6 – 2 points
8) Team Organika, Mateusz Kusznierewicz 1/8 – 1 point
9) Cro-Aut-Sail, Christian Binder, 0/8 - 0 point

More pics on page 2....

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