Four teams share the lead

After day one and the conclusion of the first round robins at the Dubai RC44 Cup

Monday March 3rd 2008, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: United Kingdom
After a complete round robin, the new team from the UAE, with Germany's Marcus Wieser at the helm, shares the lead with Team ES Bankers Dubai (Russell Coutts), Team Ceeref (James Spithill) and Hiroshi-Città di Milano (Sébastien Col). He is however the day’s winner thanks to the matches against his direct opponents.

The day couldn’t have started better for the local team Sea Dubai, representing the organising club Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC). Indeed, Sea Dubai dominated its match against Team Ceeref to take a first victory that was going to be followed by two more and result in victory in the first round robin.

A former Flying Dutchman and Dragon sailor (amongst other classes he has excelled in), Marcus Wiser, the team’s helmsman, was obviously satisfied with his debut in the RC 44 Class. “We were helped by the light winds”, he explained modestly. “But we are obviously very happy. A lot of credit goes to our tactician Michael Hestbek, who was strategist on board the German entry during the last America’s Cup."

Weiser continued: "We had a couple of days training last week, and Russell, came with us on Saturday to show us some tricks. But today was our first real sailing day in race conditions. I am very pleased because we have a good speed and we made the right decisions.”

The light 6 to 8 knot wind, but otherwise fairly stable conditions allowed for 15 matches to be sailed today, under nice sunshine and on flat water. Most races were very close, and the overall results confirm that the teams are becoming closer from each other by the day, generating one fascinating match after the next.

At the end of the round robin four teams share the lead with three victories out of five matches each. Team Hiroshi-Città di Milano, with Sebastien Col at the helm, sailed up to the expectations after their very good 2007 end-season, with victories over Team Aqua (Cameron Appleton), Team ES Bankers (Russell Coutts) and Cro-A-Sail (Morten Henrikson). Russell Coutts’ Team ES Bankers is at the top, but defeats against Team Ceeref and Team Hiroshi-Città di Milano confirm that nothing ever comes for granted in this challenging class. Finally, Team Ceeref also sits on top of the ranking; however, during last year’s Dubai Gold Cup, James Spithill was alone at this enviable position, unbeaten at the end of the round robin. Today, he needs to share the spot with three teams...

The level has definitely gone up a step in the RC 44 class and tomorrow’s second round robin will be interesting.

The Dubai RC 44 Cup is the first event of the 2008 RC 44 Championship Tour. The weather forecast for tomorrow is good, with moderate winds and sunshine. The weather should deteriorate by Wednesday, with westerly winds of up to 25 knots expected. The match racing event will be concluded tomorrow Tuesday; it will be followed by three days of fleet racing, with the owners back at the helm.

Russell Coutts, gave his take on the day: “I always sail with the new teams before they start racing, but may be I will have to stop this… These guys ( Team Sea Dubai) are obviously much better than we could have thought. It’s great for the Class, and we are happy to welcome a new very competitive team. Our day was okay, but it’s tough. The level is really high and there is good homogeneity within the teams. You just need to look at Team Aqua: they were clearly dominating last year but now it is harder. It’s a real challenge, for me and for everyone.”

Match-racing, round robin 1
Ranking, number of victories/losses, points

1) Team Sea Dubay, (3/2) 5 points
2) Team Ceeref (3/2) 5 points
3) Team Hiroshi (3/2) 5 points
4) Team ES Bankers Dubai (3/2) 5 points
5) Team Aqua (1 -incl 1 penalty /3) 1 point
6) Cro-A-Sail (1/4) 1 point

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