Victory for Artemis
Chris Bake and Team Aqua today won the fleet regatta of the RC44's Al Maktoum Sailing Trophy, after a fantastic final battle. However it was Torbjorn Tornqvist and Artemis which came out on top overall after both the match racing and fleet racing here in Dubai, ahead of Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back and Markus Wieser’s Team Sea Dubai.Conditions were very difficult for the last day racing, with a very shifty breeze of 8-15 knots and a pale sky covered with sand and dust and visibility reduced to half a mile. Team Aqua, Artemis and to a lesser extent Ceeref were in a position to win the fleet racing overall this morning. but it was BMW Oracle Racing that made the best start at the pin as Team Aqua managed to find clean air in the middle of the line. At this stage it wasn't going that well for Artemis, which ended up sailing in the other team’s dirty air. Then a massive right shift made the Swedish team’s life even harder as it gave a nice edge to No Way Back and Team Aqua. In a normal race, this would have been it, but this definitely wasn’t a normal race, with the gusts, shifts and even the marks hardly noticeable in the dust.
"We felt that the temperature was dropping brutally", explained No Way Back’s owner Pieter Heerema at the end of the race. "This was a clear indication that the wind would turn right and blow from offshore." The wind had started to veer in the middle of the second beat, sending half of the fleet way over the lay line and giving a perfect opportunity for Artemis to catch up. The wind carried on turning right during the last spinnaker ride, forcing the boats to finish under jib, although this didn't affect the results much. No Way Back won the race ahead of Team Aqua and i, while Artemis recovered well, going from last to fourth, keeping her in with a chance of winning the overall title.
With four points between Team Aqua and Artemis going into the last race, all remained open. Ceeref was also still in a position to grab the second place from Artemis. However, an OCS in the last race immediately made this look unlikely.
This last race was another strange one. The wind had shifted by almost 180 degrees since the first regatta and the land couldn’t be seen. Many teams looked disorientated and found themselves unable to adopt their usual pre-start routine. Two boats were OCS, while conversely many were late. Minutes later, Artemis refused a very basic port-starboard priority to its direct opponent Team Aqua. Chris Bake had to crash tack for the second time in two days to avoid a bad collision. After completing a penalty turn, Artemis ended up rounding the top mark in last for the second consecutive time today.
The wind carried on turning right and the last beat and spinnaker run turned into reaches. No Way Back once again benefitted from its tactician Ray Davies’ fantastic understanding of the situation to win her second race in a row, ahead of Puerto Calero – also on excellent form today. Due to this No Way Back gained one place in the overall results ahead of Ceeref.
"It’s a shame," commented Ceeref’s owner Igor Lah. “We miss the fleet race ranking podium for one point and this costs us three places in the overall ranking. We would have finished second and we end up fifth!"
Well known for his spectacular come-backs since last year’s Gold Cup – and this week’s match race - Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back proved today's class act; ending up third in the fleet race ranking and second overall.
Meanwhile, the fight for victory, unusually, was taking place at the back of the fleet between Team Aqua and Artemis. Both teams suffered misfortunes during this race. Artemis’s spinnaker got twisted whilse Team Aqua took the very conservative – and also inefficient - decision not to raise theirs until the last quarter of the last leg. Artemis finally crossed the finish line in sixth leave Team Aqua to come home in eighth: both teams’ worse result in the event. Nonetheless, Team Aqua was able to claim the fleet racing title with Artemis second. Already third in the match race results, the Swedish team also won the Al Maktoum Sailing Trophy overall ahead of No Way Back and Team Sea Dubai, winner of the match race event and fifth in the fleet race ranking.
"We were confident this morning and we didn’t have any specific plan of action against Artemis," said Team Aqua's Chris Bake. "The last race was really tough: we went from last to first and back to the bottom of the ranking again… But as Artemis was struggling too it never became a real issue.
The next regatta of the RC 44 Championship Tour will take place in very different conditions: in the Austrian mountain lake Traunsee, on 20 April-4 May.
Fleet race, final results after nine races:
(Position, team, helmsman, results, total)
1) Team Aqua (Chris Bake), 1, 2, 1, 2, 4, 1, 6, 2, 8 – 27 points
2) Artemis (Torbjorn Tornqvist), 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 1, 4, 6 - 29 points
3) Team No Way Back (Pieter Heerema), 4, 1, 7, 7, 3, 4, 5, 1, 1 - 33 points
4) CEEREF (Igor Lah), 2, 7, 3, 3, 1, 5, 4, 5, 3 - 33 points
5) Team Sea Dubai (Raimondo Tonelli), 6, 6, 8, 4, 6, 2, 7, 7, 5 - 51 points
6) Katusha (Bob Little), 5, 5, 2, 8, 8, 7, 2, 9, 7 - 53 points
7) Team Austria (René Mangold), 8, 3, 9, 5, 9, 8, 3, 6, 4 - 55 points
8) Team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (Daniel Calero), 7, 8, 4, 9, 5, 6, 9, 3, 2 - 57 points
9) BMW ORACLE Racing (Mike Perris), 9, 9, 6, 6, 7, 9, 8, 8, 9 - 67 points
Al Maktoum Sailing Trophy RC 44 final results:
(Position, team, match race points, fleet race points – total)
1) Artemis 3, 2 – 5 points
2) Team No Way Back 2, 3 – 5 points
3) Team Sea Dubai 1, 5 – 6 points
4) Team Aqua 7, 1 – 8 points
5) CEEREF 4, 4 – 8 points
6) Katusha 8, 6 – 14 points
7) Team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero 6, 8 – 14 points
8) BMW ORACLE Racing 5, 9 – 14 points
9) Team Austria 9, 7 – 16 points