Coutts back on song
Packed with protest flags, incidents and flogging sails, the first day of match racing at the RC 44 Austria Cup lived up to its promises. Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio decided to set up the course at the southern end of the lake, in search of a stronger breeze. The call proved right and the teams got blessed with a superb 10-15 knots very cold breeze blowing from the north.
The first flight of the day turned out to be a round of observation, with big distances between the boats and no serious incidents to report. But the situation rapidly changed, with the teams sailing more aggressively throughout the afternoon.
Absent from the Championship Tour since last year’s Portoroz Cup due to his America’s Cup commitments, Russell Coutts immediately confirmed that he hadn’t lost his magic touch, giving perfect advice to his helmsman Larry Ellison and winning his first three matches. The fourth one, against Paul Cayard’s Katusha, turned out to be the best one of the day, with the two teams staying in close contact throughout the race and inflicting each other all of match race’s dirty tricks. Paul Cayard won the match, but the duo Coutts/Ellison got its revenge in the next flight during another superb match, this time against James Spithill on board RC 44 Challenge.
Winner of the season’s first match race in the United Arab Emirates, Team Sea Dubai confirmed its great match race skills by winning four regattas today. Markus Wieser and his team are currently second of the provisional ranking, on a tie with Team Aqua. Also on great form, Cameron Appleton and his crew members could well be sitting on top of the leaderboard alongside BMW Oracle Racing if they hadn’t lost a precious point to Islas Canarias Puerto Calero. After leading the entire race, Team Aqua was nearing the arrival line and only had a penalty turn to perform to grab the point. However, the exercise turned into a nightmare when the spinnaker fell in the water, stopping the boat and opening a precious gap for the Spaniards.
Five more flights will be sailed tomorrow, weather permitting. The forecast isn’t good; the temperature should drop whilst showers and light wind are predicted. Every new flight will be welcomed; however the tournament is already valid with the seven flights completed today.
“I am really happy to be back on the Championship Tour," said Russell Coutts. " And obviously, it is good to be on top of the leader board. Larry also hugely enjoyed the day and had a great time. He likes this class very much and there is no doubt that we will see him a lot in the future.”
Paul Cayard added: “We had a fantastic race against Russell, with many close situations, where he was yelling at me and trying to remind me how to sail well; he was probably quite right… I enjoyed today, and made the best of it because I am starting to know this lake: the conditions can change pretty quickly up here.”
Match-race, provisional results after seven flights:
(Position, name of team, helmsman, No of victories / defeats, points)
1) BMW ORACLE Racing (Russell Coutts / Larry Ellison), 5/1, 5 points
2) Team Aqua (Cameron Appleton), 4/1, 4 points
2) Team Sea Dubai (Markus Wieser), 4/1, 4 points
4) Katusha (Paul Cayard), 3/2, 3 points
4) Artemis (Terry Hutchinson), 3/3, 3 points
4) Team No Way Back (Morten Henricksen / Ray Davies), 3/3, 3 points
4) RC 44 Challenge (James Spithill), 3/3, 3 points
8) CEEREF (Rod Davis), 2/4, 2 points
9) Team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (José Maria Ponce), 1/4, 1 point
10) AEZ RC 44 Sailing Team (Christian Binder), 0/6, 0 point
From Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW Oracle Racing