Blowing off the cobwebs
Two months have passed since the previous RC 44 event, but the fleet remembered to bring its competitive nature among an array of equipment to the Canary Islands.
Coupled with some wild shifts due to an offshore breeze, the RC 44 World Championship for the Islas Canarias Puerto Calero Cup began with the fleet alternately thanking and ruing the wind gods. The wild conditions kept the crews on their toes and the scoreboard tight.
A total of 36 matches were run today in about seven hours of racing. The breeze was from the west to northwest and between 12 and 18 knots.
In Group A, Jimmy Spithill’s 17 and Terry Hutchinson’s Artemis are tied for the lead at 5-1, but the grey-hulled 17 holds the tiebreaker after a head-to-head victory in Flight 6.
Group B sees four boats – No Way Back, Katusha, Ceeref and Russell Coutts’ BMW Oracle Racing – tied at 3-2.
"The conditions were challenging, but it’s always challenging in offshore breeze," said Joey Newton, headsail trimmer aboard 17.
The crews once again displayed fantastic boathandling, throwing the light-displacement 44-footers around like dinghies. It’s quite impressive when the trailing boat heats up on a run, gybes and rolls over the top of the boat to leeward to steal a win at the finish line. That’s how 17 lost its only race of the day, to Team Aqua.
Similar to the previous event in Valencia, there were come-from-behind wins and downwind duels where the lead boat attempted to unload a penalty. Such was the final run between Ceeref and Katusha in Flight 6, where Ceeref had to unload a penalty to score the win.
"We had a heck of a battle with Davis and Ceeref," said Cayard. "We got a penalty on him on the second upwind for tacking too close. So both boats went down the run with no spinnakers. We got a penalty at the end so we both had to do circles, but we were just able to get him before the finish."
At the finish line the on-water umpire Marco Mercuriali gave Katusha a red-flag penalty when it bore off across Ceeref’s bow trying to cross the finish line. Mercuriali said that Katusha gained an unfair advantage in the manoeuvre. He didn’t assess a standard penalty because that would’ve cancelled out Ceeref’s and allowed Katusha to win the race. By giving Katusha the red-flag penalty he made both boats perform the 270-degree exoneration turn, and Katusha completed the turn more quickly.
"That was a real tussle with Cayard," said Davis. "Down the run we were trying to set some traps and he was trying to avoid them. We finally executed one. We were doing our penalties at the same time, but he just got us."
"Except for a bad set that was our fault and a miracle puff for AEZ, we were 6 seconds away from being 5-0," said Paul Cayard.
The match racing portion of the regatta is scheduled to resume tomorrow with the first warning signal slated for 1130 local.
RC 44 World Championship Islas Canarias Puerto Calero Cup
1. 17 (USA) Jimmy Spithill – 5-1
1. Artemis (SWE) Terry Hutchinson – 5-1
3. Team Aqua (UAE) Cameron Appleton – 4-2
3. Team Sea Dubai (UAE) Markus Weiser – 4-2
5. Peninsula Petroleum (ESP) John Bassadone – 2-4
6. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP) Daniel Calero – 1-5
7. Synergy Russian Sailing Team (RUS) Maxim Logutenko – 0-6
1. BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) Russell Coutts – 3-2
1. Ceeref (SLO) Rod Davis – 3-2
1. Katusha (RUS) Paul Cayard – 3-2
1. No Way Back (NED) Ray Davies – 3-2
5. AEZ RC 44 Sailing Team (AUT) – 2-3
6. Mascalzone Latino (ITA) Vincenzo Onorato – 1-4