17 slips into the lead

Fleet racing at the Oracle RC44 Cup gets going

Friday December 10th 2010, Author: Bernard Schopfer, Location: United States

The Oracle RC 44 Cup Miami began the fleet racing portion of the regatta today, and new faces – one much prettier than the others – stand out after four races in shifty conditions.

RC 44 World Champion yacht 17 is the overall leader with the low score of 12 points. Ably guided by newcomer William 'Doug' Douglass with Australian James Spithill calling tactics, 17 finished 3-5-3-1 on the day and leads Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis Racing, helmed by Sarah Gunderson, by 1 point.

Placed third with 18 points is Pieter Heerema’s 2009 season champion No Way Back, which is three points ahead of Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle Racing in fourth.

There’s much riding on the outcome of the fleet racing event because all four yachts, as well as Chris Bake’s Team Aqua, have a chance to win the 2010 season championship.

Four races were held today in shifty conditions. Douglass guided 17 to first in the last race, which moved the crew past Artemis for the fleet lead. After rounding the windward mark in 10th place, 17 made a nice comeback on the right side of the second upwind leg and then stretched on the run to win the race.

“The boat’s going well and Doug is steering well. It was an easier day than we’ve had in the past,” said 17 headsail trimmer Joe Newton. “He’s a great guy and fun to be around. We enjoy sailing with him. He fits in well with us all and we have a good time on the water, which is the hardest thing. It’s a bonus he can steer the boat well.”

Douglass, a veteran of one-design classes such as the Farr 40 and Melges 32, was nearly upstaged by the prettiest helmsperson on the water. Gunderson is at the helm of Artemis Racing in place of Tornqvist, who couldn’t attend the season’s concluding event.

Gunderson, the 30-year-old logistics manager for Artemis Racing, is also a veteran of Farr 40 racing, but mainly cut her teeth working the pit. Gunderson, however, looked like an old hand on the wheel with a 4-1-2-6.

“I was very, very nervous,” said Gunderson of Australia. “Torbjorn can’t be here so he asked me if I’d steer. I steered an 44 event once before, a couple years ago in Italy, but Morgan (Larson, tactician) and the crew, including trimmers Nitro (Noel Drennan) and Truby (Morgan Trubovich), got me around the course nicely.”

The RC 44 class’s first visit to the US sees the largest fleet ever assembled for a class event, 14 boats. Included in the mix is newcomer David Murphy of Westport, Conn., whose yacht Ironbound is hull 23 and was launched last month.

Murphy is also a veteran of one-design racing, but decided to buy a RC 44 at the behest of his close friend Chris Bake, who won the match racing portion of the Oracle RC 44 Cup Miami with Team Aqua.

After leading the first lap of Race 4, Murphy finished fourth and is placed 10th on the leaderboard. Relaxed after the racing, Murphy talked about his desire to grow the U.S. fleet.

“This is the next step for a lot of sport boat enthusiasts,” said Murphy. “It’s an all carbon boat, it’s 50 percent lighter than my J/122, which is roughly the same length, and has 50 percent more sail area. In 15 knots downwind we’re doing 13, 14, 15 knots. It’s lit up all the time.

“It’s an exciting time to be sailing in the class,” Murphy continued. “The class has been in operation for four years now. Our goal is to have a U.S. Class, to inspire some American owners from other one-design classes to make the jump.”

The fleet racing continues tomorrow with the first signal scheduled for 12:00 pm.

Oracle RC 44 Cup fleet racing provisional standings (after four races)

1. 17 (USA) William Douglass/Jimmy Spithill – 3-5-3-1 – 12 points
2. Artemis Racing (SWE) Torbjorn Tornqvist/Terry Hutchinson – 4-1-2-6 – 13 points
3. No Way Back (NED) Pieter Heerema/Ray Davies – 10-2-1-5 – 18 points
4. BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) Larry Ellison/Russell Coutts – 5-10-4-2 – 21 points
5. Ceeref (SLO) Igor Lah/Rod Davis – 2-8-5-10 – 25 points
6. Mascalzone Latino (ITA) Vincenzo Onorato/Francesco Bruni – 7-3-9-8 – 27 points
7. Peninsula Petroleum (ESP) John Bassadone/Inaki Castaner – 11-4-6-11 – 32 points
8. Team Aqua (UAE) Chris Bake/Cameron Appleton – 1-12-11-9 – 33 points
9. Katusha (RUS) Guennadi Timtchenko/Paul Cayard – 9-13-7-7 – 36 points
10. Ironbound (USA) David Murphy/Ian Williams – 12-11-10-4 – 37 points
11. Team Sea Dubai (UAE) Harm Müller-Spreer/Markus Wieser – 6-6-13-12 – 37 points
12. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP) Daniel Calero/Jose Maria Ponce – 8-7-8-14 – 37 points
13. Synergy Russian Sailing Team (RUS) Maxim Logutenko/Evgeniy Neugodnikov – 14-14-14-3 – 45 points
14. AEZ RC 44 Sailing Team (AUT) René Mangold/Christian Binder – 13-9-12-13 – 47 points

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