Four way tie at the top
The 2011 RC44 Championship Tour opened today with stadium sailing/match racing off Broadway Pier, San Diego. The teams duked it out in the pre-starts, sweeping within feet of the crowds in an effort to wipe opponents off their tail. At the end of the six flights of racing for the 11 boats, five of them were tightly grouped on four wins, although with just a single defeat, Team Aqua, Artemis and Katusha hold a slight advantage over Oracle Racing and Ceeref, the latter pair having lost two races each.
The match racing will not continue until the second RC44 Championship Tour event in Austria (read more about the reasoning here). So although there were no winners today, there were some important indicators to form and no shortage of action. Russell Coutts was on Ellison’s shoulder as tactician for an incident-filled day aboard Oracle Racing, making crucial plays to grab two come-from-behind wins. "We seemed to do ok when we got behind, and we were behind in most of the races today," was Ellison’s comment afterwards.
One that they were definitely behind in was the race against Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis. Morgan Larson has taken over in the tactician’s role and Artemis came out all guns blazing, losing just the single race to Islas Canarias Puerto Calero. But against Oracle Racing they were strong from the start, as Ellison admitted afterwards, "We had a couple of races that weren’t too close, we could just barely see Morgan sailing away into the sunset."
Another of the in-form teams was Chris Bake’s Team Aqua, with Cameron Appleton in the tactician’s role. They won four from five, taking their only defeat against Paul Cayard on Katusha. Afterwards, Cayard was effusive on the topic of the stadium sailing format that the RC44 class was embracing. Asked to comment on returning to San Diego and looking back on the town’s America’s Cup years, Cayard said: “To be back in San Diego is fun... The best America’s Cup sailing we had in San Diego was the [IACC] 1994 Worlds when we raced inside the bay. This is the perfect stadium for this size boat, like San Francisco is the perfect stadium for the America’s Cup, and it’s about time we figured out how to put these races inside a stadium close to the people, and I’m applauding San Diego for that.”
Igor Lah’s Ceeref was the final boat on four points, but only just – they were one of the victims of Oracle Racing’s last gasp passing moves.
For the rest of the fleet it was a question of comparing results to goals. Rene Mangold shared his sthought on the single victory for Team Austria: "We won one race, and that was one more than we expected."
The fleet newcomers aboard David Murphy’s Ironbound will have every right to be less philosophical. They made a great start with two straight wins, but couldn’t keep it up, taking penalties and losing the next three on the bounce. Elizabeth Kratzig Burnham had come second in the 2010 ISAF Women’s Match Racing Worlds with Sally Barkow and Alana O’Reilly and was steering the starts for Ironbound. Asked about the comparisons, she said: “I don’t think you can really compare the competition, the competition here is the best you are going to find anywhere.”
Racing continues from 3-6 March with four days of fleet racing.
Paul Cayard reports:
A very good day for both Artemis Racing and Katusha with four wins each out of five races.
On Katusha we were happy with our results but I would not characterize our sailing as smooth. Yet, we got the job done.
For our first three races of the day, we had the "Curmudgeons" onboard as guests. First Craig for two races, including the all important Russian National Championship, then Tom for the third. As soon as the Lewecks left us, we lost. We pulled ourselves back together to win our last race of the day.
We ended up tied with four other teams, some of whom raced six races. There is no final scoring for match racing at each event this year, it just rolls on and the final score is tallied at the end of the year.
Tomorrow, starts the fleet racing which will see Bob "Peaches" Little on the helm and I will move to tactician.
The forecast for tomorrow is more of the same, Westerly winds at about 10 knots.