Team Aqua cling on
The penultimate day of racing at the RC44 Cagliari Cup saw some upsets in the ranking, fiercely close racing and a number of penalties being dished out by the umpires as the teams pushed themselves and their boats to the limits.
With the wind eased from the previous two days mistral conditions, never reaching more than 15 knots, the question was if Chris Bake's Team Aqua would continue to dominate in Sardinia. They started the day with three wins from the four races sailed. Their intent was made clear in the first race of the day when they rounded the windward mark in their familiar first place and proceeded to extend away from the fleet behind, to take their first win of the day.
However their win in race two was hard fought right to the finish line as the team’s tactician Cameron Appleton explained: “Islas Canarias Puerto Calero lead around the whole course and we were chasing them, but also had Artemis chasing us. On the last run the three boats were in a bit of a gybing duel and we were trying to carry any puff that we could catch but at the same time watching what Artemis did, they did a good job of splitting the three of us, luckily we got split the right way and ended up at the favoured pin end, so Islas Canarias Puerto Calero gybed with Artemis Racing and we carried on straight and crossed the line ahead which was perfect.”
The two first places left Team Aqua with a 12 point cushion over second placed Islas Canarias Puerto Calero going into the final race of the day. But with no discard no team can afford a bad result and race three didn’t go quite to plan, rounding the first windward mark in 10th position. They gained one more place on the next lap only to be penalised by the umpire’s on the final run for gybing to close to Ceeref (SLO). Their penalty turn dropped them down to 11th place. But the team’s stunning performance in the previous six races meant although their cushion had diminished, they still sit on top of the leaderboard.
As Team Aqua struggled to fight back through the fleet it was Pieter Heerema (NED) and No Way Back whose turn it was to shine. They rounded the first windward mark within inches of Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, with David Murphy’s Ironbound (USA) overlapped behind, but by the leeward gate the Dutch team had taken the lead, and proceeded to match race Ironbound up the next beat, never giving them space to breath.
Ironbound must have felt they were under attack from all quarters, they rounded the final windward mark overlapped with Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, both boats were desperate to get the jump and hoisted their spinnakers at record pace. But Ironbound were just too close to the team from Lanzarote and were penalised for not keeping clear as their spinnaker billowing out to leeward touching the Spaniards. A perfectly executed manoeuvre and a quick re-hoist saw the American team drop just one place, finishing fourth.
Another second place for Islas Canarias Puerto Calero made them the most consistent boat of the day, their two second’s and sixth place moved them up the overall leaderboard into second place, just three points off the leaders.
The day was even more eventful for series leaders Oracle Racing, they made their life hard by never being in the top ten at the first windward mark, then had a torrid time trying to pick their way back through the fleet and being given three penalties on the way. Their score-line said it all, 10, 14, 7, dropping them from second on the overall leader-board to fifth. Katusha fared no better picking up two thirtieths’ and a seventh to drop one place to seventh.
Still in contention is Sweden’s Artemis Racing. Another consistent day on the water means they are just 11 points off the leaders in third place but they are not expecting an easy ride of it tomorrow as the team’s tactician Morgan Larson said after racing: “Aqua is a couple of steps in front of everybody and I don't see any reason why they won’t continue with the form they are on. They are a sharp team, they've been doing it for a long time and they’re on their game right now. So we just want to round this event up on the podium and look forward to putting some pressure on them for the next event in Sweden.”
And as for the leaders, they seem quietly confident ahead of tomorrow’s final day of racing. “We've got a bit of a bullseye on us at the moment,” said Chris Bake as he stepped ashore. “A few of our friends out there are making our life a little difficult which is fun, we've had three great days of sailing were just going to go out there tomorrow and do our best, I’m thrilled with the boat and the team, there’s an air of quiet confidence that we can cope with whatever an event throws at us which is nice.”
His tactician Cameron Appleton added: "In race three we had a bit of a slow start to our race and ended up pretty deep in the pack early, but we managed to battle back and did reasonably well on the start of the second beat and had a bit of a competition with Russell where he kept knocking us around which was to be expected. Coming in to the finish line we had made a bit of a gain and were on lay-line to the pin end but were on port and there were four boats blocking us on starboard. We made the decision just to gybe because we were going to be behind them anyway but the umpire said that we had fouled Ceeref so we had to do a penalty which makes it difficult because you've got to get the kite down and the jib up and then start doing the penalty, so I guess 11th out of that wasn't too bad.
"The competitions getting tough out there, we've been having some good starts but it’s still open, were only three points in the lead so anything can happen so we will just have to see what tomorrow brings us forecast wise but it’s been fun so far."
Russell Coutts added: "It was a tough day for us on Oracle Racing, we had three penalty turns which is never good so we lost a lot of points there, but you know tomorrows another day you win some you lose some and we've had some good races this week so who knows what will happen tomorrow."
The final day of racing at the RC44 Cagliari Cup will take place on 3rd July with racing due to start at 11.30 (CET).
2011 RC44 Cagliari Cup Fleet Racing Results - after seven races
1 - Team Aqua - 20
2 - Islas Canarias Puerto Calero - 23
3 - Artemis Racing - 31
4 - RC44 Team CEREEF - 40
5 - ORACLE Racing - 44
6 - No Way Back - 52
7 - Katusha - 53
8 - Peninsula Petroleum - 54
9 - Synergy Russian Sailing Team - 60
10 - Ironbound - 62
11 - AEZ RC44 Team- 69
12 - RUS-7 Sail Racing Team- 74
13 - Team Nika - 82
14 - MAG Racing - 91
15 - Aleph Sailing Team - 94