Artemis Racing excels in lighter conditions
Lighter breezes brought a change in complexion to the America’s Cup World Series event in Plymouth. Following the 20+ knot winds of the drama-filled weekend, so today’s racing began in 5 knots that grew to around 13 knots. The wind was also more from the west, blowing directly along the Plymouth coast line making it extremely shifty.
Today’s racing marked the start of what is called the Plymouth Match Racing Championship – something of a misnoma given that today three fleet races were held (as they will tomorrow) – one 40 minuter, followed by two of 20 minutes duration. The overall result from these two days of racing will determine the seeding for the match racing that, under the new race format being introduced here, will see exclusively match racing take place on Friday and Saturday.
Getting all nine boats out on the race track was something of a miracle following China Team’s full pitchpole yesterday that caused significant damage to her wing. Similarly Green Comm looked to be similarly scuppered late yesterday afternoon when they discovered a largish area of delamination on the underside of her port hull. Overnight the team replaced the port hull in its entirety with a spare supplied by ACRM and so today the Spanish flagged Italian team were racing with a one branded hull, one plain white, while a long night for the Chinese team also saw them back in action.
Today’s lighter conditions saw the Terry Hutchinson steered Artemis Racing excel, Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Swedish team coming out on top with a win in the first and third races.
In marginal hull-flying conditions, the long first race saw James Spithill’s Oracle Racing fastest out of the blocks to lead initially from Team Korea, who was penalised for not keeping clear. 'Business as usual' we wondered but this was not to be the case. By the leeward gate it was the Loick Peyron-steered Energy Team that had pulled ahead with Emirates Team NZ in second and Spithill down to third.
Across the race course the breeze was extremely patchy and there seemed to be no clear tactic as to whether being close to the shore or being offshore (but in the lee of Drake Island) was the better option. On the second beat the Kiwis nosed ahead of the French multihull veterans board Energy Team and by the top mark, with the breeze dropping off, there was a major compression in the fleet as Artemis and the two Oracle boats caught up with the leaders. On the next run Energy Team nosed out in front but Artemis were closing and just managed to get the inside berth at the last mark to leave Energy Team in her wake.
"We had a lot of really good discussion prior to the start of the race about how we wanted to approach the race," said Terry Hutchinson later. "Unfortunately us and Emirates up at the windward end of the line at the start it got a little bit light, so the group to leeward played through, but we had a good plan for the first run and we knew the race was going to be long and it was going to be hard to defend any lead.
"I think we were going really well. And the boat speed makes some of even average decisions look right. Our boat handling was really good and all those things compound into boat lengths."
After a short delay for Race 2, the breeze had built slightly and seemed more consistent across the course. The Dean Barker-steered Emirates Team New Zealand was speediest off the line and first to the reaching mark. On the first run Team Korea was holding second with Energy Team third, but the Koreans subsequently overhauled the Kiwis and despite coming perilously close to losing it when they were penalised for infringing a course boundary line, they managed to maintain their lead to the finish and with the Korean crew being largely English, helmed by Olympic 49er bronze medallist Chris Draper, a cheer went up among the spectators assembled on the Hoe.
One of the most surprising outcomes was that of Russell Coutts’ Oracle Racing boat, which at one moment was languishing in seventh place, the next had managed to sail around the outside of James Spithill and Artemis at the final mark to cruise home in third.
Race three saw Aleph and Emirates Team New Zealand get the best start, only it was slightly too good and they were called back for being OCS. For this regatta PRO Harold Bennett has reverted from using the traditional eyeballs system to using Stan Honey’s 2cm accurate tracking to determine boats that are OCS. Artemis, starting legally, led into the reaching mark ahead of China Team and Energy Team. However continuing their powerful display on the race course today, Energy Team pulled into the lead on the first run. Artemis only managed to regain the lead when they came around the top mark in a slicker manner than the French team. As with Coutts in the first race, so Emirates Team New Zealand were the biggest risers in this final race pulling back from their OCS and, sailing with smart tactics, rolled by three boats on one beat moving them up to second with Team Korea third.
Artemis managed to hold on to the lead and was finished by Prince Michael of Kent, resident on the committee boat this afternoon. Overall the Swedish team lead, two points ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand.
"It was a really tricky day," commented Terry Hutchinson. "For us personally the introduction of Iain [Percy] to the program was really good because he brings a level of confidence that we had to a certain extent in Cascais, but someone with his pedigree when he gets on the boat and says stuff, you don’t really question it."
Percy sailed on board in the breezy conditions on Sunday but this was his first proper race with the team, said Hutchinson.
Surprisingly, given their second place, two points adrift of Artemis, Ray Davies, tactician on board Emirates Team New Zealand, said today hadn't gone that smoothly. "I don’t think we are going incredibly well. We are getting some good results, but I think the whole level has lifted. The very breezy day us and Oracle got away, but today there was some very good racing from Energy Team and Korea so those guys have definitely improved. We had a few issue son board with our systems – the lock on our Code 0 was causing a few problems. We had to tie the halyard off downwind. The last race it was okay, but the first two races it cost us a few places. We had some very good starts and I think we are generally sailing pretty well around the course."
Today's results were disappointing for the two Oracle Racing boats, ending up uncharacteristically in fifth and sixth place.
"We only got off one start which was the first one; in the other two we were deep," commented James Spithill. "The whole day we had a lot of boat handling errors, tactically we weren’t doing things great and our speed was a little bit marginal. When you put all that together obviously you aren’t going to be at the top of the fleet. Normally boat handling we’re very strong. Tactically we just need to work a little better with the communication on aboard." Spithill didn't think the change in conditions were responsible. "In Cascais we were pretty strong in the light winds."
Despite the light conditions Spithill enjoyed the racing: "At times it is incredibly frustrating for the sailors, but what a spectacle, when you have that amount of lead changes and that much action I think it is a winner. We just have to get back to winning!"
While over the weekend typically the boat that won the start and was first to the initial reaching mark won the race, today generally proved this not to be the case and even over the tiny race course off Plymouth Hoe there were numerous passing opportunities and considerable position changes.
|2||Emirates Team New Zealand||4||7||2||9||2||9||25|
|5||ORACLE Racing Coutts||5||6||3||8||5||6||20|
|6||ORACLE Racing Spithill||3||8||5||6||6||5||19|
|9||Green Comm Racing||DSQ||0||9||3||7||4||7|
The seeding races for the Plymouth Match Racing Championship continue on Thursday, with three fleet races scheduled. Racing begins at 14:10 local time (GMT+1).