Team Aqua ahead
The 2014 RC44 Championship Tour fired up in Virgin Gorda serving up a perfect day for match racing. A steady 11-14 knot easterly breeze and flat water allowed the race committee to complete all nine flights inside the confines of Virgin Gorda’s North Sound. Penalties flew and a few collisions meant it was an exciting day for both the sailors and the umpires alike.
Defending match race champion Team Aqua, with tactician Cameron Appleton at the helm, made sure she stayed at the top of the leaderboard, losing just one of their eight matches to Synergy Russian Sailing Team, with Ed Baird driving.
Swedish team Artemis Racing, with owner Torbjorn Tornqvist at the wheel and triple Olympic medallist Iain Percy calling the shots, lost its first race to Gazprom Youth Sailing Challenge, with Russian Olympic match racer Ekaterina Skudina at helm for the day, but quickly found its form winning the next four races.
Flight seven saw the top two performing teams, Team Aqua and Artemis Racing, line up. As the pair approached the leeward gate Team Aqua luffed, Artemis failed to stay clear picking up a penalty with Aqua going on to take the win.
In the penultimate match of the day, a collision with Lunajets Aleph Racing saw Tornqvist’s Swedish team black flagged; handing victory to the French team. Limping back into port for overnight repairs, Artemis finished the day on four wins and four losses. Unable to compete in the final race of the day Aleph still managed to finish fourth overall with five wins and three losses.
Artemis Racing’s tactician Iain Percy explained the moment of the crash: “We tried to go inside [of Aleph at the top mark], but didn’t have the space to do the turn. It’s hard with these keelboats - once you’re going in a certain direction, you’re committed. Everyone knew the crash was coming about five second before it happened but there’s not a lot you can do.” Percy added “We're going to help the Aleph team get out there tomorrow. They have been gracious in understanding that it is one of those racing incidents that adds spice to the sport.”
Synergy Russian Sailing Team and Katusha with Andy Horton at the helm, both won five and lost three, leaving them second and third respectively on the leaderboard after the first of five match racing days throughout the RC44 season.
For Andrea Pozzi, owner driver of Bombarda Racing, this was the first foray into match racing having only started competitive sailing two years ago in the Melges 32 fleet. His Italian team finished the day with just one win from eight races, but Pozzi enjoyed the experience: “Today was very difficult, for me there are lots of professionals to compete against and this is my first time match racing. It is a new style of driving and very different to what I’m used to with fleet racing but we won a match so I am happy with the day. “
The RC44 Virgin Gorda Cup continues until 18 February, with four days of fleet racing where only the amateur owner helms can take the wheel. Follow the racing via the live blog on www.rc44.com
RC44 Championship Tour Overall Match Race Ranking
1. Team Aqua - 7 wins - 1 loss = 7
2. Synergy Russian Sailing Team - 5 wins - 3 loss = 5
3. Katusha - 5 wins - 3 loss = 5
4. Lunajets Aleph Racing - 5 wins - 3 loss = 5
5. Peninsula Petroleum Sailing Team - 4 wins - 4 loss (1*) = 3
6. Team Nika - 3 wins - 5 loss = 3
7. Artemis Racing - 4 wins - 4 loss (3*) = 1
8. Bombarda Racing - 1 win - 7 loss = 1
9. Gazprom Youth Sailing Challenge - 2 win - 6 loss (2*) = 0