Jesus Renedo /

Hanuman fights back

21 mile coastal race for the Js at the Superyacht Cup

Friday June 20th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

That winning or losing in the J Class at the Palma Superyacht Cup is down to mere seconds was illustrated again today when Hanuman triumphed in the 21 miles coastal race by only 12 seconds ahead of Ranger. In brilliant sea breeze conditions on the Bay of Palma, which were punctuated by one lighter, shiftier period adding an extra dimension, Hanuman only just got the better of a very tenacious Ranger team, which really only made one small error.

After a dead heat on corrected time required them to share the top trophy from Wednesday’s opening race, then missing the podium yesterday by three seconds Kenny Read, Hanuman’s skipper-helm declared: “It does not get any better racing-wise than this. It is as good as it gets, high quality, high powered racing.

“Yesterday was a little disappointing and to be honest the helmsman – that is me – got a lousy start and from that point we were trying to dig ourselves out of that hole. I have no other person to blame for yesterday other than myself. Today it was goal to make amends for that.

“Even yesterday we lost third by two seconds. If you think about this the first race we were tied for first, second race we lost third by two seconds and then today we won by 12 seconds. It is amazing.”

Around a course which took the fleet east across the bay for a windward-leeward it proved to be a compelling duel between Ranger and Hanuman. The newer boat had the legs upwind, not least due to a new headsail – Read revealed – but there was an element of sheer dogged determination in the Ranger demeanour.

Denied one win on Wednesday they chased Hanuman around the first mark in the 13-16kts brisk sea-breeze, after another trademark pin end
start. As the leaders closed to the shore on the end of the first long downwind the breeze died and headed them. Hanuman lead back out but as the duo arrived back upwind into the old, established breeze Ranger took the shift better and were able to roll ahead of Hanuman again.

It was on the last beat when they tacked for layline that Ranger just slightly overstood, losing out to Hanuman, as Ranger skipper Erle Williams acknowledged ruefully: “ We should have tacked with them on the last beat. We ended up going over the layline. We hesitated, got into three or four big waves when I could not really tack and we would have come out slow so we hesitated and that cost us quite a bit, it cost us the lead.”

The winning delta on corrected time was just 12 seconds after 21 miles or about two hours and 40 minutes of racing.

“We had a good start and we have legs upwind,” Read confirmed. “We have a brand new genoa on the boat, we really felt we were off the pace in that 13-16 knots range in Mahon and Jim pulled the trigger on that new sail and it was right in that sweet spot today. Not only did it get us a little bit of a lead at that first mark but we actually missed one bog shift half way through the race, lost Ranger and this helped us get it back again. It was great upwind. Ranger has always been quick downwind. We have a hair of an edge upwind and they have an edge downwind. Ranger have had great starts this week, all credit to Erle. His whole afterguard have really started the boat well and it shows in
the results.”

But with each race seemingly now going down to mere seconds, does Read feel the mercury rising, the pressure increasing? “You are sailing in a beautiful place, in these amazing boats it does not get any better than this. We feel as sailors and as people very, very fortunate to be doing this. Period.”

And while Ranger is clearly sailing to within seconds of their first win in this full scale fleet, Erle Williams agrees there is an element of frustration: "It is always frustrating. We have been up the front of the fleet, won the race and got protested out and then yesterday we were
right amongst it. And then today we were right there again. So, at least we are at the right end of the fleet. That is good for us, we are the big steel boat and struggle at times with being heavy. But she is going through the water quite well today.”

Meanwhile with a fifth again today Velsheda’s crew are dealing with their own gremlins and playing catch up after a big winter refit. Tactician Tom Dodson says they regret missing out on Mahon’s first regatta of the season.

“We are still ironing things out a bit. We have improved the boat and if we had not done that we would be doing worse for sure, but there are a few gremlins to be sorted. It is small bits adding up to big bits at the moment. The GPS was down at the start. Out start was pretty good but we were probably half a knot down on the guys around about us and once upon a time we could have lived with that but now you can’t. There is gremlins stuff and tuning stuff. The boat feels different and so the sail calls are a bit different. I think we missed not doing that regatta in Mahon. We have gone through our years with this boat turning up green and being able to be okay. But now if you do that it you are not okay. We were doing the old eyeball start today. We are getting decent starts but we need to be able to hold the lane and we can’t right now.”

Lionheart finished third – their unbeaten this season record falling today – Rainbow fourth and Velsheda fifth. Racing concludes Saturday with one final coastal race.

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