Russian charge to the wire
Racing at the RC44 Puerto Sotogrande Cup finished today with the tensest of conclusions, two boats tied going into the final race and the ultimate result of the regatta going right to the wire.
Three races were held, once again in brilliant sunshine and a slowly building, but very very shifty westerly breeze blowing off the Andalucian coast.
Artemis Racing has had ‘zero to hero’ tendencies this week and at the end of the regatta had scored the most race wins – three out of the 11 races held. Torbjörn Törnqvist’s crew, with British multiple Olympic medallist Iain Percy calling tactics, won today’s opening race, but then suffered abadly wrapped spinnaker in the second that caused them to finish in last place, dropping them off the podium. They ultimately finished fifth overall.
Star performer of the day was unquestionably Valentin Zavadnikov and Leonid Lebedev’s Synergy Russian Sailing Team, with co-owner Lebedev behind the wheel today. Synergy won the last two races as the breeze increased to more than 20 knots for the final one.
“There is a rhythm to what’s been happening out there and today we were able to use that because we had reasonably good starts,” said the team’s American tactician Ed Baird. “When we could get off the line clean and just play our own game, we could use the shift pattern. When you get behind right away then someone always controls where you go and that doesn’t work out as well.”
Baird, the 32nd America’s Cup winning helmsman, called the substantial shifts to perfection making sure Synergy was not only in the right place, but had room to manoeuvre when the change in wind occurred. “It worked out. The guys sailed the boat really well today.”
However in the end in the shifty winds off Sotogrande it was not the star performer but the most consistent that won the regatta. In this respect the crew that shone was Bronenosec, skippered for this regatta by Slovenian RC44 grand master Igor Lah. Through 11 races in an 11 boat fleet, she never finished lower than sixth.
“This was a win for Bronenosec,” said Lah. “The guys did a really great job. I just tried to help a little bit.” Lah, Bronenosec’s stand-in helmsman, is the reigning RC44 World Champion with his own boat Team CEEREF, but, aside from this regatta, is having a year out of the class racing a J/70.
As to the key to their success, Lah commented: “We just tried to keep it simple – nothing else and to avoid the crowd.It paid off. It was really nice conditions today. A little bit shifty, but not too much. I really love it when it is 20+ knots downwind. Flying downwind today was really cool.”
Sadly the team to lose out to the forceful Russians was John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum, that had a strong start to the week. Having only taken over the series leader’s ‘golden wheels’ going into this regatta, the local heroes were viewed as favourites on their home waters.
Going into the final race, Peninsula Petroleum and Bronenosec were tied on points and on the first beat it became evident that, rather than match race each other, they were going to sail their own races. Bassadone’s team headed out to the extreme left while Bronenosec took the extreme right. Ultimately Lah’s team came home third to the local boat’s sixth – enough to secure Bronenosec the regatta win.
“I don’t think that made the difference,” said Bassadone of the split. “At one point going up the first beat we were ahead of Synergy – and they won the race – but that’s how it has been. We watched where they [Bronenosec] were, but it was so shifty that you needed to go the right way.”
Bronenosec’s Italian tactician Michele Ivaldi agreed: “The reality was during the race there were four lead changes. We kept pushing for every metre and until the last cross downwind we didn’t put it to bed. It was fantastic.”
Apart from the result, Bassadone said he was pleased with the way the RC44 Puerto Sotogrande Cup had gone. “It has been brilliant. The organisers have done a very good job and it has been a real success. We are very happy and from what I hear everybody else has had a good time. Puerto Sotogrande would be happy to have us back -I hope soon, maybe in 2016.”
However the good news for Bassadone is that in the overall results, Peninsula Petroleum remains overall leaders in the RC44 Championship Tour fleet racing, now that the discards have kicked in after three regattas. She remains on three points joint with Chris Bake’s Team Aqua and with Synergy Russian Sailing Team on five.
Fleet racing results: