Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Artemis grabs leadership at Rolex TP52 Global Championship

[Source: Rolex TP52 Global Championship] King of Cool or lucky break? That is the question. Whatever the real answer, the positions at the end of Day Two and Race Five of the Rolex TP52 Global Championship 2007 do not lie. Artemis (SWE) sits on top of the heap with a healthy ten-point margin over second placed Patches (IRE). It could have been worse or better for both. Patches caught over the start line in the first two races of the day and Artemis over early in the third. Both completed recoveries that in the case of Artemis suggested true genius at the core - the genius of Russell Coutts - along with a measure of good boat speed and probably some luck.

Master magician onboard or not, Torbjorn Tornqvist's Artemis was comprehensively boat of the day posting a 1, 2, 4. Not far behind in that category was Stuart Robinson's Stay Calm (GBR), which managed to avoid any issues with the line, and scored 2, 4, 3 to move into fourth overall. The two other race winners were Doug DeVos' Windquest (USA)with Terry Hutchinson calling the shots and, of course, Eamon Conneely's Patches which, after her problems with the first two starts of the day, stormed around the final course like a scalded cat to finish someway in front of Alberto Roemmers' Siemens.

Start of the races in the second day of the Rolex TP52 Global Championship. Porto Cervo, 25 September 2007. Photo copyright Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex

The three races were held in a fresh northwesterly. The promised rotation from the northeast arrived early and the race committee got off the daily maximum number of windward/leewards in short order. The steadiness of the breeze reflected in a lack of any course changes. The first race involved a 2 nautical mile leg in 12 - 15 knots, whilst the second and third saw a 2.4 nm leg and the wind topping out at around 20 knots on the final run home. Normal Porto Cervo service well and truly resumed, with a bright clear sky and plenty of sunshine.

What a difference a day makes. At 2.15pm yesterday the first race was just getting underway in miserable conditions. By that time today, yesterday's problems were forgotten and the crews were halfway through the second race and, if you really want to know how exciting the racing was today, phone a friend. Hopefully, one onboard of a competing yacht, but if not, perhaps one on the fleet of spectator, support, media and committee boats that hared up and down the course all day stopping only to gawp at the mark roundings. Otherwise look at the pictures, shut your eyes and imagine sound of sheets screeching as grinders wring the last few millimetres out of the resisting sheets as the boats round the leeward mark or trimmers ease the taut, loaded membranes at the top mark. Trying to bottle or distil the intensity of these moments is all but impossible.

Doug DeVos' Windquest during the second day of the Rolex TP52 Global Championship. Porto Cervo, 25 September 2007. Photo copyright Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex

Stuart Robinson, owner and helm of Stay Calm described their day, "a great day's sailing. Warm, sunny and wind. We had good starts which obviously helps, while a lot of people were over (early) which was surprising, but we made use of that. We had good boat speed and generally sailed much better than yesterday, managing to keep pretty clean." Robinson clearly thoroughly enjoys sailing the TP52, "it's just like a big dinghy and with a tiller you get quite into it! The tiller is harder than the wheel, but more responsive. You certainly feel when there is load on it, but it is good fun hanging off that. We're sailing the boat quite aggressively downwind and we hit 18 knots on the last run when the breeze came up. We really pushed it on that leg and we almost got to Siemens in second who had been quite far ahead. Andy Hemmings joined us from Team New Zealand this year and is doing an excellent job trimming."

First race of the day was pretty straightforward, unless you were Patches, Fram XVI (NOR), Siemens (ESP) or Mutua Madrilena (CHI) - all caught over the line early and forced to return. By the time they were back in the contest, Artemis and Stay Calm had established their authority over the rest of the fleet and went on to finish in that order - the Swedish boat some 35 seconds ahead. John Buchan's Glory (USA) had her best result of the day coming home in third after a great scrap with John Cook's Cristabella (GBR), probably still smarting after being disqualified in the second race yesterday. Patches recovered to ninth after some fine work on the second windward leg.

Second race, and yet again Patches and Mutua Madrilena found themselves ahead of the game at the start - this time with DSK Comifin (POR), Cristabella and Anonimo Q8 (ITA). Mutua recovered the best coming home in seventh, the product of good work upwind and downwind. Nacho Postigo, navigator on the Chilean boat commented, " today we have had to make nice recoveries from bad positions. The boat is travelling very nicely on the water even in strong wind and we have been very happy with the speed and the tactical decisions. But starting last and rounding the first mark last is very hard to come back with this fleet." At the front, Windquest led from start to finish as Artemis followed her around. For Anonimo, the race started badly, tailed off in the middle and the less said about the end the better. Riccardo Simonsechi's team came into the first leeward rounding struggling with a broken headsail. Once the sail was up, they started upwind only to get about 500 metres before a sickening crunch was heard and the masthead crane at the top of the mast hung limply having snapped clean off. Simoneschi is hoping for the predicted Mistral to bring a temporary halt to racing tomorrow giving him time to try and sort things out.

Siemens made a considerable comeback in the second day. Porto Cervo, 25 September 2007. Photo copyright Nico Martinez

At the start of the third race, Cristabella and DSK Comifin were in the wrong again, this time with even more illustrious company. What unfolded next was close to a miracle. Whilst Patches, with Stuart Childerley on the helm and Ian Walker calling tactics, gave the proverbial masterclass in winning from the front, Coutts and Artemis put on one in recovering position with owner Torbjorn Tornqvist on the helm. Start last, finish fourth. Coutts made it sound relatively easy, "we were quite late going back, so we lost on the fleet. But the boat is fast and we had a lot of boat speed today. We did the first beat pretty nicely and that got us to the back of the fleet. Fortunately it was quite windy in the last race which was certainly another factor that helped us on the first run pass a few boats downwind." Artemis rounded the first windward mark in 10th, by the leeward gate she was 8th and second time around at the top she was 5th after initially heading right on the beat, whilst Patches and the rest headed left. There was certainly a little good fortune involved as a couple of boats ahead on the first run appeared to gybe one shift earlier than Artemis to get back into the favourable current further offshore.

Provisional standings after 5 races
1. ARTEMIS Torbjorn Tornqvist, SWE, 6-1-1-2-4-14.00
2. PATCHES Eamon Conneely IRL, 1-5-9-8-1-24.00
3. MEAN MACHINE Peter de Ridder, MON, 7-4-6-3-6-26.00
4. STAY CALM Stuart Robinson, GBR, 12-7-2-4-3-28.00
5. WINDQUEST Doug DeVos, USA, 8-6-5-1-11-31.00
6. MUTUA MADRILENA Bablio Sail Project, CHI, 9-2-13-7-5-36.00
7. SIEMENS Alberto Roemmers, ESP, 4-3-10-5-2-36.00
8. CAM Leon/Sanchez, ESP, 5-12-8-6-5-36.00
9. GLORY John Buchan, USA, 3-13-3-10-7-36.00
10. CRISTABELLA John Cook, GBR, 2-DSQ-4-11-10-43.00

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