Friday, December 12, 2008

Igor Lah steers Team Ceeref to near perfection in the fleet racing in Puerto Calero

After James Spithill steering Team Ceeref to victory in all 10 match races of the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup, today owner Igor Lah continued that winning streak in fine style, taking three of the four fleet races, and finishing second in the other. Can anyone stop the Slovenian team?

Puerto Calero, December 12 2008 – The wind just never seems to stop in Lanzarote, not that anyone’s complaining in the RC44 fleet. Why would you, when you’ve got 20 knots of breeze against a stunning backdrop that looks like you’ve landed on another planet?

If there is any cause for complaint, it’s that Igor Lah and James Spithill have a stranglehold of this event, and they appear to be almost as dominant in the fleet racing as they proved to be in the match racing series. Off the start line of the first race today, Team Ceeref made a bad start and were forced to tack on to port as the fleet sailed away to the Lanzarote shore. However the Slovenian boat found a good right-hand windshift after a couple of minutes, Spithill called for a tack and Igor Lah’s crew turned a losing position into a lead, which they would hold to the finish.

Igor Lah scores three bullets and one second in today's four fleet races. Puerto Calero, 12 December 2008. Photo copyright Nico Martinez

Team Aqua were lying second at the first mark, had a poor downwind leg and dropped to fourth at the leeward mark. With the leading bunch going left up the final beat, Cameron Appleton liked Aqua’s angle on port tack on the seaward side of the course. Owner Chris Bake banged the corner and came right back into the fight, rounding just behind Artemis in third place at the final turning mark.

On the final run to the finish Artemis broke the gooseneck fitting on the mast, and they managed to nurse the boat across the line in third, having yielded second place to Team Aqua. It was an all-too-short outing for Artemis owner Torbjorn Tornqvist who was forced to retire from racing for the remainder of the day as the crew of the Swedish boat set about fixing the carbon gooseneck in time for tomorrow.

Highlights from Day 3 of the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup. 12 December 2008. Video copyright RC44

Although no other team could match Ceeref for consistency, everyone had their moment at the front at some point. Best of the rest was BMW ORACLE Racing, with Larry Ellison steering his boat to victory in race three, aided by new tactician Mark Mendelblatt. Russell Coutts, who had been Ellison’s tactician for the match racing, switched over to Banco Espirito Santo for the fleet racing. The Kiwi tactician found some good shifts on the shore side of the course but couldn’t fully unravel the mysteries of the shifty and gusty race track. Owner Patrick de Barros said there didn’t seem to be any way up the middle of the course. It was a matter of picking your side and throwing all your chips on one corner, and hoping that you’d picked the right one.

The combination of shifts and gusts made for an interesting time downwind. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero were competitive against the more experienced teams on the upwind legs, but poor crew work let them down on many of the offwind legs. They shredded four spinnakers in the course of the day, and owner Daniel Calero joked that he would be introducing corporal punishment to the crew tomorrow, hoping that the threat of the cane would stem the flood of boat handling errors.

Russell Coutts was calling tactics on Banco Espirito Santo today. Puerto Calero, 12 December 2008. Photo copyright Nico Martinez

Tomorrow the fleet racing contest continues with two windward/leeward races followed by the long distance race for the DHL Trophy.

Igor Lah, owner, Team Ceeref, after winning three of today’s four races: “We'd like to come again to Lanzarote! We made no mistakes, and everything was perfectly done, and then it was very simple. If everything works, and you have no technical problems, then life becomes easy. That's what we have been practising for all year. James tells me where to go and I go there. If you have simple instructions, it is much easier.”

Mark Mendelblatt, tactician, BMW ORACLE Racing: “Winning a race today, that felt really good, to break the run of losses in the match racing. It’s just going to be tough to beat the Ceeref guys. We've got to find a way to sail a little bit better, but overall we had fun today and sailed well. I've sailed with some of the guys but I've never sailed with Larry or BMW ORACLE. They left it up to me to call the tactics, and I made some good calls, and made some bad ones, but overall it went very well.”

Larry Ellison was the only one able to break Igor Lah's winning streak. Puerto Calero, 12 December 2008. Photo copyright Nico Martinez

Patrick de Barros, owner, Banco Espirito Santo, talking about a difficult day: “We had one or two races when we really up there, but we had a bad call on a tack at the weather mark, we got squeezed, we had to gybe out, and we lost the race there. It's very difficult to gain in these conditions. You either have to go full left or full right, it seems you really have to stay out of the middle of this race course. Russell makes the decisions, I just try to do my best at the wheel.”

James Spithill, tactician, Team Ceeref: “It was good fun, a lot of passing lanes, a lot of opportunities out there. It’s great sailing these things downwind. We had a couple of runs where we were getting 22 or 23 knots out of the boat. Just sensational.”

Cameron Appleton, tactician, Team Aqua, on the hazards of spinnaker handling: “A small tear can lead to a big tear. It's been a big day for spinnakers, and it's not going to stop after today!”

The locals have been trying hard but so far crew work has been quite poor. Puerto Calero, 12 December 2008. Photo copyright Nico Martinez

Daniel Calero, owner, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, seeing the funny side of a difficult day: “I hate spinnakers, I always like to break them. Today we broke four spinnakers, and I'm not talking about little rips, I'm talking about four spinnakers, totally destroyed. The language on the boat was very friendly, very polite. ‘Excuse me, would you mind helping me take down this spinnaker please?’”

Daniel Calero, on how he plans to encourage the crew tomorrow: “I have a thin piece of wood [a cane] and I'm going to slap the crew on the backs of their hands. I think that should improve the crew work. If it doesn't, then at least I will feel better.”

Torbjorn Tornqvist, owner, Artemis, on his brief but enjoyable outing in race 1: “It was very good sailing, exciting. I couldn’t say it feels like home yet [steering the RC44]. Far from home, in fact!”

The RC44 fleet sails off the Lanzarote coast. Puerto Calero, 12 December 2008. Photo copyright Nico Martinez

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At 12:33 AM, Blogger Ben said...

Pierre, the RC44 video isn't working. It stops at about 12 secs in.


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