Thursday, October 01, 2009

BMW Oracle lead fleet races at Bank Sarasin RC 44 Portoroz Cup

[Source: RC44 Class Association] The American team is back on top after a disappointing match race. With Ian Vickers at the helm, BMW ORACLE Racing leads Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis and Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back.

Four fleet regattas took place today with a southerly breeze ranging from 8 to 15 knots. BMW ORACLE Racing had an excellent day after their disappointing match race. With Ian Vickers at the helm and Russell Coutts calling the shots, the American team started the day with two bullets and finished it with two premature starts. Thanks to a great come-back in race four, BMW ORACLE Racing leads the provisional ranking ahead of Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis and Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back.

The first race was also the windiest. The breeze reached 15-18 knots in the second beat, surprising the teams who were still sailing with their genoas. The new team Katusha, with Melges 32 world champion Pieter Taselaar at the helm, took a brilliant start at the pin end of the line and looked for a while as if he would pursue his team’s winning streak. But major wind shifts at the windward mark reshuffled the cards, giving BMW ORACLE Racing and Artemis a slight advantage.

Video highlights from the fleet races in Bank Sarasin RC 44 Portoroz Cup. Portoroz, 1 October 2009. Video copyright RC44 Class Association

The second race turned into a match race between BMW ORACLE Racing and Artemis, followed closely by Organika – who had once again an excellent day - and Team Sea Dubai. The race was very close and the four last boats crossed the finishing line within five seconds. Arriving on port tack at the pin end - but with an overlap – Islas Canarias Puerto Calero managed to squeeze in nicely, forcing a group of boats arriving on starboard tack to bear away brutally, loosing precious ground and places. The Austrians, who were the furthest away from the action, didn’t give enough room and got penalised.

The breeze started to drop during race three. BMW ORACLE Racing, Katusha and Modri Gaj were recalled whilst No Way Back started at full speed at the pin end of the line, taking the lead and building up a comfortable advantage. Finally back on good form after a difficult start in this event, Igor Lah’s Ceeref attacked the Dutch boat during the last run and finished two seconds behind the winner after a match race type leg.

The last race took place in five knots of breeze. The Committee end of the line was heavily favoured, resulting in a jam and a light collision between Chris Bake’s Team Aqua and Michael Reardon’s Modri Gaj, who was found guilty and incurred a penalty point. BMW ORACLE Racing was once again recalled, but the team managed a superb come back, finishing fifth and keeping its provisional lead in the overall ranking. Artemis, who was also fighting for the provisional lead, chose to start at the pin end of the line, probably hoping for a big left shift. This didn’t happen and the team struggled with the shifts, finishing sixth. The winner of the race, No Way Back, benefited from Katusha’s loose control. The Russian team built up a huge lead during the second run but didn’t manage to maintain it. During the last run, Katusha went to the right of the course when all the other boats went left; a fatal mistake that cost them the victory.

On board BMW Oracle, Russell Coutts keeps an eye on Paul Cayard and Katusha. Portoroz, 1 October 2009. Photo copyright Ales Fevzer / RC44 Class Association

They said:

Torbjorn Tornqvist, owner and helmsman, Artemis: “It was a very tricky day and it took me a little while to get the right feeling; I was a little bit rusty at the beginning. The level is increasing with those new teams; it is a clear trend in this class. Katusha is doing very well and I am sure this team will be dangerous.”

Ian Vickers, helmsman, BMW ORACLE Racing: “We had two very good races today. We took good starts and could sail in clean air, which obviously helps. We also had a good pace. Our last regatta was also excellent although we got a PMS. We fought back all along and managed to finish fifth.”

Pieter Heerema, owner and helmsman, No Way Back: “The first two races didn’t turn in our favour; I think that we were just incredibly unlucky. But I wasn’t rusty: I have been steering most of the match race. We just kept concentrating and sailing as good as we could and it paid off in the next two races. At the end of the day, I am very happy with our day.”

Chris Bake, owner and helmsman, Team Aqua: “The boat is going fast and we sailed well. But we never got a clean start and we were always sailing in the middle of the pack, which makes things difficult. There are more boats, and the level is increasing. Every time I sail it gets a little bit better.”

Fleet race, provisional results after four races:
(Ranking, name of team, helmsman, results, points

1) BMW ORACLE Racing, Ian Vickers, 1, 1, 8, 4 – 14 points
2) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 2, 2, 5, 6 – 15 points
3) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 11, 6, 1, 1 – 19 points
4) Organika, Maciej Nawrocki, 8, 3, 3, 5 – 19 points
5) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 6, 5, 6, 3 – 20 points
6) Team Katusha, Pieter Taselaar, 3, 7, 10, 2 – 22 points
7) Team Sea Dubai, Yousef Lahej, 7, 4, 4, 9 – 24 points
8) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 9, 9, 2, 7 – 27 points
9) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Juan Calero, 5, 8, 7, 11 – 31 points
10) Modri Gaj, Michael Reardon, 4, 10, 11, 8 – 34 (incl 1 point penalty)
11) Team Austria, René Mangold, 10, 11, 9, 10 – 40 points

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