by Jo Grindley
On the first day of fleet racing at the RC44 Cascais Cup, a two metre swell and light breeze that never topped eight knots, demanded maximum concentration from the owner drivers. It was two of the British teams competing in Portugal that had the most consistent results throughout the three race day, to sit at the top of the overnight leaderboard.
RC44 Cascais Cup 2013
Katusha, with Steve Howe at the helm and Andy Horton calling the shots, were quick out of the blocks in the day’s opening race. They won the pin end and headed left off the line, their main challenge for the lead came from Team Aqua who had started more conservatively in the middle of the line and played the shifts well up the first beat.
Aqua were first to tack onto the starboard layline, Team Italia slotting in underneath. As the duo approached the mark Katusha came in from the left, tacked on Team Italia’s line, forcing the afterguard of Massimo Barranco and Russell Coutts to make a double tack to round the mark. Katusha rounded first, Team Aqua close behind with Team Italia third, the places remained the same to the finish.
Race two saw a complete change of fortunes, Team Cascais – Aleph Racing, helmed this week by Portuguese sailor Patrick de Barros, finished last in race one. A good pin end start in the second race of the day saw them round the windward mark ahead of the fleet and go onto win unchallenged. Behind them places changed, Peninsula Petroleum’s (John Bassadone/Vasco Vascotto) early gybe on the first run took them into second. Team Aqua, who hadn’t had their best of starts, picked their way through the fleet to take third on the final run.
The mixed results for local Cascais resident Patrick de Barros didn’t spoil the enjoyment of such close one design racing throughout the day. 'Today we had a tenth a first and a seventh which just shows how difficult it is to keep a consistent scoreline out there. This is a very competitive fleet and what is surprising is the small time you have between first and last place sometimes just a minute and a half between the two. To win a race is fantastic, my French crew were outstanding, we had a good start and everything went well. In this fleet if you have a very good start that’s about 60% of the race.'
In the final race of the day the conditions hadn’t changed but all the crews had got to grips with the difficult sailing conditions. At the pin end it was Synergy, Peninsula Petroleum and Team Aqua all hitting the line at the gun, the same teams that filled the top three places at the finish of the race – Team Aqua taking the win from Synergy Russian Sailing Team (Valentin Zavadnikov/Ed Baird) with Peninsula Petroleum in third.
Team Aqua were the top performer of the day, finishing with a 2,3,1 score-line to take the overnight lead. Owner and helmsman, Chris Bake gave his take on the days racing in Cascias Bay. 'It was pretty choppy and the wind was light but all in all we managed to find some boat speed. The first race was good the second we were a little deep off the line but managed to find a few channels in the first beat which got us to the front of the pack and managed to stay there. The third race we got off the line pretty well and were able to chip away at some of our friendly competitors and by the end had got ourselves into the lead.'
The other consistent performer of the day was John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum finishing the day in second overall, three points off the lead. Whilst other team’s maybe wishing for easier sailing conditions and more wind tomorrow, the British team’s Italian tactician, Vasco Vascotto, is hoping for more of the same. 'It was a very good day for us, we were consistent in conditions that were very challenging and at the end of the day we had a second third and fourth, and if I could sign up for the same again tomorrow I would! Obviously it’s very difficult but the most important thing for us is we improved our upwind speed throughout the day, a little quicker in every race and this, to us, is even more important than the overall result, to know you are taking the right steps forward in improving your performance.'
Conditions are expected to be similar for the second day of racing, with light winds, but a smaller swell. Racing continues at the RC44 Cascais Cup with four days of fleet racing from 3-6th October.