On day one of the RC44 Virgin Gorda Cup Virgin Gorda served up perfect match race conditions. A steady 11-14 knot easterly breeze and flat water allowed the race committee to complete all nine flights inside the confines of Virgin Gorda's North Sound. Penalties flew and a few collisions meant it was an exciting day for both the sailors and the umpires alike at the event hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.
Synergy Russian Sailing Team - RC44 Virgin Gorda Cup 2014
Defending match race champions Team Aqua, with tactician Cameron Appleton at the helm, made sure they stayed at the top of the leaderboard, losing just one of their eight matches to Synergy Russian Sailing Team, with Ed Baird driving.
Swedish team Artemis Racing, with owner Torbjorn Tornqvist at the wheel and triple Olympic medallist Iain Percy calling the shots, lost their first race to Gazprom Youth Sailing Challenge; with Russian Olympic match racer Ekaterina Skudina at helm for the day, but quickly found their form winning the next four races.
Synergy Russian Sailing Team and Katusha with Andy Horton at the helm, both won five and lost three, leaving them second and third respectively on the leaderboard after the first of five match racing days throughout the RC44 season.
This was Andrea Pozzi's, owner driver of Bombarda Racing, first foray into match racing having only started competitive sailing two years ago in the Melges 32 fleet. The Italian team finished the day with just one win from eight races, but Pozzi enjoyed the experience. 'Today was very difficult, for me there are lots of professionals to compete against and this is my first time match racing. It is a new style of driving and very different to what I'm used to with fleet racing but we won a match so I am happy with the day.'
In the penultimate match of the day, a collision with the Lunajets Aleph Racing saw Tornqvist's Swedish team black flagged; handing victory to Aleph Racing, who limped back into port for overnight repairs, Artemis finished the day on four wins and four losses. Not able to compete in the final race of the day the French Aleph team still managed to finish fourth overall with five wins and three losses.
Artemis Racing's tactician Iain Percy explains the moment of the crash 'We tried to go inside (of Aleph at the top mark) but didn't have the space to do the turn. It's hard with these keelboats, once you're going in a certain direction, you're committed. Everyone knew the crash was coming about five second before it happened but there's not a lot you can do.' Percy added 'Were going to help the Aleph team get out there tomorrow, they have been gracious in understanding that it is one of those racing incidents that adds spice to the sport.'
The RC44 Virgin Gorda Cup continues through to 18th February, with four days of fleet racing where only the amateur owner helms can take the wheel.
RC44 Championship Tour Overall Match Race Ranking (After one event)
1. Team Aqua - seven wins - one loss = seven
2. Synergy Russian Sailing Team - five wins - three loss = five
3. Katusha - five wins - three loss = five
4. Lunajets Aleph Racing - five wins - three loss = five
5. Peninsula Petroleum Sailing Team - four wins - four loss (one*) = three
6. Team Nika - three wins - five loss = three
7. Artemis Racing - four wins - four loss (three*) = one
8. Bombarda Racing - one win - seven loss = one
9. Gazprom Youth Sailing Challenge - two win - six loss (two*) = zero