by Jessica Gray
For the opening fleet races at the RC44 Puerto Sotogrande Cup, there was another day of the same great conditions, with Mediterranean sun and wind in abundant supply, but once again an awkward offshore breeze was blowing. With wind shifts often as large as 50 degrees, the tacticians had their work cut out for them.
RC44 fleet in Sotogrande
Trying to avoid high scores was the name of the game today and the team that achieved this best was Peninsula Petroleum, the new fleet racing series leader in the 2014 RC44 Championship.
'Overall it was a good result,' said Peninsula Petroleum’s owner, John Bassadone. 'Everyone had a mixed day. We managed to be consistent. It was very, very tricky on the race course with the wind direction, but at the same time it gave you a few possibilities to recover. All in all it was very enjoyable.'
While Sotogrande lies close to Bassadone’s homeport of Gibraltar, he denies Peninsula Petroleum holds a ‘home team advantage’ for while the giant Andalucian residential and marina complex has excellent facilities, it rarely hosts yacht races.
Peninsula Petroleum blasting downwind - RC44 Puerto Sotogrande Cup 2014
Star of the show today on board Peninsula Petroleum was the team’s tactician Vasco Vascotto. 'The forecast doesn’t help you at all,' advises the Italian. 'Even the starting line doesn’t help you– the only thing you can do is to play the shifts.'
To do this it was vital to maintain an open mind, he continues: 'The most important thing today was to try to sail thinking that ‘something will change’. You have to take the opportunities and the nice shifts when they come, because they will come.' This involved never sailing into a corner and Vascotto agreed that of all the 11 boats competing Peninsula Petroleum was the one which had played the middle of the course the most today.
With three races sailed, starting in an 18 knot wind that only petered out in the last race, there were three different winners. Peninsula Petroleum started well, winning the first, keeping a nose ahead during a congested finish with the top four boats virtually overlapped.
Aleph Racing - RC44 Puerto Sotogrande Cup 2014
Rivalling Peninsula Petroleum in the first two races was the French team on Aleph Racing, but they sailed a disappointing final race, coming home last.
'We found it difficult all the way through,' admitted Aleph Racing’s owner, Hugues Lepic. 'We had two good races and one difficult one. In the third race, we could have been a lot better, but things just didn’t work out. In the middle of the second upwind we had to go to the left and that wasn’t a good choice. We fell into a hole and there was no recovery from that.'
However Lepic denied that it was a lottery on the race course. 'We will be doing 12-14 races so at the end of it, people will be seeing some very good races and some very difficult ones.'
Gazprom Youth Sailing Challenge - RC44 Puerto Sotogrande Cup 2014
Winner of race two was Kirill Podolsky’s Gazprom Youth Sailing Challenge, where Cameron Dunn is standing in for Igor Lisovenko as tactician for this regatta. They too had a poor final race. Dunn admitted they chose the wrong leeward gate mark to round, putting them on the wrong side for the final upwind leg, caused them to come home eighth.
'It was challenging – to say the least. It is really shifty out there, really tough yachting, but we are happy with the way we sailed today. We messed up the last lap of the last race, but other than that we had a very good day. If you could get off the start line – which took some doing- tactics are a huge part of this race course, whereas boat speed is not nearly as important as it normally is. You have just got to be content that you are not going to get it right all the time and not let that put you off your game.'
The final race win of the day went to Torbjörn Törnqvist’s new royal blue hulled Artemis Racing. In their case this result came after a disappointing 9, 7 score line. In race three they were up with the front runners all around the course but, unlike Aleph, chose the favourable right hand side of the final beat.
'That is where the last of the wind was,' explained the Swedish team’s tactician, British multiple Olympic medallist, Iain Percy. They came into the top mark for the final time in the lead and subsequently hung on. 'It was fun racing with it being so shifty and tricky – there were always places to gain all the way around. It was an enjoyable first win for the new boat. Hopefully the first of many.'
After her performance today, Peninsula Petroleum has pulled out a three point lead over Synergy Russian Sailing Team, the first of three Russian teams gunning for the top spot. Gazprom youth Sailing Challenge is a further two points behind, tied with their team mates, Bronenosec Sailing Team.
Racing will continue tomorrow for day two of fleet racing, with the first warning signal at 11.00 CET.