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Ellison wins Cagliari RC 44 Cup match race event

by Bernard Schopfer on 25 Apr 2008
BMW ORACLE Racing and Team Banco Espirito Santo rounding the leeward gate. Coypright Francesco Nonnoi, Yacht Club Cagliari - Cagliari RC 44 Cup 2008 . ©

Who would have thought? The winner of the match racing event of the Cagliari RC 44 Cup is Larry Ellison, the only non professional helmsman involved in this event; a competition that reassembles some of the best match race skippers in the world and that is with no doubt the number one match racing event of the spring.

Britain's Ben Ainslie on board Team Banco Espirito Santo finished in third place behind Team Ceeref, James Spithill. The fleet race event starts tomorrow. With Vincenzo Onorato just back from his victory at the Farr 40 worlds, whilst the owners get back to the helm of their boats. A new event is starting. The show goes on!

The second day of the Cagliari Cup started – unlike yesterday – with light winds. Team Aqua, with Cameron Appleton at the helm, had a great first race against the favourite Team Ceeref - unbeaten for the pas two events with James Spithill at the helm. Despite loosing the start, Appleton managed to fight its way back and beat his opponent by three seconds, putting an end to Ceeref’s winning streak and getting back in the fight for a podium position.

The second fleet of the day (the eight all together) saw an interesting match between Mateusz Kusznierewicz and Ben Ainslie; the recent Star world champion and double Olympic medallist against the British triple Olympic medallist! Ainslie, on board Team Banco Espirito Santo, took the lead after an intense tacking dual, to win the race with a comfortable margin. This fleet also saw Cro-A-Sail’s first victory during a match with owner Miroslav Reljanovic at the helm. Cro-A-Sail will later on finish the event at an excellent fifth place, thanks to five victories.

The third flight caused a lot of upsets within the fleet. Indeed, the wind dropped dramatically in the middle of the race, then turned by 180° and increased to 20 knots! The leeward gate became a never seen before windward gate whilst the teams hesitated between the spinnaker, genoa or jib depending on their position. Unaffected by the situation, Larry Ellison and his team on board BMW Oracle Racing got their fifth consecutive victory, getting closer to the title despite a difficult match to come. At the same time, the wind played a little trick to their future opponent, Ben Ainslie, who lost control of the situation together with an essential point to Marcus Wieser’s Team Sea Dubai (who got an excellent four points today).

Then came the race of the day, between Team Banco Espirito Santo and BMW Oracle Racing. Peter Reggio, the chief Race Officer, was wise enough to cancel the first attempt after the hairiest of all pre-starts, in 30 knots of wind, re-launching the starting procedure half an hour later in a steady 20 knots.

Ben Ainslie managed to control his opponent and take an early lead, controlling BMW Oracle Racing throughout the first beat and consecutive downwind leg, the two boats surfing at high speed next to each other. Russell Coutts gave the right advice to his helmsman Larry Ellison during the second beat, choosing the right side of the course and benefiting from a ten seconds too late tack from Ainslie.

This was the match: Ellison tacked to starboard and passed slightly ahead of Ainslie, controlling the last downwind leg to cross the line six seconds ahead of Ainslie in a huge shout of joy and liberation. Game, set and match, BMW Oracle Racing could not loose the title despite one more match to compete.

BMW Oracle Racing wins the match race event ahead of Team Ceeref. Team Banco Espirito Santo and Team Aqua have both won six races but Ainslie gets the third spot on the podium thanks to his victory against Cameron Appleton.

Larry Ellison, BMW Oracle Racing: 'This is a team victory, and I am thrilled to be part of it. The racing was fantastic and these boats are just unbelievable. I am very lucky because it is an owner’s class with pro sailors steering the match and Russell let me steer his boat… I think that this is an amazing accomplishment, and I am very proud of what we have done.'

James Spithill, Team Ceeref: 'We didn’t sail too well today, and made some mistakes, particularly in our match against Aqua. But we are very happy to finish the event in second. It was absolutely superb. I am very impressed by Larry Ellison’s performance. He sailed extremely well. It’s his first time on this boat, with this team, and the level of the fleet is just huge. What he’s done is amazing.'

Miroslav Reljanovic, Cro-A-Sail: 'I wanted to experience steering in a match race. Of course, this was very difficult with such a strong breeze and I asked Morten Henrikson to steer the pre-starts. But it was very exciting and we got in some incredible situations. I have definitely learned a lot.'

Armando Giulietti, owner, team Hiroshi – Città di Milano: 'It was a tough day for us. We won all our starts, and reached the windward mark in the lead every single time. But we lost a lot during the downwind. We had problems with our jibes, and made mistakes. It is the first time we sail with such strong wind. But it’s the same for the others…'

Cameron Appleton, Team Aqua: 'We had some good matches today, and a great one against Ceeref. There’s always a great rivalry between our two teams and it’s good to beat them! We learned a lot in yesterday’s breeze, and it has paid off today.'

Match-race, final results:
(Name of team, helmsman, No of victories / defeats, points)

1) BMW Oracle Racing, Larry Ellison, 8/1 - 8 points
2) Team Ceeref, James Spithill, 7/2 - 7 points
3) Team Banco Espirito Santo, Ben Ainslie, 6/3 - 6 points
4) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton 6/3 - 6 points
5) Cro-A-Sail, Morten Henrikson / Miroslav Reljanovic, 5/4 - 5 points
6) Team Hiroshi - Città di Milano, Sébastien Col 5/4 - 4 points (1 penalty)
7) Sea Dubai, Markus Wieser 4/5 – 4 points
8) Team Beecom, Jesper Radich 3/6 – 3 points
9) Mascalzone Latino, Jes Gram Hansen 0/9 – 0 point
9) Team Organika, Mateusz Kusznierewicz 0/9 – 0 point
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