A stiff breeze blowing along the coast, along with an impressively large Atlantic swell made the opening day of fleet racing at the RC44 Cascais Cup a very tricky one, particularly for helmsmen.
In the three races sailed, consistency was difficult and of the 12 teams competing, John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum was the only team to manage it. With a 3-3-1, the Gibraltar-based crew is now the runaway fleet racing leader, seven points clear of Chris Bake’s Aqua and Valentin Zavadnikov and Leonid Lebedev’s Synergy.
With three more days of fleet racing to go, Bassadone wasn’t celebrating just yet, but was pleased with their performance, as was Peninsula Petroleum’s Italian tactician, Vasco Vascotto, who commented: 'It was a good day - we were proud about what we did. We sailed the boat with good power, good karma, good everything. The crew is happy and when that happens everything is a lot easier. Plus John is getting better and better, which makes my job easier.'
Vascotto managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat in the third and final race when they got off to a terrible start. But this ended up benefitting them as they found a nice lane once they’d tacked. 'It was very clean,' Vascotto continued. 'We didn’t rush, we waited for our moment, if others made mistakes, then we passed them...'
From their horrible start, they picked off the entire fleet until they were second coming into the finish line, ultimately surfing past Aleph Racing to take the win. 'The guys on board did a fantastic job,' Vascotto added. 'They pump on every wave, they push hard every single second and this is the way to do it.'
Aleph Racing had the most up and down day in terms of results. Finishing seventh in the first race, the French crew was then forced to retire from the second with a broken jib cunningham and then led the third until they were pipped at the post, by Peninsula.
'We managed to tack very early after the start because there was a cloud coming and I was expecting a wind shift to the right which happened,' described Aleph’s tactician Mathieu Richard. 'We got a good lead from the shift and managed to stay ahead until the very end. It was really frustrating to lose by half a boat length, but it was a good race.'
After a collision yesterday saw costly points deducted from its match racing score, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua came out of the blocks strongly today, winning the first race.
'We had a fantastic start and the fleet had the right side backed to pay and we were in smoother water, with a nice breeze line and were one of the most left boats,' said the team’s Cameron Appleton. The Kiwi tactician added that the day favoured more experienced drivers. 'It was very much a helmsman’s day - the guys who could steer the best rose to the top, because of the cross sea and the boats getting corkscrewed around. Downwind it was all about your timing on how much how you had the boat loaded, when you chased a wave and when you didn’t. We are happy – we survived day one.'
After their strong start, Aqua was subsequently nailed in the second race when they were pinned out on the final run, causing them to finish in a disappointing ninth.
Winner of race two today was Vladimir Prosikhin’s Nika, sailing with his team’s new tactician, American Terry Hutchinson. 'It is fun – a very high level indeed. I am learning a lot of things,' said Prosikhin of how he’s getting on with the former Farr 40 and TP52 champion. 'All of our starts were good, we had good boat speed and Terry read the wind shifts excellently.'
In the race they won, Hutchinson said he felt they had started well mid-line but had played the shifts well up the first beat. In reality, Nika’s lead at the top mark was enormous, by far the biggest of any in today’s three races.
In his first fleet racing with the team, Hutchinson said he was pleased with their fifth place overall after day one: 'It was hard. It doesn’t feel as good as that, but that shows there is room for improvement. If you had said to me this morning we would finish fifth, I would have taken it. Vladimir and the guys did good work in that middle race. In fairness, the first race we got a ‘well sailed’ eighth, the second race we won, and the ninth in race three, I was mad with myself over. We could easily have been sixth but we messed it up on the second beat.'
Day two of fleet racing resumes tomorrow at 11.30 local time. RC44 website