The lengthy first day of the Adris RC44 World Championship proved to be a challenge for PRO Peter Reggio and his team as they attempted to make the best of tricky light conditions off the Croatian coast. Three races were eventually held for the 15 RC44s, with a different winner in each: Fleet racing favourites Chris Bake and his Team Aqua crew claimed the first race; newly crowned match racing champions Synergy Russian Sailing Team won the second, while Pieter Heerema turned his Dutch team’s fortunes around to pip John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum at the post in the third.
After winning the first race, Team Aqua followed this up with a 3-4, leaving them five points clear of Igor Lah’s second-placed Ceeref.
As well as winning the fleet racing championship in 2007, Team Aqua is also the defending champion, intent on being the RC44’s first back to back season winner.
'The secret for us today was the guys being patient – they did a really good job of keeping us going fast, which helps when you are going in the direction where you think the pressure is going to be,' explained Aqua’s tactician Cameron Appleton.
Weather-wise today was almost a carbon copy of yesterday with the wind fading to below five knots and shifting hard right after lunch, but with the sea breeze filling in a little more later on. Once again the current was a factor – going right to left across the beat as the wind veered towards the afternoon’s end.
There were at least two occasions when Team Aqua was short on the layline going into the top mark, which Appleton admitted was him misjudging the set from half a mile out.
'We hoped for a solid day and I think we achieved our goal,' he continued. 'It’s hard mentally to sail the boats in lighter breeze with all the finesse that goes into it.'
For most teams sailing in light conditions resulted in a high scoring day, however behind Aqua, Igor Lah’s Ceeref showed the best consistency with a 5-5-3. Based in nearby Slovenia, Ceeref is effectively the ‘local’ team here in Rovinj and, like Aqua, is one of the longest standing among the RC44s.
Lah started sailing in the class in 2007, when it was barely one third the size it is now and as the field has grown larger, he says he has enjoyed the competition increasing. 'Now it is amazing, it is much better. And great sailors are here.'
Lah praised his Italian tactician Michele Ivaldi, who helped ensure that they regularly started well by keeping their noses clean and avoiding the most crowded parts of the line.
One of the most exciting moments of the day came at the first top mark rounding in race two, when the wind died for those who had just rounded and were attempting unsuccessfully to fill their kites, while numerous backmarkers, who were approaching upwind without rights on port, tried to thread their way between them. This resulted in several boats, including Team Nika and No Way Back, being penalised.
Peninsula Petroleum was one of the teams to lose out as skipper John Bassadone recounted: 'It was a little too close for comfort. We didn’t have right of way over a couple of boats that were already on the run so we had to avoid them. A couple of teams got a penalty…it was lucky that nobody got hurt.'
Bassadone’s team, where Italian dynamo Vasco Vascotto is calling tactics, turned their fortunes around in the third race today. Peninsula Petroleum led around every mark but on the final run allowed Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back to split gybes with them. In the very final metres before the line, the Dutch boat came in with pace and just sneaked ahead.
'It was a good race from start to finish,' said Bassadone, who reckoned they had lost the lead through sailing too conservatively. 'It’s nice to start well and continue to lead the fleet and finish in a good position as opposed to having a lucky shift.'
Kirill Podolsky’s RUS 7 Sail Racing Team got off to its strongest start ever in a regatta. In today’s second race RUS 7 did well out to the right of the first beat to lead for the first lap before being overhauled by Synergy. She currently lies fifth overall.
The Croatian Olympic Sailing Team was in Rovinj today and many had the opportunity to ride in the ‘Ninth man’ slot on board the RC44s.
Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic, fifth in the Finn at London 2012, got to sail on Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis Racing, which was OCS in today’s first race. 'I was just keeping quiet and looking around, as this was my first time,' said Gaspic. 'The boats are really exciting – rocket ships compared to any other big boats. You can see that everything is like on a small dinghy because you can feel every inch of the movement of the crew or the rudder or the trim. And when you have 7-8 knots of true wind, you are going upwind at 8 knots – that amazing for a small boat.'
Racing continues tomorrow at 11.30 with another four fleet races scheduled at the Adris RC44 World Championship.