The Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup starts December 10-14, with some strong Atlantic breezes in store for the first day of match racing. This event is the last regatta in the RC 44 2008 Championship Tour. The season's match, fleet race and long distance champions will be crowned. The pressure is rising: there is a lot at stake.
The six teams got a taste of the sort of conditions they can expect in the 300m-deep Atlantic waters off the coast of Lanzarote today. With the sun shining, the air temperature nudging just over 20 degrees Celsius, and the north-easterly breeze gusting just over 20 knots, today's practice fleet race offered a taste of the spectacular racing in store for the next five days.
Dean Barker was at the helm of Artemis II, Torbjorn Tornqvist's Swedish entry, and the New Zealand skipper sailed deep into the left-hand corner of the course, close to the tuna fish nets beneath the spectacular volcanic cliffs of Lanzarote. 'We felt we were in a pretty strong right phase off the start line, so we figured it would go back to the left at some point. It did and we were able to capitalise on it.' They certainly did, as Artemis sailed to a commanding lead at the first windward mark, which the Swedish team extended to an even bigger victory two laps later.
Larry Ellison also opted for a left-hand strategy up the first windward leg, often having to live in bad air from Artemis to get over there, so BMW ORACLE Racing was some way behind at the first mark, but still led the chasing pack around the first mark in second place. However down the first run the American boat was overhauled by Igor Lah's Team Cereef and Chris Bake's Team Aqua.
Team Cereef pulled out early from the practice race, while lying in second place, but tactician James Spithill was happy with their outing. 'We had good wind, really shifty, but I think it's going to be pretty fun. The forecast for the next few days is quite windy and we are looking forward to some great sailing.'
Chris Bake flew into Lanzarote and jumped on to his boat, Team Aqua, with minutes to spare before the first of the practice starts organised by Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio today. The sailor from United Arab Emirates is known for enjoying strong winds, and he is looking forward to Lanzarote providing his favourite conditions. 'There has been a lot of expectation coming here - bigger seas, bigger wind. And now we're here, what a spectacular landscape! I've never been here before. The conditions were unbelievable. We had 8 to 20 knots, and everything in between and all in the space of about 10 seconds. You can definitely the air mass here, it feels like there's more weight to the wind than some of the lake venues that we've been racing in.'
Daniel Calero knows the conditions in Lanzarote better than anyone. The general manager of Puerto Calero has spent his whole life here, so he knows what to expect. However, the experience of his crew with RC44 racing is limited to the past three days, when Russell Coutts has been lending his knowledge and experience to help bring Team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero up to speed. Calero is fully aware of the mountain he has to climb if he is going to be able to take on some of the world's best sailors. 'The other teams are focused on racing, and we are still learning to sail this boat. Today we had some breakages, blocks blowing up and things like that, and José [Maria Ponce, the team's match racing helmsman] and I were struggling to get the same speed and angle as the other boats. The RC44 is very dynamic. Downwind these boats are really fun; we had 19 knots of boatspeed at one point.'
Organised by Puerto Calero, a superb real estate development on Lanzarote's seafront, the RC 44 Gold Cup begins on Wednesday December 10 with the match racing event. After a full round robin held in two days, the team owners will then steer their boats for three days of fleet racing. The DHL Trophy regatta will take place on Sunday; the winner of this race will be awarded with the DHL Trophy, whilst the points of the regatta will be incorporated in the fleet race ranking. The teams involved in the Gold Cup:
BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison / Russell Coutts
Ceeref, Igor Lah / James Spithill
Team Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros / Mark Mendelblatt
Team Aqua, Chris Bake / Cameron Appleton
Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist / Dean Barker
Islas Canarias Puerto Calero – José Calero / José Maria Ponce RC 44 Championship Tour 2008: Fleet race - Provisional results after five events - (Ranking, name of team, helmsman, points)
1) Team Hiroshi – Città di Milano, Armando Giulietti, 100 points
2) Team Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros, 126 points
3) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 136 points
4) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 150 points
5) Team Sea Dubai, DIMC, 196 points
6) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 209 points
7) Organika, Maciej Navrocki, 237 points
8) Cro-A-Sail, Miroslav Reljanovic, 241 points
9) Beecom, Isao Mita, 248 points
10) Mascalzone Latino, Vincenzo Onorato, 327 points
11) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 330 points
12) Magia, Fabio Apollonio, 351 points Match race - Provisional results after five events - (Ranking, name of team, helmsman, points)
1) Ceeref, James Spithill, 6 points
2) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 13 points
3) Team Banco Espirito Santo, different helmsmen, 14 points
4) Team Hiroshi – Città di Milano, Seb Col & Armando Giulietti, 16 points
5) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton, 17 points
6) Team Sea Dubai, Markus Wieser, 23 points
7) Beecom, Isao Mita, 30 points
8) Cro-A-Sail, Morten Henricksen, 31 points
9) Organika, Philippe Presti, 31 points DHL Trophy - Provisional results after five events - (Ranking, name of team, points)
1) Team Banco Espirito Santo, 8 points
2) Team Hiroshi – Città di Milano, Armando Giulietti, 9 points
3) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 18 points
4) Team Sea Dubai, DIMC, 21 points
5) Organika, Maciej Navrocki, 22 points
6) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 25 points
7) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 25 points