After James Spithill steering Team Ceeref to victory in all 10 match races of the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup, today owner Igor Lah continued that winning streak in fine style, taking three of the four fleet races, and finishing second in the other. Can anyone stop the Slovenian team?
The wind just never seems to stop in Lanzarote, not that anyone’s complaining in the RC44 fleet. Why would you, when you’ve got 20 knots of breeze against a stunning backdrop that looks like you’ve landed on another planet?
If there is any cause for complaint, it’s that Igor Lah and James Spithill have a stranglehold of this event, and they appear to be almost as dominant in the fleet racing as they proved to be in the match racing series. Off the start line of the first race today, Team Ceeref made a bad start and were forced to tack on to port as the fleet sailed away to the Lanzarote shore. However the Slovenian boat found a good right-hand windshift after a couple of minutes, Spithill called for a tack and Igor Lah’s crew turned a losing position into a lead, which they would hold to the finish.
Team Aqua were lying second at the first mark, had a poor downwind leg and dropped to fourth at the leeward mark. With the leading bunch going left up the final beat, Cameron Appleton liked Aqua’s angle on port tack on the seaward side of the course. Owner Chris Bake banged the corner and came right back into the fight, rounding just behind Artemis in third place at the final turning mark.
On the final run to the finish Artemis broke the gooseneck fitting on the mast, and they managed to nurse the boat across the line in third, having yielded second place to Team Aqua. It was an all-too-short outing for Artemis owner Torbjorn Tornqvist who was forced to retire from racing for the remainder of the day as the crew of the Swedish boat set about fixing the carbon gooseneck in time for tomorrow.
Although no other team could match Ceeref for consistency, everyone had their moment at the front at some point. Best of the rest was BMW ORACLE Racing, with Larry Ellison steering his boat to victory in race three, aided by new tactician Mark Mendelblatt. Russell Coutts, who had been Ellison’s tactician for the match racing, switched over to Banco Espirito Santo for the fleet racing.
The Kiwi tactician found some good shifts on the shore side of the course but couldn’t fully unravel the mysteries of the shifty and gusty race track. Owner Patrick de Barros said there didn’t seem to be any way up the middle of the course. It was a matter of picking your side and throwing all your chips on one corner, and hoping that you’d picked the right one.
The combination of shifts and gusts made for an interesting time downwind. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero were competitive against the more experienced teams on the upwind legs, but poor crew work let them down on many of the offwind legs. They shredded four spinnakers in the course of the day, and owner Daniel Calero joked that he would be introducing corporal punishment to the crew tomorrow, hoping that the threat of the cane would stem the flood of boat handling errors. Fleet-race, provisional results after four races:
(Name of team, helmsman, results, points)
1) Team Ceeref, Igor Lah, 1,1,2,1 - 5 points
2) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 4,3,1,2 - 10 points
3) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 2,2,4,4 - 12 points
4) Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros, 5,4,3,3 - 15 points
5) Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, Daniel Calero, 6,5,5,5 - 21 points
6) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 3,7,7,7 - 24 points
Saturday the fleet racing contest continues with two windward/leeward races followed by the long distance race for the DHL Trophy.