RC44 Gold Cup. Saturday saw the RC44 fleet compete for the DHL Trophy, the long distance race which on this occasion was a 15-mile race along the coast to Arrecife Airport and back to Puerto Calero. Dean Barker called some good wind shifts up the windward leg to the first turning mark near Puerto Calero, allowing Torbjorn Tornqvist to steer Artemis into a small lead ahead of the chasing pack.
However, Patrick de Barros is the proven master of the long distance format in the RC44 fleet, and gradually the Portuguese owner steered Banco Espirito Santo to within striking distance of Artemis on the final reach to the finish. Just as it looked like these two might be in for a photo finish, one of the Portuguese crew lost his footing and suddenly de Barros was forced to tack round and fish his man out of the Atlantic.
It was a quick man-overboard recovery, and no one was harmed, but it did allow Artemis to race home to an easy victory, with local boys on Islas Canarias Puerto Calero sweeping past to second place ahead of Banco. Daniel Calero was delighted after a frustrating week of gear breakdowns and poor crew work. Today his team showed real signs of improvement and they could well be a force to be reckoned with by the time the fleet returns next February for the first event of the 2009 RC44 season.
Even if Patrick de Barros was upset not to win the day, his third place at least secured him a comfortable overall season victory for the DHL Trophy. He also had a good outing in the two windward/leeward heats which took place before the long distance race.
In the first race it didn’t start at all well for de Barros as he was called back after breaking the line by little more than a second. Russell Coutts now had his work cut out as tactician, but managed to grind Banco back into the pack, eventually claiming third across the line. This race should have been Artemis’s for the taking, as Tornqvist led nicely into the leeward mark. Instead of rounding it, though, the Swedish boat smacked the mark, forcing Tornqvist into a penalty. In so doing, he failed to keep clear of BMW ORACLE Racing and by the time he had completed all his penalty turns the Swede was back in last place, although Artemis would eventually pull back to fourth at the finish.
Team Aqua was the boat to profit most from this leeward mark mayhem, with Chris Bake stealing the lead up the final beat and taking the winner’s gun ahead of Team Ceeref.
In the second race, Aqua had a brief spell at the front of the fleet on the first beat, but with the 18-knot wind flicking from side to side in dramatic fashion, the United Arab Emirates lead was shortlived. In fact Aqua would eventually slide to the back of the fleet through no major error other than falling out of phase with the wind shifts. It was Larry Ellison’s turn to lead around the windward mark as BMW ORACLE Racing surged down the run ahead of the pack. Towards the top of the final beat, however, Coutts had found some good shifts and Banco Espirito Santo sneaked around ahead of the Americans. De Barros did a gybe-set out to sea, Ellison continued shoreside, but the Portuguese move proved to be a winner. A good day for de Barros and his crew.
Not such a good day for Team Ceeref, with Igor Lah just turning in average set of scores. Fortunately for him, no one else has managed to find much consistency. So going into the final day of competition the Slovenian boat still holds a useful points advantage over a tight-knit bunch of three - Banco Espirito Santo, BMW ORACLE and Team Aqua.
Tomorrow the Puerto Calero RC44 Gold Cup concludes after the final three fleet races, with the prizegiving due to take place later in the afternoon. Patrick de Barros, owner, Banco Espirito Santo:
'In the inshore racing we had a third and a first, we're very pleased. We were very fast downwind, the crew did a fantastic job downwind. On the long distance we lost one of our crew overboard. We tacked back and grabbed him, threw him back in the boat. We were racing with Artemis for the lead at the time.' Igor Lah, owner, Team Ceeref:
'A tough day. The distance race is not our speciality. We tried to do our best but it didn't work out. I don't know why, something doesn't work. In the other races it was an average day. We didn't lose a lot, so everything is still open.' Mark Mendelblatt, tactician, BMW ORACLE Racing:
'Apart from Ceeref, it's probably pretty darn close between us. Whoever does the best job is going to get second. We don't want anything horrible to happen to Ceeref, but anything's possible. Hopefully tomorrow we're going to come out blazing.' Daniel Calero, owner, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero:
'I feel very good. The motivation was really high among the crew. That counts for a lot in a boat. In my opinion, 90% of the performance of a boat is motivation. After days of try and fail, try and fail, try and fail, finally we are getting somewhere. We didn't fail too much today. We really enjoyed the long distance race.' Torbjorn Tornqvist, owner, Artemis:
'Good moments and bad moments. We had a good start in the first race, but we came too close to the leeward mark and hit it, and had to do a turn. It's not a fun thing to do, but these things happen. It's a new boat, our first regatta. Finally in the coastal race we got a good start, found the groove, we did a good race tactically, didn't make any mistakes. The RC44 - it's a fun boat to drive and I enjoy it a lot.' Chris Bake, owner, Team Aqua:
'We got the first race right, crew work was good, we were back to our old selves. To do well in these boats, everything has to go right. If you’re slow off the start, or slip up at a mark, or get out of phase with the wind, then you're toast. In the second race our two upwinds were just sailed badly, going in the wrong direction for too long in the wrong breeze.' DHL Trophy:
2) Islas Canarias Puerto Calero
3) Banco Espirito Santo
4) Team Ceeref
5) Team Aqua
6) BMW ORACLE Racing Fleet-race, provisional results after seven races (including the DHL Trophy):
(Name of team, helmsman, results, points)
1) Team Ceeref, Igor Lah, 1,1,2,1,2,4,4 - 15 points
2) Banco Espirito Santo, Patrick de Barros, 5,4,3,3,3,1,3 - 22 points
3) BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison, 4,3,1,2,5,2,6 - 23 points
4) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 2,2,4,4,1,6,5 - 24 points
5) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 3,7,7,7,4,3,1 - 32 points
6) Islas Canarias Puerto Calero, Daniel Calero, 6,5,5,5,6,5,2 - 34 points