It was dig deep and don’t panic on day four of the Oracle RC44 Cup San Diego, with the top boats all trailing badly at one time or another, but managing to recover to mid-fleet and salvage crucial points.
The net result was an almost completely neutral day, with the leaders Katusha and second placed Aqua both scoring ten points in three races, while third and fourth placed Oracle Racing and Artemis both scored eleven points. Remarkably, after a lot of tough boat racing they are just standing still in the rankings.
It took a little longer to get racing going today. The westerly sea breeze must have been out late after last night’s fabulous RC44 Class party on the USS Midway, because it was reluctant to show on an otherwise beautiful weekend morning – and it wasn’t the only one, with Artemis’ tactician Morgan Larson celebrating his fortieth birthday yesterday. But when it did turn up, it came on strong at 8 to 14 knots for most of the day... and so did Artemis. Fourth overnight, they sailed a brilliant first race. They were launched at the committee boat end of the line and led all the way round until the final top mark.
Artemis’ owner, Torbjorn Tornqvist couldn’t escape work to get to this regatta and Sarah Gundersen has been standing in for him at the wheel. She takes up the story at the final turning mark, ‘We rounded the top mark and on the first gybe we noticed there was a little rip [in the spinnaker]. We had to nurse it all the way down [the run], we had the other spare chute [spinnaker] up on the deck. The guys were ready with a plan if we had to do a change, but luckily enough Fongo [trimmer Daniel Fong] nursed it through the gybes and we got to the finish.’ Artemis had a slightly less fabulous start in the next race, and had to duck behind the whole fleet off the line, but they fought back to finish fourth.
Team Aqua had already got themselves out of deep trouble in the first race of the day, tactician Cameron Appleton explained what happened, ‘This game is a matter of feet and inches and we were missing the inches on quite an important cross early on in the first race. We couldn’t get to the right-hand side of the group, and we paid by... taking a foul for tacking too close... And then we had to chip back into the fleet, and managed to salvage a sixth.’
The star performer for the next race (second of the day) was Islas Canarias Puerto Calero. They led most of the way round, fending off challenges from both Oracle Racing and Team Aqua. The owner and helmsman Daniel Calero explained how it all came down to one call at the finish. ‘It was a really good race, we were enjoying the fight with Team Aqua and Oracle Racing, and finally Team Aqua beat us on the last gybe as the buoy [end of the finish line] was closer. We didn’t calculate the layline [approach angle] well, that cost us the win.’
Despite the disappointment, Calero had only good things to say about his experience here. ‘It’s been really nice sailing in San Diego. It’s like playing football with all the crowds behind you, screaming and clapping - the Bay is amazing, great atmosphere. Tricky, shifty conditions, good and bad for everyone - our tactician [Jose Ponce] is crazy after the last couple of days!’ They finished the day in sixth place on 67 points, the only team to gain a place overall.
While Team Aqua were winning, it was their rivals for the overall lead that had to come up with the miracle recovery in race two. Katusha’s helmsman Bob Little explained, ‘We had a really bad start in the second race then made a couple mistakes more and found ourselves really deep in the fleet. We didn’t panic, we hung together and tried to find our opportunity and at the end of the last run we got a good shift and some good pressure. We sailed the boat really well and managed to pass about three or four boats right at the finish.’
The third and final race of the day belonged to Ceeref. Owned and steered by Igor Lah, they sailed beautifully to win their first race of the 2011 season. He explained, ‘It was an extraordinary race, it was so shifty, coming from behind to first place, and back down, and then back to first place. The second upwind we kept to the right hand side, and that was the key... to get back to first place. Somehow we got the right wind and some really nice shifts, and got ourselves in a powerful position and no one could cross us.
‘Being first, second or third is good, and it’s not a huge difference getting one or three points, but it’s very important to win as it gives you a lot of confidence. Fifth [overall] is a little bit below our expectations, but we have changed the team and we are still getting used to each other... We are aiming to be in the top three.’
It won’t happen here, the top four have a 13 point buffer to Ceeref – but amongst that group it’s all to play for going into the final day. The bases are loaded – who’s going to hit the winning home run?
Three races are planned on the final day of racing at the Oracle RC44 Cup San Diego. Rankings
1 Katusha (RUS) 35
2 Team Aqua (GBR) 37
3 ORACLE Racing… 42
4 Artemis Racing… 46
5 RC44 TEAM CEEREF… 59
6 Islas Canarias… 67
7 Ironbound (USA) 77
8 Synergy Russian… 79
9 AEZ RC 44 Sailing… 91
10 Peninsula Petroleum… 96
11 No Way Back… 101
1 RC44 TEAM CEEREF… 4
2 Team Aqua (GBR) 4
3 Katusha (RUS) 4
4 ORACLE Racing… 4
5 Artemis Racing… 4
6 Synergy Russian… 2
7 Ironbound (USA) 2
8 Islas Canarias… 2
9 No Way Back… 2
10 AEZ RC 44 Sailing… 1
11 Peninsula Petroleum… 1 www.rc44.com