On the closing day of the RC44 Austria Cup, there was a complete change of season on Lake Traunsee, the intermittent rain and unseasonal cold giving way to sunshine. But this came at the expense of wind. After a long wait, finally a sea breeze filled in from the north (opposite of the last two days), allowing the RC44s to rally on the start line for a gun at 1500 (local), the latest allowed under the Sailing Instructions.
Keen to please the home crowd, René Mangold’s AEZ RC44 Team was first out on to the water as spectator craft swarmed around the Austrian boat with her alloy car wheel manufacturer sponsor. Clearly this time on the water helped the home team. They pulled into the lead up the first beat and despite many opportunities to lose it, clung on to take their second win of the event much to the delight of local fans.
Markus Weiser, the Austrian team’s German tactician and a renowned lake specialist, explained: 'We had a really good start at the committee boat and had a clear lane to take us to the shore on the right. We just played the first upwind well and had a nice lead of seven boat lengths at the first upwind mark.' Downwind Weiser said it was a case of playing the shifts. 'Today we just caught the shifts right – it’s much easier when you’re ahead.'
With Chris Bake’s Team Aqua finishing third, today’s win was enough to propel AEZ RC44 Team up to third place overall: a proud moment for skipper/owner René Mangold, being the first time he has reached on the podium during his long tenure in the RC44 class, and happening in front of a home crowd.
'It’s a really good feeling – we’re so satisfied,' Mangold said. 'Our project started when the first event started here. It’s great to have all the other teams here, but it is more important for us to have a home team and with this success – leading on the first day, then a crash on the second and then to win the last race – it’s a great moment. In the five years we have been here, three times we have been last, one year we were second from last and now we are on the podium! It’s really good.'
Today the tacticians were put to the test more than ever. While the Austrians did well by the shore, the French Aleph Sailing Team, with leading match racer Mathieu Richard calling the shots, put in their strongest start of the regatta and did well on the left side, falling into second place as she converged with those on the starboard layline into the top mark. Unfortunately this was not to last. The decision to gybe set after rounding the top mark, taking them into the shore, proved costly and from second they plummeted to second last at the leeward gate. Meanwhile the opposite was true for the Italians on Massimo Barranco’s AFX Capital Racing Team who rounded the top mark second last pulling up to fifth on the run by staying offshore.
Meanwhile Artemis sailed a very different race. Starting today with a commanding 11 point lead, they had the RC44’s Austria Cup almost sealed, but not quite. For Torbjorn Tornqvist’s team, it was a case of keeping their noses clean.
'We knew there was only going to be one race and as long as we weren’t last and didn’t foul someone and get a contact penalty point, we were going to be fine,' explained Artemis tactician Morgan Larson. 'But then Luigi [PRO Peter Reggio] put the black flag up which threw another curved ball in there, because an OCS with a black flag is 13 points and we were 11 points clear…'
Coming home eighth was enough to secure the Swedish team overall victory at the RC44 Austria Cup by nine points. Although they won the RC44 World Championship in 2011, this was Artemis’ first circuit event win since 2009.
'It was practically impossible to lose it today, so maybe we were a little bit unfocused – we were just being very careful not to be over the line and we were a bit too courteous perhaps!' said an elated Tornqvist. 'I think we were quite lucky to win by such a large margin – it feels good. Traunsee is not somewhere you just come and do well, you have to sail here a couple of times to know how the shifts work so I think Morgan’s experience and knowledge of the lake, coming back this year, has really helped. We have good team work and good boat speed.'
In the overall season championship after three events, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua continues to lead having ended up fourth here in Austria, while Artemis is now three points astern in second.
'It has been real challenging,' said Team Aqua’s tactician Cameron Appleton. 'The guys have been doing a great job, but on the tactical/positioning side it has been super hard. One puff here and there can be the difference between if you make a cross or you don’t. After that your race will unfold.'
Valentin Zavadnikov, co-owner of Synergy Russian Sailing Team, was pleased that they remain in the lead of the match racing, assisted by their America’s Cup winning, former Match Racing World Champion tactician, Ed Baird.
'It is a nice place first of all here and a nice place for us. We started very well with the match racing and we know this place, we were here last year, although it is a bit colder here this year. Three days ago I had all my clothes on! But first place in the match race is a great result for us. We did three weeks of training in the Canary Islands – and now we are first. It is not too bad.'
Next up for the RC44s, over 18-22 July, is the event in Marstrand, Sweden on Torbjorn Tornqvist’s home waters. 'I’m really looking forward to it,' he said. 'This year we will visit at the height of the season, so I think it will be spectacular, with thousands of people watching.'