Green Comm Racing, the 34th America's Cup challenger from Spain, started its two-year long campaign with a very promising opening day in Cascais. After a slow start in the two first races, Vasilij Zbogar and his crew pushed the race-mode button in the third one and managed to measure up against the world's top teams.
Cascais, 6 August 2011: It was an extremely tricky day for the AC45 fleet in Cascais and the champagne sailing conditions the Portuguese city is famous for, simply weren't there for the opening event of the 34th America's Cup. A dense fog covered the city from early in the morning and sapped the breeze, creating a race course full of wind holes and mines.
With only a few hours of AC45 sailing under their belts the Green Comm Racing crew was aware of the gap that had to be bridged crew and used the day's first races to learn the ropes of AC45 racing. Their goal was to stay clear from the other boats, avoid any trouble and figure out how to go around the race course in this fleet. This was reflected especially in the starts where the Spanish boat was clearly behind the fleet on the line.
It didn't take more than an hour however for the Olympic champions to get their adrenaline levels high, build an attack plan and carry it out. Vasilij Zbogar had a great start in the middle of the line with full pace. The Green Comm Racing hull was flying and by the first mark they were third, barely trailing Russell Coutts and Emirates Team New Zealand. Green Comm Racing held on to that position until the last leg when a minor problem with the wing's trim forced them to slip a few places.
Overall, it was a very positive day for Green Comm Racing and the entire crew feels confident about the rest of the event. Sunday's schedule calls for one 40-minute fleet race and the 500-meter speed trials. Quotes of the day
Vasilij Zbogar, helmsman: 'The overall feeling from today is very positive. We are a brand new team and this was just our third day of sailing on an AC45, our first day of racing as well as our first day of rounding marks! It was also our very first day we sailed with other AC45's but overall I think it went very well.
Our philosophy in the first two races was to stay clear from the other boats, avoid any trouble and figure out how to go around the race course in this fleet. That's why we stayed behind. In the third race we decided to give it a go and it was very good, we were in third place halfway through but then the wing had problems swinging so we lacked power and was passed by 2-3 boats. We were in good form, we showed we had what it took but we didn't either expect a lot in our third day of sailing. We also had to make some last-minute adjustments to our crew this morning so our coordination wasn't perfect at the beginning of the day.
I was so excited to be helming this yacht that I got immediately in race-mode! I was thinking about tactical decisions, fast gybes and all sorts of situations. The Olympic champion spirit woke up in me but, of course, we're still not ready for it!'
Javier de la Plaza, bowman: 'Today it felt like the day you drive a new car. It's like the day when you are a kid and you take your training wheels off your bike and you have to ride with only two wheels! We are still in the process of taking the training wheels off because that's what sailing on a catamaran feels like.
However, the improvement from the first to the third race was remarkable. Every minute of sailing on the boat counts and that's what we did. Communication as well got much better onboard and we decided to attack. You always have to keep in mind that we have been sailing for just three days while some teams have been on the water since six months. We have a steep learning curve but I think we could cause some surprises in the last day of the event.'