Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dongfeng Limps To Dry Land - Volvo Ocean Race Update

Dongfeng Race Team, the joint leaders of the Volvo Ocean Race (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) who broke their mast a day ago, eased their stricken boat to dry land and safety on Tuesday.
Photo: Matt Knighton / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Volvo Ocean Race
The breakage could hardly have happened at a worse place in the race for the Chinese team, some 250 nautical miles away from Cape Horn in the midst of the treacherous Southern Ocean and in high winds on Leg 5. However, as Caudrelier pointed out, at least they were relatively near the South American coastline.
Photo: Rick Tomlinson / Volvo Ocean Race
The damage has robbed the 65-foot (20 metres) boat of much of its manoeuvrability and Kevin Escoffier (FRA) was forced to cut off one of the sails, the fractional code zero or ‘FRO’, to avoid it doing more damage to the 100-foot high (30 metres) mast. He also cut away the top part of the mast.
Photo: Rick Tomlinson / Volvo Ocean Race
Caudrelier said: “After four extraordinary legs for our team, we’ve taken our first major punch. A very big one.”
Photo: Stefan Coppers / Team Brunel / Volvo Ocean Race
He must now decide whether to try to carry out repairs with possibly a new mast in Ushuaia, Argentina, which they reached around 1115 GMT on Tuesday, and attempt to re-join the leg following their suspension from racing in the entrance to the Beagle Channel.
Photo: Amory Ross / Team Alvimedica / Volvo Ocean Race
Alternatively, they could quit the 6,770-nautical mile (nm) stage and then transport the boat to the next stopover, Itajaí in Brazil, for a full mast re-fit and checkover in time for the next leg to Newport, Rhode Island, U.S. That leg starts on April 19.
Photo: Francisco Vignale / MAPFRE / Volvo Ocean Race
The incident deprived Dongfeng’s crew of Chinese rookies the opportunity to round the fabled Cape Horn landmark for the first time in their sailing careers.
Photo: Yann Riou / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race
The four leading boats, however, did savour that rite of passage on Monday afternoon and by 0940 GMT on Tuesday, had progressed some 300nm towards Itajaí in the south Atlantic having passed the Falkland Islands.

At that stage, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, who held the overall lead with Dongfeng prior to the Leg 5 start, protected a narrow 2.8nm advantage over Turkish/American entrants, Team Alvimedica, having overtaken them since rounding the Horn.

MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) and Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) were 15nm and 22nm further adrift respectively.

Meanwhile, the all-women’s crew of Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) still had some 300nm to sail before rounding the Horn. They have been beset by ill-luck on the toughest leg in the nine-month race.

Last week, their boat crashed on its side during a so-called Chinese gybe, and on Monday night, the crew were forced to sail in pitch black after their electronic system failed.

The latter problem has now been fixed, but Sam Davies’ crew are still having to battle on without the use of a key sail, also the ‘FRO’, which was damaged by last week’s crash.

The fleet is expected to arrive in Itajaí between April 5 and 6. In all, the boats will sail 38,739nm and visit 11 ports and every continent. The race concludes in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27.

Volvo Ocean Race Media

Plenty Of Johnny Drama At Cape Horn - Volvo Ocean Race Update

Four boats in the Volvo Ocean Race celebrated rounding the venerated landmark of Cape Horn on Monday, a pleasure cruelly denied Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) after the Chinese boat’s mast was broken early in a dramatic day on Leg 5.
Photo: Yann Riou/Dongfeng Race Team
Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) had the considerable honour of leading the battered fleet past the fabled point at 1407 GMT, just 15 minutes clear of overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR).
Photo: Yann Riou / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race
MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) and Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) were hot on their heels as the fleet prepared to head north at last and back in to the Atlantic for the first time since November.
Photo: Francisco Vignale / MAPFRE / Volvo Ocean Race
They still have quite a challenge in store, navigating up the Brazilian coast towards the final Leg 5 destination of Itajaí, which they will reach after 6,770 nautical miles (nm) of the most testing sailing in the nine-month offshore marathon around April 5-6.
Photo: Stefan Coppers / Team Brunel / Volvo Ocean Race
For Team Alvimedica’s 30-year-old skipper Enright, it was the culmination of an eight-year dream, which first took shape on the film set of Disney movie, Morning Light, when he hatched the idea of entering a team in sailing’s leading challenge.
Photo: Matt Knighton / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Volvo Ocean Race
There are no points on offer for leading the Volvo Ocean Race fleet around Cape Horn, but so much kudos.
Photo: Anna-Lena Elled / Team SCA / Volvo Ocean Race
“For me, most of this race is about competition, but this leg is a little bit different. This is pretty special for us. We can see Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing behind. The match racing continues. Keep the focus,” said Enright of Bristol, Rhode Island, by far the youngest skipper in the fleet.

Walker, who has so far carried out his pre-race battle plan of earning podium places on every leg, was equally buoyant.

“I’m just happy to get here safely. That’s the main thing. There is still a long way to go, but it’s a big relief. And it’s an even bigger relief because we’re in good shape,” he said.

The Emirati boat had just set the fastest 24 hours’ sailing in the race, travelling 551nm. That is the third fastest ever recorded in the 41-year-old race behind ABN AMRO TWO (2006 – 562.96nm) and Ericsson 4 (2008 - 596.6nm).

For Dongfeng Race Team, who had started Leg 5 locked on eight points (lowest overall wins) it was a case of ‘what might have been’ as well as ‘what next?’.

At 0315 UTC, the crew were startled by a sickening crack that sent all of them scrambling to deck to check out the damage. The boat’s mast had broken above the third spreader, which robbed it of much of its manoeuvrability.

The plan is now to nurse Dongfeng to Ushuaia, Argentina, under sail.

Reached via Inmarsat, a bitterly disappointed Caudrelier said: “I’m gutted. As you’ve seen from the position reports we have been, on purpose, backing off a bit, not attacking in any way.

“The mast broke without warning in about 30 knots of wind. We are unable to sail safely on starboard tack, but we are able to make reasonable speed on port tack. We will head towards Ushuaia and assess our options for getting to Itajaí."

He could retire from the leg, but if a patched-up boat can be returned to the Leg 5 track and complete the stage to Itajaí, Caudrelier will earn an extra two points – six for sixth and last place instead of eight for not finishing at all.

That could make all the difference come the end of the 38,739nm race in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27, especially with Dongfeng Race Team currently so close to the lead.

Meanwhile, Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) were continuing to battle their way through heinous conditions in the Southern Ocean, some 550nm behind the pack still racing.

They have been considerably hampered by damage to their fractional code zero sail after a Chinese gybe last week sent the boat crashing on its side.

Davies’s crew are expected to round Cape Horn in the early hours (GMT) on Wednesday.

“We can’t take any more risk with the sails that are left because we need them on the way from Cape Horn to Itajaí,” she said.

Caudrelier will understand her caution. Completely.

Volvo Ocean Race Media

Monday, March 30, 2015

Charisma Cleans Up at RC44 Valletta Cup in Malta

Conditions came good for the final races of the RC44 Valletta Cup in Malta with the wind well into the 20s and substantial waves once again, but today with the welcome addition of Mediterranean sunshine.
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
After yesterday's single race, Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio coaxed the fleet out an hour earlier and succeeded in getting three races completed before returning to the Royal Malta Yacht Club's clubhouse early in the afternoon. The races saw crews severely challenged once again with almost all making costly errors, particularly with their gennaker handling, with a variety of hour glass wraps, broaches and costly trawling of sails.
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
Nico Poons and his Charisma team put in another consistent day to win the RC44 Valletta Cup comfortably. Yesterday's leader Katusha did not race today, having retired due to a discrepancy with their crew classification.
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
"It feels great," said Poons after dowsing his crew in victor's champagne. This is his first victory since joining the Class at the beginning of 2014. "Today was not that easy!" admitted the Monaco-based Dutchman. "There was quite a lot of wind, but it was fun, especially downwind. You had to concentrate so that you didn't flip which was difficult. Even upwind, going through the waves needed concentration."
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
Poons' new tactician, Ray Davies, described the day: "It was fantastic yachting, but pretty ugly, especially on port tack offshore." To avoid the worst of the waves, all the boats typically took the left side of the race track all day. "It was a bit hairy at times in the gybes and a lot of boats were wiping out. It is very easy to broach these boats," continued Davies.
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
Charisma's success, Davies confided, was due to them making less mistakes than their rivals. "Just aim for top fives and let people make mistakes around us. We have a fantastic team. We made two crew work mistakes the whole regatta. Other teams were making two each day. And Nico did a good job too."
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
Davies beat his former Emirates Team New Zealand skipper into second place, Dean Barker calling the shots on board Vladimir Prosikhin's Team Nika, ending the regatta ten points adrift of Charisma.

"It is a very good position, second in this fleet. When the fleet is so strong, it is an honour," said an ever modest Prosikhin. "The conditions were quite challenging this week, but the boat was fast and the crew solid. Today our boat handling was perfect until the last race, which was pity."

After winning today's second race, Team Nika led into the leeward gate on race three only to trawl her kite. "I don't know what happened," admitted Prosikhin. "We lost positions, but fortunately we made a nice recovery." Team Nika was still able to salvage fifth.

Vladimir Liubomirov and Bronenosec completed the RC44 Valletta Cup podium, finishing two points behind Team Nika. Liubomirov was pleased with his team's third place but admitted making mistakes. A broken steering system had caused them to broach during the first race. In Russia Liubomirov is Commodore of the St Petersburg Yacht Club and was pleased that two yachts from his club – (Bronenosec and Team Nika) had made it to the podium. He added that they look forward to the RC44s returning to Malta. "We have to come back next year. It is one of the best places we have been to. The people are so friendly. The hospitality is at a very high level."

If consistency was the key to the RC44 Valletta Cup, one team that suffered from a lack of this respect was Igor Lah's Team CEEREF. She won today's first race (adding to her two bullets on day one, but also scored several deep results over the four days, leaving the Slovenian RC44 fifth overall.

Sweden's Richard Gorannson, taking over the helm of Chris Bake's Team Aqua made progressive improvement and today earned his first two podium finishes, leaving Team Aqua fourth overall, just two points from third.

This regatta has been quite an initiation for Gorannson, sailing his first RC44 regatta but ably assisted by Kiwi tactician Cameron Appleton and the crew that is the current RC44 Tour Champion, Team Aqua was one of the few not to broach today.

"We had well over 20 knots for quite some time but we kept the boat upright, which is not something everyone did," said Gorannson. "It is one of the first regattas I have been to where we have big conditions every day. These boats go really well downwind and it is so much fun to steer, especially when you have the small kite on because you are really on the edge. I was apprehensive about it at first, but now I am really hooked on it."

The RC44s now decamp north ready for the Audi Porto Cervo Cup over 17th-21st June.

RC44 Valletta Cup Fleet Racing Results

1. Charisma - 29
2. Team Nika - 39
3. Bronenosec Sailing Team - 41
4. Team Aqua - 43
5. Team CEEREF - 50
6. Katusha - 53
7. Peninsula Petroleum - 57
8. RUS 7 - Anywayanyday - 61
9. Artemis Racing - 64
10. Artemis Racing Youth - 72
11. MAG Racing - 98

RC44 Media

Saturday, March 28, 2015

RC44's Take Life To The Max in Malta

If the Mediterranean conjures up images of balmy sun drenched days and wearing shorts and T-shirts, today it was at the opposite end of the meteorological spectrum, challenging RC44 Valletta Cup competitors to the maximum.
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
A gale passed across Malta last night and while conditions had abated it wasn't until 1400 local that the wind momentarily dipped below the statutory 25 knots allowing Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio to fire the start gun. Even then a mighty seaway was still running and with the wind piping up mid-race, the penultimate day of competition here was one that the 11 crews will remember for some time, coming ashore soaked to the bone, but with Cheshire cat grins.
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
Torbjörn Törnqvist's Artemis Racing, with British two time Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy calling tactics, led after a bouncy first beat. The Swedish crew kept its cool, hoisting the spinnaker without incident in the big conditions; a feat that some crews further back in the fleet didn't manage.
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
Even Artemis Racing didn't come away unscathed. Törnqvist explained: "Unfortunately just after the hoist, we slammed into a huge wave and the bow came off - slowing us down. Obviously that affected our sailing." (The RC44s are fitted with a sacrificial bow - that is removed for shipping, and isn't integral to the boat's structure).
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
Artemis Racing led into the leeward gate, but Nico Poons' Charisma had caught up. Tactician Ray Davies recounted: "We had a good first run and we got a nice layline into the bottom mark where we had a really good rounding. We dropped [the kite] while we were surfing down a wave, gybed, rounded up and gained a lot."
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
Charisma had overhauled the compromised Artemis Racing on a second lively upwind leg to lead at the weather mark and managed to hang on for a final downhill sleighride to take her first win of the 2015 RC44 Championship Tour. Going into the final day Charisma is up to second having podiumed in five out of the six races to date leaving her five points off Katusha in the lead.
Photo: © MartinezStudio.es
Charisma's owner Nico Poons described his day: "You start a race like this, you survive. It may have looked scary on the downwinds, but I did feel like I had it perfectly under control. As the breeze started picking up more, we were a bit uncomfortable, but only because we were getting so wet."

His Emirates Team New Zealand navigator Ray Davies added: "It was epic, cool sailing in the nice big waves. We'd been looking forward to it all day. We are excited to sail in that stuff. Our set-up was fantastic, we boned everything up and Nico kept it in the groove."

Unfortunately even some of the top teams suffered. Team CEEREF scored a DNF due to an issue with her steering, while John Bassadone's Peninsula Petroleum broached on the first run.

"When we wiped out one of the guys fell in the water. We picked him back up, but he had also hurt himself but he is alright now which is good news," recounted the Gibraltar-based skipper, adding that he had been hoping for more races to allow Peninsula Petroleum to improve on the eighth place where she stands overall at present. "We've raced in tougher conditions and performed quite well, but today we didn't," continued Bassadone. "We were a little bit hesitant. Normally we thrive in these conditions."

The overwhelming memory of the day will certainly be the conditions that verged on 'survival', but proved how robust the RC44s are even in big wind and waves. "They are fantastic - that is the beauty of these boats. They are not easy, but even today they were very sailable," said Bassadone.

"They were great conditions and very challenging," agreed Torbjörn Törnqvist. "It was on the edge but Luigi [PRO Peter Reggio] made a good call and there were no issues around the course and no blow outs. All the boats handled it very well. It was pretty hairy out there, we couldn't sail downwind as we wanted because of our bow problem, but we had moments of 22 knots of boat speed."

Only one race was sailed today before the wind picked up and the fleet was sent home. The aim is to get three races in tomorrow, the final day of the RC44 Valletta Cup, with the first start at 10:30 CET.

RC44 Valletta Cup Fleet Racing Results

1. Katusha - 17
2. Charisma - 22
3. Bronenosec Sailing Team - 28
4. Team Nika - 29
5. RUS - 7 Anywayanyday - 31
6. Team Aqua - 34
7. Team CEEREF - 36
8. Peninsula Petroleum - 41
9. Artemis Racing - 45
10. Artemis Racing Youth - 52
11. MAG Racing - 62

RC44 Media

Southern Ocean Battering for Volvo Ocean Fleet

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet, battered but unbroken as they battle through the Southern Ocean, face the toughest 48 hours of the nine-month marathon as they approach Cape Horn on Monday. The region is the only time in the 38,738-nautical mile race where the boats are likely to see icebergs, despite the ice limits set by organisers, and a huge storm is building up behind to chase them on their way.
Photo: Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race
Early on Saturday (0640 UTC), the Chinese boat Dongfeng Race Team, skippered by Frenchman Charles Caudrelier, led the leg from Auckland to Itajaí, Brazil, but by less than 10nm from four other crews. Caudrelier admitted that the stress has become “wearing’ on his eight-man team.
Photo: Stefan Coppers / Team Brunel / Volvo Ocean Race
“I think it’s unique in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race (launched in 1973) to have a fleet battling like this in these latitudes,” he wrote in his blog on Saturday.
Photo: Anna-Lena Elled / Team SCA / Volvo Ocean Race
“Tomorrow, we’ll be even further south and the water temperature is going to drop. I’m expecting the hardest part of this race in the next 48 hours.”
Photo: Yann Riou / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race
Dongfeng were one of three boats to crash over on their sides midway through the Southern Ocean on the 6,776nm leg – a so-called ‘Chinese gybe’.
Photo: Amory Ross / Team Alvimedica / Volvo Ocean Race
Thankfully, all the crews avoided anything more serious than cuts and bruises and damage to boats have been repaired on the move.
Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race
After some 3,000nm miles of sailing in the toughest leg of the race, Dongfeng lead by just 5.1nm from Dutch boat Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) with overall leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) and Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) no more than four nautical miles further adrift.
Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race
The all women’s crew of Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) were nearly 100nm behind that pack, but gaining all the time in stronger winds. They and MAPFRE also suffered Chinese gybes on Tuesday. The leg is expected to conclude around April 5-6 after three weeks of sailing from New Zealand.

In all, the boats will sail nine legs and visit 11 ports. They finish the race on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Everything you need to know about Cape Horn

They said it: Cape Horn "is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about shipwrecks, peril and death" - Charles Darwin.

Something to write home about. Cape Horn, close to the southern-most tip of South America, is regarded by sailors as the most iconic and feared landmark in the world.

What makes it so challenging? It's cold, it's bleak and it's dangerous. It's home to biblical storms and gale force winds, making visibility difficult. Lying just 500 miles from Antarctica, look out for the odd iceberg too.

Making history. The first to make it around was Dutch mariner Willem Schouten, who named it after Hoorn, his hometown in the north of the Netherlands. Only the toughest. Even today, more people have reached the summit of Everest than have sailed around Cape Horn.

Middle of nowhere. The need for ships to round Cape Horn was greatly reduced by the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, which makes a modern-day visit there even more special. There are no commercial routes around the Horn, and modern ships are rarely seen.

Location, location, location. Set your sat nav to 55°58′48″S 067°17′21″W.

Lest we forget. On Hoorn island, there's a large sculpture by Chilean artist José Balcells featuring an albatross in remembrance of the sailors who died while attempting to round the Horn.

Rich traditions. Sailors celebrate a successful rounding of Cape Horn in many ways, including lighting up cigars and pouring a small bottle of alcohol into the sea to toast those who didn't make it, and thank King Neptune for a safe passage.

Waves bigger than houses. The strong winds of the Southern Ocean mean equally large waves, and, free of any interruption from land, these waves roll at a great height, some even 30m tall. But south of the Horn, the waves become shorter and steeper, which can be a nightmare for passing boats.

Gold rush. During the 1800s, Cape Horn was deemed so dangerous that the Spanish dragged their plundered gold across land rather than risk shipping it around the landmark. The current has thrown many sailors and ships onto the rocks.

Permanent reminders. Those who have successfully made it around the landmark are entitled to wear a gold hoop earring in whichever ear passed closest to Cape Horn. Also, if you see someone with a tattoo of a full-rigged ship, give him a pat on the back. According to maritime tradition, it means he’s been around the Horn.

Volvo Ocean Race Media

Friday, March 27, 2015

Riding The Southern Ocean Rollercoaster - Volvo Ocean Race Update

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet reached the halfway point of their nine-month marathon – midway through the fifth leg of nine – on Friday and were still glued together in some of the closest racing in the event’s 41-year history.
Photo: Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
For those on shore, the day offered the chance to take stock following a dramatic week in which three boats suffered Chinese gybes, but for the crews it was business as usual as they tussled head-to-head approaching the key landmark of Cape Horn.
Photo: Matt Knighton/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
At 1240 UTC, just 7.7 nautical miles (nm) separated the first five boats with Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) bringing up the rear, some 80nm further adrift (see panel above).
Photo: © Corinna Halloran/Team SCA
Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) must think they are on some kind of Southern Ocean crazy roller coaster. On Tuesday, they were part of the trio of boats – MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) and Team SCA were the others – to crash over on their sides in a so-called Chinese gybe.
Photo: Yann Riou/Dongfeng Race Team/Volvo Ocean Race
But, remarkably, all the crews managed to right themselves without overly serious damage to either sailor or boat and within 48 hours of the incidents, Dongfeng Race Team found themselves at the head of the fleet.
Photo: Stefan Coppers/Team Brunel/Volvo Ocean Race
This was no time to take it easy, however, for anyone.
Photo: Corinna Halloran/Team SCA/Volvo Ocean Race
The 1240 UTC position report on Friday showed the Chinese boat had lost pressure again and slipped back to fifth place behind new leaders, MAPFRE, with Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/U.S.), Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) sandwiched in between.
Photo: Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind
All was certainly not lost for Caudrelier and his crew, however, with MAPFRE virtually within view. For Dongfeng’s helmsman, Damian Foxall (IRL), it has already been a memorable ride, after being called up to sail just this 6,779nm leg.
Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race
“It is hard to describe the stress on board after the Chinese gybe – ‘is everyone here, is anything damaged?’ Yet three hours later, incredibly, we were back on track,” he wrote in a blog.
Photo: Brian Carlin/Team Vestas Wind/Volvo Ocean Race
Sam Davies, skipper of Team SCA, was also in a reflective mood early on Friday.

“It has been a hard few days; full of emotion, stress, adrenaline,” she wrote in her blog.

“As skipper it is hard to find the balance between pushing the boat and crew, but making sure we stay safe and keeping our boat in one piece.

“Out here, there is little margin for error. I feel like we have found our limits, and proved to ourselves that we are pushing hard.

“We suffered from our wipeout with the damage we sustained and it is frustrating to lose the miles like that, but we are slowly getting back to as near 100 per cent as possible.”

The fleet is expected to reach Cape Horn on Sunday, and then their Leg 5 destination, Itajaí in south-eastern Brazil, around April 4.

The race, with four and a half legs still to negotiate and six more ports to visit, remains too close to call, with the two overall leaders, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Dongfeng Race Team, fighting it on a level eight points apiece, and currently just 4.8nm apart.

Welcome to one-design racing.

Volvo Ocean Race Media

Katusha Scores A Double - RC44 Valletta Cup - Malta.

With gale force winds forecast from lunchtime on, it was a relatively early start to proceedings for day three of the RC44 Valletta Cup in Malta.
Photo:  © Martinez Studio.es
Principal Race Officer, Peter Reggio, got racing underway two hours ahead of schedule, at 0930, before finally pulling the plug at midday after two races had been held. Over this period the conditions were 'changeable', starting in around 10-12 knots, but with a sizeable swell left over from yesterday, oddly running with the boats on the upwind legs. For race two the wind was building, typically in the high-teens with the wind-driven waves picking up, confusing the sea state.
Photo:  © Martinez Studio.es
Despite the changing weather, today's stand out performer was Katusha, which won both races.
Photo:  © Martinez Studio.es
Tactician Andy Horton explained: "We made no big mistakes - the guys did a great job. We are going well upwind and downwind and making pretty decent starts."
Photo:  © Martinez Studio.es
In both races Katusha benefitted from heading out to the right, offshore side of the race course on the upwind legs. However the Russian team didn't have it all their own way. In race one, Torbjorn Tornqvist's Artemis Racing led at the top mark while Katusha was mid-fleet.
Photo:  © Martinez Studio.es
Coming into the leeward gate, the Swedish team was penalised for gybing too close to Nico Poons' Charisma, allowing Katusha to edge into the lead. Charisma overhauled Katusha on the second upwind with the Russian team eventually only winning by a nose on the line, a closeness of competition that we have become used to between the RC44s. "It was a full on fight," recounted Horton.
Photo:  © Martinez Studio.es
Charisma also had a solid day posting a 3-2 to their score, elevating them from seventh to second overall. Their finish in race one was so tight that Poons came ashore not knowing where he'd placed. In the event Charisma lost second place to Kirill Podolsky's RUS-7 Anywayanyday. "It was very close - you could hardly see it," said Poons, explaining how steering in the big waves had been a challenge.

Charisma's tactician, Ray Davies observed that today was ideal for the RC44s. "It was great conditions - a few waves around and 15-20 knots of breeze, J2 (headsail) on for the first race and J3 (smaller headsail) for the second, the boats lighting up downwind."

"We are going really well," continued Davies, who previously competed in the RC44 Championship Tour with Pieter Heerema on No Way Back. "We have good boat speed across the range and we were starting better today. Mainly we managed to stay away from the other boats and do our own thing. Our crew is very calm and Nico did a great job sailing in the waves."

While Katusha finished the day on 13 points, Charisma is now up to 21, but breathing down her neck, within three points of her, are three boats - Team Nika, RUS-7 Anywayanyday and Team CEEREF.

Currently seventh but still within easy striking distance of the podium is the reigning RC44 Champion, Team Aqua, racing here with new helmsman and charterer Richard Goransson. "We found a bit more pace and it felt good," the Swedish skipper said. "Downwind was difficult with these chutes because there is a small window you can sail in. Mainly our performance is down to my steering, as I get used to the boat. This is a big boat for me – but when the breeze is up they seem to shrink a bit! Today was much more manageable, but it was very strange – dropping off waves upwind."

Fleet racing at the RC44 Valletta Cup resumes tomorrow morning at 11:30 local time with another 'changeable' day forecast.

RC44 Valletta Cup Fleet Racing Results

1. Katusha - 13
2. Charisma - 21
3. Team Nika - 23
4. RUS - 7 Anywayanyday - 23
5. Team CEEREF - 24
6. Bronenosec - 26
7. Team Aqua - 29
8. Peninsula Petroleum - 31
9. Artemis Racing - 42
10. Artemis Racing Youth - 45
11. MAG Racing - 53

RC44 Media

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wild Waves Lash RC44 Fleet - Day 2 - Malta

Fleet racing at the RC44 Valletta Cup got off to a challenging start on Malta's north coast, the 11 crews taking on some of the biggest waves and most confused seas they have ever encountered in their slender one designs.
Photo: © Martinez Studio.es
With the start area for the windward-leeward courses set up off St Julian's, northwest of the Maltese capital, the first race was made no easier as the wind dropped off to 6 knots, leaving the boats at the mercy of the big waves on the downwind legs. There was then a wait for the breeze to settle before it re-established itself in the northeast, building to 18-20 knots for race two and dropping again for today's third and final bout.
Photo: © Martinez Studio.es
Despite his absence from the circuit, it was Slovenian skipper Igor Lah and Team CEEREF that claimed the first two races. Assisted by Adrian Stead calling tactics and Tim Powell on mainsheet, Lah said: "I was placed extremely well on the start line and from that point it was pretty easy. When you are in front and there are no collisions – you just sail your own way." Of his two wins Lah added: "I was sure that we could do it. I am also sure that it will not always be like this."
Photo: © Martinez Studio.es
Of significance, particularly in the second race, was the choice of headsail: Team CEEREF flew a genoa enabling her to pop out in front as the boats around her had up smaller jibs.
Photo: © Martinez Studio.es
"One of our goals has been to sail the boat as close to 100% all the way around the track - I'm pleased with how we did that today," commented Adrian Stead. "The breeze was shifting around enough that if you got it right it did make it look very easy."
Photo: © Martinez Studio.es
The only blemish on an otherwise perfect day for Lah's team was a disappointing ninth place finish in the third race. Stead admitted that he had misjudged the start. Team CEEREF ended up ducking the entire fleet on port tack and they also made some wrong called at the top of the second beat. The Slovenia crew ended day one leading, but tied on points with Katusha, which scored a seventh in race one, but then two seconds.
Photo: © Martinez Studio.es
"We kept getting better and better," said Katusha's American tactician Andy Horton. "Today it was tough. In the first two races the wind was shifting 100ͦ back and forth – so hardly straightforward."

However the left, offshore side of the course paid all day with better pressure.Katusha ​on the p​eak of a​ wave in​ Malta.

Bronenosec Sailing Team had the most consistent day finishing third overall, but just one point off the lead. "We made a few mistakes, but it is not bad to be third at the end of the first day," said skipper Vladimir Liubomirov. "The weather was not so easy, but we saved our boat. I am happy and we know how we can improve, which is important."

The final race was won in emphatic style by Vladimir Prosikhin's Team Nika. On board as tactician, following his recent departure from Emirates Team New Zealand, is Dean Barker, sailing his first regatta with the Russian team. "The first one we were all out of sorts, we did a late jib change,"described the America's Cup legend. "In the second we were battling a bit for pace, but we managed to chip away a little bit and in the last race we got a good start. We had a great first run and the rest of the race was very enjoyable."

But the overwhelming memory of today was surfing down the big waves in race two, fun but making boat handling through the gybes a significant test for the crews. "When it's only 10-12 knots it is not much fun," said Barker. "But in 18-20 knots, the boats really come alive."

Or as Igor Lah summed up: "When you caught a nice wave - it was brilliant. That is why we go sailing."

With a full gale forecast tomorrow afternoon, the race committee is intending to start early with the first start scheduled for 09:30.

RC44 Valletta Cup Fleet Racing Results

2. Katusha -11
3. Bronenosec-12
4. Team Nika -15
5. RUS - 7 Anywayanyday-15
6. Peninsula Petroleum-16
7. Charisma -16
8. Team Aqua -20
9. Artemis Racing-21
10. Artemis Racing Youth - 29
11. MAG Racing-32

RC44 Media