After the world’s longest wait ashore, thumb twiddling until the wind filled in at the RC44 Cascais World Championship, the AP ashore was finally dropped late afternoon, dragging crews away from the Japan-Samoa Rugby World Cup game. In a record even for the flexible RC44 class, the first start eventually occurred at 1730 local time with two races held, the boats returning to the Marina de Cascais with darkness having already fallen. With crews breaking their head torches, when the boats arrived back it felt like the finish of a Volvo Ocean Race leg.
Despite the light conditions, the wind not getting above seven knots from the southeast, the wait was worth it. However several top players suffered deep results, causing an upset in the scoreboard and an overall leader change after each race.
Ripples were also felt through the fleet with the welcome return of Chris Bake to the helm of Team Aqua - his first time back since Oman in November last year. While his team remains on the back foot after picking up two deep results on Thursday, a win in yesterday’s race and a 1-2 today propelled them up the leaderboard from eighth to fourth.
Going into today, two points separated the podium, with Vladimir Liubomirov’s Bronenosec Sailing Team out in front, one ahead of Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika and another ahead of Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF. However a tenth for Bronenosec in today’s first race, caused the Russian boat to plummet to third overall. Conversely Team CEEREF’s second launched her into first place with a four point lead over Team Nika.
However Team CEEREF’s celebrations were shortlived with the applecart overturned again in the final race. She and Artemis Racing Youth started at the highly favoured committee boat end, but were subsequently killed by being furthest from the highly profitable left side of the course, where teams enjoyed extra pressure, less tide and could tack on a header. Team CEEREF reached the top mark last and, in the light conditions and one way race track, was unable to regain any ground. Finishing last dropped her to third place.
Meanwhile Team Nika had won the pin and headed left. When she tacked back she was just able to sneak across Team Aqua’s bow and from there led around the track.
With this morning’s overall leader Bronenosec scoring a disappointing 10-5 today, this leaves Team Nika with a handy six point lead going into tomorrow’s final day.
Team Nika’s Vladimir Prosikhin commented: “The second race was completely on Dean [Barker – tactician] - it was just the perfect call from him, choosing not the favoured end of the line, which was biased by about 15deg. Instead we started below the whole fleet, and we got new wind first, tacked, then we had to cross Aqua - just!”
“It was a long day,” agreed Dean Barker. “It was good to persevere and get the two races in. In the first we didn’t get off the start line that well and in the last race we gave it a nudge and it worked out really well: As with the race before, there was a big left shift on the layline.”
However the day certainly belonged with Team Aqua, her crew jubilant from both their results and in having ‘the boss back’.
“It is good to be back!” agreed Chris Bake. “First race, we got the right end of the line and a good start and I think with that we got some good air, obviously on the right side.
“In the second race, we had a decent start again, third up from the leeward end and got into a header and Nika crossed us. It was a tight cross, but she was on the lifted tack and just made ground from there. We tried to break out by going to the opposite leeward gate mark, but once the boats were set up it was hard to pass.”
Bake was thrilled to be back in the RC44. “I obviously had every intention of being here on Wednesday, then on Thursday and Friday – unfortunately there is a lot going on in the commodity world and every day I thought I could get away something came up.”
Tactician Cameron Appleton was firing on all cylinders today: “We are happy - it just shows the make-up and depth of the team, the experience that we have together to be able to switch it on. Welcoming Chris back was really nice. We knew we had to go for broke.”
Elsewhere a 5-3 for Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing represented the French team’s best day of the regatta while a pair of sixth placed finishes for the Polish MAG Racing team of Krzysztof Krempec and Artur Kasner was one of the best days of their 2015 season.
Whether racing will occur tomorrow, the final day of the RC44 Cascais World Championship, remains in the lap of the Gods. At present 19-20 knots from the south is forecast which is sailable, but with gusts of 36-37 and a 3m sea – it is not.