Vladimir Liubomirov’s Bronenosec Sailing Team was the class act on the opening day of match racing at the RC44 Portsmouth Cup, notching up a perfect scoreline, winning all five of its matches.
However, the Russian team was not as invincible as their score suggested. As Bronenosec’s Italian tactician, Michele Ivaldi observed: “We had good starts, good crew work, good speed, good driving and in the race against Peninsula Petroleum when we were behind, we kept it close and at the first chance we pounced. Against Artemis we were behind, split gates and after a little fight at the top of the second beat we managed to sneak in front.”
Racing started straightforwardly enough in a 10 knot westerly, however the wind became erratic with the onset of a squall. As the skies darkened, the wind piped up to 20+ knots. In the gusty conditions several boats broached. Over the course of the day the wind speed ranged from 6 to 24 knots and shifted through almost 100°.
For Ivaldi racing in the Solent is relatively unfamiliar and he is having to come to terms with the tide that today started slack before the eastbound ebb started building. “I understand the idea of it! It is great to add this third dimension to the racing.”
Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF from Slovenia also put in one of the best match racing performances of its long RC44 career, today winning five of her seven matches. Lah admitted they had been lucky in the race against Peninsula Petroleum when John Bassadone’s team had massively broached just ahead of them: “There were a lot of lead changes today - it was fun!”
However today’s biggest broaching prize went to Team Aqua of Portsmouth event host and long standing RC44 supporter, Chris Bake. This occurred during their match against Team Nika, when after rounding the top mark they had lost control of their spinnaker during a routine set. As Bake observe ‘the kite never really made it up. Then that was followed by a bit of a trawl. And then we tried not to sail over it and got caught with the spinnaker half up and were going sideways... It took a while to get it under control. And we also ended up with someone over the side. It was full on.”
That ‘someone’ was Team Aqua’s long term tactician Cameron Appleton who was attempting to haul the spinnaker in, when the sail unloaded. “At that moment I had the first swim of my career!” Appleton recounted. “My first thought was to make sure I wasn’t tangled, so I came up unscathed and the guys tacked around and came back and had me back on board in two minutes.”
Team Aqua also gets today’s prize for the most aggressive start when in their match against Katusha they performed a ‘Harry Potter bus’ manoeuvre, successfully squeezing through a gap that wasn’t really there between the race committee boat and their opponent. Clearly the umpires didn’t seem to think there was a gap there either and awarded Team Aqua two penalties.
“As always, it was pretty competitive, shifty and we had a few minor hiccups,” summarised Bake. “The squall that came through was pretty intense, but the boats are so responsive. Today there were a lot of gear changes - we saw 24 knots at one point.”
Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika lost just one of the five matches she sailed today and this was enough for to edge it into the lead of the continuing the rolling 2016 RC44 match racing championship that runs between regattas throughout the year, putting them one point ahead of Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing.
Prosikhin’s only loss today was to Peninsula Petroleum. He felt there were several occasions when he could have beaten them, but they had slipped through his fingers. “We could have won, but they sailed better! The other races were okay. We almost lost against Artemis, but there was a very big wind shift which we noticed earlier than they did, so we tacked immediately at the downwind mark while they hesitated for two seconds.” This is the first occasion that Team Nika, with her America’s Cup winning helmsman Ed Baird calling tactics, has led the RC44 match racing championship.
Today the RC44 Portsmouth Cup was joined by five Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust graduate volunteers, who were able to sail in the guest spots on board the RC44s. hey had been invited to the event by Chris Bake, who is a supporter of the Trust: "Ever since I found out about the Trust I've been a big admirer and supporter. The work that it does with young people, putting them in a position where they can excel under their own ability and initiative and gain the confidence from that – I think it's just amazing!"
Racing continues tomorrow with the first of four days of fleet racing at the RC44 Portsmouth Cup.