Two days to go of fleet racing at the RC44 Cascais Cup and, incredibly, just four points separate the top seven boats across this nine-strong fleet. Yesterday there were 12 points between first and seventh.
After an hour long postponement ashore, conditions came good with sun, a steady 12-18 knots and a shallow swell rolling in from the Atlantic. Unfortunately the stable conditions didn’t help fleet separation and in the race two, the nine boats arrived at the top mark within five boatlengths. This clearly defying the laws of physics, penalties were landing on boats like confetti.
Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF, which scored two wins and a last yesterday, continued its scoreline of extremes. After winning the first race, the Slovenia team finished last in the second having come off the worst from the top mark elbowing, awarded two penalties.
Vladimir Liubomirov’s Bronenosec Sailing Team and Chris Bake’s Team Aqua also received penalties coming into the top mark, Aqua picking up a second on the run when their spinnaker touched Peninsula Petroleum or more accurately smothered their tactician - the umpires able to identify a Vasco Vascotto-shaped indentation in the Team Aqua kite, still gesticulating wildly.
Stand-out boat was Artemis Racing, which posted a 4-1-2 with owner Torbjörn Törnqvist taking over the helm this morning. From being in last place, 15 points off the lead yesterday, the Swedish RC44 is now just four points from first, albeit still sixth.
“What can I say? It really was a good day…” said a beaming Törnqvist. “It was down to a few small things on board and the communication, which worked with lots of feedback. Conditions weren’t that difficult – the wind was very steady, with few wind shifts, so you could work with the speed. During the course of the day I think we learned how to sail the boat a bit quicker.”
While conditions helped compress the scoreboard today, Törnqvist also believed it was down to the sheer competitiveness of the RC44 fleet. “Anyone can win and it is getting closer and closer - there are just metres difference between boats now.” Törnqvist singled out the Russian team, BlackWater, new to the RC44 circuit this year. “There are so many good boats and the slightest mistake is very costly in this fleet.”
Having elevated themselves from an uncharacteristic last place, Artemis Racing’s Italian tactician Francesco Bruni was looking relieved. “We made some small adjustments on the boat and today our speed was better, whereas yesterday we were struggling. And today I was starting better and making better strategy. But it is always easier when your boat is faster!”
Like yesterday, the fleet was continually hunting the right side of the course, and a small beneficial shift close to the shore.
Bruni described their race two victory: “We had a good start and were furthest right on the first beat. We did a good job on the approach to the mark. We had a little incident with Ceeref but luckily there was no collision and there was a penalty on them. Then we stretched from there.”
Often in RC44 races, the leader extends, but in the third and final race, Artemis Racing and Bronenosec Sailing Team remained locked in their own personal fight for the lead from start to finish. “We thought we had them on a couple of occasions, but we couldn’t quite make the jump,” admitted Bruni.
Sadly Bronenosec’s first race win here in Cascais, followed two eighth placed finishes earlier today. Tactician Michele Ivaldi explained: “In the first race we made a couple of mistakes – we went right, but too early on for it to pay. In the second we had a good start, but we just got forced to the left and we got sandwiched, spat out the back. Then there was a massive pile up at the top mark…”
The short break after race two was enough for the Russian team to regroup. For the final race they came out fighting, won the right and just escaped Artemis’ clutches on the final run.
The top three teams overall were among today’s highest scorers. For example, John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum remains overall leader but it could so easily have been so different had the Gibraltar-based team not hooked a lobster pot in the final race. As a result they end the day just a point clear of Team CEEREF and Bronenosec.
With two days to go, the RC44 Cascais Cup is showing a closeness across the fleet never previously see at this stage of an RC44 regatta.