Day three of the RC44 Cascais Cup saw three more teams come to the fore for the first time. Conditions were difficult for the race committee, who ran the first race on the 'offshore course' in wind heading for the high 20s, and then had to move the race track into the Tagus estuary. Here the sea state was calmer, but an unusual offshore northerly was causing significant shifts, gusts and holes in the breeze.
Vladimir Prosikhin's Team Nika has had a difficult regatta so far, having picked up four penalty points following two collisions, but today they came good. In the first race they were first to find a favourable shift , were ahead at the weather mark and extended from there. In race two they led at the second top mark rounding only for their kite to rip causing them to drop to second. Posting a 1-2-6 today has caused them to fast track up the leaderboard, from seventh to second.
Prosikhin was most pleased with the second race: "That was harder because it was in lighter wind and we struggled at the start. We managed gradually to take one boat after the other to finish second." It had been a challenge not to rip their gennaker further. "We were lucky there wasn't strong wind, but we still had to make very slow, gentle manoeuvres to keep it intact. It was like carrying something made of crystal on board!"
Keeping it together partly came through the experience of the Team Nika crew and tactician Terry Hutchinson, who observed: "We just said 'let's finish in the top five here' and we got a second. It was a great save."
In less boisterous conditions, today's second race was an RC44 classic, with at least three lead changes: Peninsula Petroleum won the pin and was ahead up the first beat only for Chris Bake's Team Aqua to edge ahead coming into the top mark on port. Towards the end of the second beat Team Aqua got caught in traffic enabling Team Nika to gain the lead. Then Team Nika holed her genniker as Nico Poons' Charisma found her own personal breeze out to the left and rolled past.
A delighted Poons said of his first race win here: "Out of the blue you find yourself leading, and then last, and then you are leading again." At the first top mark rounding Charisma had touched the mark and received a penalty turn dropping them to the back. The Dutchman paid tribute to tactician, Ray Davies, recently returned having just won the America's Cup, plus other key Charisma crewmen back for this event: "It makes a big difference and you can see how we are getting back into it."
Of that final run Davies said: "We were sailing really well downwind and made all our gains there. We managed to stay in one puff for most of that run. We were lucky there was more breeze at the back than there was at the front. The guys sailed really well in very difficult conditions. We are happy to be in contention going into the last day." Charisma remains fourth, but is now tied on points with Alexander Novoselov's third placed Katusha, just five points off the lead after nine races.
Of today's conditions for the second and third race, Davies observed: "The northerly is very rare for here. We had left hand shifts of 330° and right hand shifts of 20° in the same race and wind speeds of 7-14 knots. It was very dynamic and the gains and losses in these boats are dramatic. I have been away for a couple of years and the level has stepped up. Everyone is very even which makes for fantastic racing. Plus Nico is really enjoying it, so he is sailing better."
In the final race there was again a change of leader on the final run on this occasion with Artemis Racing overhauling Katusha. Owner Torbjörn Törnqvist said: "Today was tricky, there were so many wind shifts, breeze on, breeze off - it was really challenging. We got most of the shifts right and we had good speed. We made some changes, because we weren't happy with how we've performed so far. We have got our speed back!" They most certainly have: The Swedish America's Cup team posted the best scoreline of the day with a 3-3-1.
Tomorrow three more races are scheduled, with a brisk northerly forecast.