With racing cancelled yesterday due to severe conditions, the RC44 Sotogrande Cup fleet ventured out today in marginally improved conditions. Once again the wind, although shifty, was less of an issue than the sea state, which was initially so massive that the RC44s were disappearing up to their spreaders in the troughs.
To make matters harder the wind and the swell weren’t aligned with the latter coming from further right than the wind. As a result, the boats received a violent pummelling as they sailed along the giant waves on starboard and, on tacking onto port, would find themselves crashing directly into them. This was alleviated slightly in the third and final race when the wind shifted left. And then there were the incessant rain squalls that passed through, that not only caused the wind to shift according to their position over the race track, but also made decks extremely slippery. They contributed to two man overboard incidents – both crewmen successfully recovered.
Team Aqua may not have won a race today but a consistent performance was enough to launch Chris Bake’s team in first place overall. “I like being there - it is good,” said Bake, whose team historically has held the lead in the RC44 more than any other. “The boys did a good job on Thursday and we came out today with consistent results that put us in the lead.” But it was tricky: “It was tough steering - you had to be quite pro-active. You were also dealing with rain in your the eyes and trying to keep the boat going in the swell.”
Team Aqua’s tactician Cameron Appleton agreed: “On starboard the odd big wave would really kick the boat and if it coincided with a lull or a puff, it would overload or underload it. Then you’d tack over on to port and you were punching into the waves. You’d get rolling, then you’d hit a series of waves and drop back down. It was a tough day for Chris and all the drivers in the fleet.”
There was also a fair amount of drama. Team Aqua was one of the two boats to lose a crewman overboard, (the other being Artemis Racing where tactician Francesco Bruni took an unexpected plunge during the leeward mark rounding of today’s first race).
In today’s final race Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika, the leader going into today, made a poor spinnaker drop leaving them last. The Russian team now trails Team Aqua by three points.
Once again in the headlines today was Russian Alexander Novoselov’s Katusha which for a second occasion won the opening race of the day. “Rain and all the possible miserable weather happened today in Sotogrande, but it was very nice to race,” mused Novoselov. So too was Kirill Frolov, the new co-helmsman of Bronenosec, who won race three – the Russian’s first ever RC44 race victory, despite this only being his second ever day on the job.
“It is great - my first champagne!” said a delighted Frolov. “It was a good decision to change to the J1 [in race 3], because the first three boats all did that. So we are happy even though we were a little bit nervous in the second downwind.” Frolov’s achievement was all the better today since taking over from regular Bronenosec helmsman Vladimir Liubomirov, who had steered for today’s first race.
In race three reigning RC44 champion, Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF had been leading, but lost out picking the wrong side of the course as a massive shift took hold on the last run. This played into Bronenosec’s hands. “We saw the rain and went for it,” explained tactician Cameron Dunn.
Winning race two, their second of the series was John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum. “After our bad results on the first day, and not sailing yesterday, it as a big relief to have had a decent day today in tough weather,” said Bassadone.
“It was very good fun today, apart from the miserable conditions. These boats sail so well in these conditions. Downwind it was great, but upwind it was tricky. The crew did a fantastic job and Vasco [Vascotto, Peninsula Petroleum’s tactician] got us out of trouble when we were behind.”
Coming from nearby Gibraltar, Bassadone apologied for the conditions of the last 36 hours. “It is not going to rain for probably eight months now! You can’t believe how unusual this is.”
A further three races are scheduled for tomorrow, with the start time moved forward to 1100 CET.