Fleet racing at the RC44 Portsmouth Cup began today on a new race course, laid further east beyond the Solent towards Hayling Bay. Despite this, conditions remained ultra-shifty, making for a challenging, high scoring day for all of the RC44 teams. Except Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika.
The defending RC44 fleet racing champion somehow managed to put in a consistent 1-3-3 score despite the chaotic conditions that forced tacticians to make the most of their local knowledge, skill, intuition or sheer crystal ball gazing ability to anticipate what would happen next.
“We had a bit better boat speed and the courses that Ed chose were the best,” said a beaming Prosikhin of his America’s Cup winning helmsman tactician, Ed Baird. “And the whole crew was almost flawless.” At present Team Nika is mid-fleet in the 2016 season ranking after a disappointing result in May’s RC44 Sotogrande World Championship, so Prosikhin was ecstatic to be so on form today. “I want Team Nika to be back –badly! It is painful to win one year and to be so far behind the next year. I’m doing my best, as are the guys. Everyone wants to do their job well and we are very determined.”
‘Man of the match’ today, who made the most sense in the madness, was certainly Baird, although Team Nika’s first start didn’t go to plan when Baird admitted that they got their timing wrong and ended up second tier. Nonetheless, undeterred they fought back and ended up winning the race.
“Clearly starts are over-rated!” mused Baird. “We were lucky that there were big enough shifts and enough of them to get us back in the hunt on the first leg and then we could play the game from there. In reality Vladimir sails the boat really well and the course was reasonably open and when it’s like that, provided we can find our way through and can keep the boat going fast, stay in clear air and play the shifts, then we are in the game.”
While today’s races were ultra-shifty, each had different characteristics: For example the second had the most number of shift over the race’s duration, the third race having the biggest single shift. “It was an interesting day because you had to keep your eyes open,” said Baird.
Team Nika ended the day five points clear of Torbjörn Törnqvist’s second-placed Artemis Racing on 12, two points in front of the present championship leader (and current guardian of the RC44 ‘golden wheels’), Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF.
Just off the podium is Team Aqua of RC44 Portsmouth Cup host, Chris Bake, in fourth place on 15 points.
Both yesterday’s match racing winner, Vladimir Liubomirov’s Bronenosec and John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum had the most extreme mix of fortunes. For Bronenosec in the first race a gybe set at the top mark went awry causing her to finish 10th. Yet in the next race, the Russian team slingshotted themselves around the committee boat end of the line, charged off to the right of the course in the lead, never looking back.
“It was one of those races when everything you did was good,” recounted Bronenosec’s tactician Michele Ivaldi. “We sailed all the way to the right where we found more pressure and from then on it was a little easier because of the big wind shift. Today was very tricky because the wind was 255 to 320°. It was hard to always be in the right spot.”
At present, Bronenosec is sixth overall, but is tied on points with Peninsula Petroleum. In the case of John Bassadone’s Gibraltar-based team, they hooked the weather mark in the second race causing them to finish last. They too then won their next race.
Bassadone recounted: “It was a very complicated day with tricky conditions and monster shifts. It was snakes and ladders-type sailing today. The second race was a bit of bad luck. Apart from getting stuck at the mark, then getting caught out on the wrong side of a monster shift, we didn’t sail badly and it showed in the third race, where it was good to get a win. We didn’t really do much different just that things went to plan…
“It was a good fun day. It is fantastic to be here. It is the first time I’ve sailed in the UK and I am so happy to be here. It is a fantastic event. Thanks to Chris Bake for putting on this show.”
Racing continues tomorrow with three more fleet races scheduled.