Having come out on top in yesterday’s match racing after some complex countback mathematics, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua was more definitely the stand-out performer on the opening day of fleet racing at the RC44 Bermuda Cup.
Great Sound was also in more pleasant mood. While yesterday the wind was 20+ knots, conditions felt more summery today with the wind just about gusting to 15 knots, but more regularly 10. It was extremely shifty too, varying in direction between 325 and 025°.
In today’s four races Team Aqua never dropped off the podium. Scoring 2-3-1-3 saw her return to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club leading, two points clear of Vladimir Liubomirov’s Bronenosec Sailing Team.
Following yesterday’s requirement for brute force and survival skills, today’s lighter winds placed a premium on tactical calls and crew finesse, “Key was the guys doing a fantastic job,” explained Team Aqua tactician, Cameron Appleton. “It was a very active day for the crew and the guys trimming the sails did a really good job. We sailed well.”
Their races were not flawless – attempting to shoot the top mark in race one, they came to a standstill, fouling Bronenosec Sailing Team and picking up a penalty.
After scoring the most wins in yesterday’s match racing, Bronenosec Sailing Team continued her winning streak by claiming today’s first race. However as was the case yesterday, there was drama from the outset, when, soon after the start, a major collision occurred between Artemis Racing and Team CEEREF. In this, Team CEEREF, in the wrong on port, T-boned Artemis Racing leaving the Swedish boat’s topsides with a massive Slovenian bow-shaped hole in them.
“We wanted to tack and then there was a shift and we just misjudged it,” admitted Team CEEREF owner Igor Lah. “It was our mistake. It was a big one, a major and for our boat there was almost no damage. We are really sorry.”
Thankfully as the collision was with Artemis Racing’s leeward side, no one was hurt. “We were a little bit shocked though,” admitted tactician Francesco Bruni.
To make amends Lah offered the use of his RC44 to Artemis Racing for the rest of the day, but they declined. Once ashore, Team CEEREF tactician Adrian Stead was off to buy the local tipple, Gosling’s rum, in quantity for the Swedes.
The hole in Artemis Racing is not small – an upside down triangle immediately below the gunnel on the port side two thirds of the way back from the bow, its top side measures 1m across. Fortunately the incident occurred close to Artemis Racing’s giant America’s Cup base on the shore of Great Sound. There their RC44 was hauled out and the boatbuilders set to work immediately to build a replacement panel. If the repairwork goes to schedule, Artemis Racing should be racing once again tomorrow.
For redress the jury awarded Artemis Racing four points/race, leaving them third overall.
Surprisingly after sitting out the rest of race one, Team CEEREF rallied, impressively posting a 1-3-1. Despite being disqualified from the first race and receiving a three point penalty for the collision, this left them fourth overall, one point behind Artemis Racing.
“All the guys were upset,” recounted Igor Lah. “I said ‘guys, reset – let’s do it. Let’s show what we can do without making stupid mistakes.’”
Stead said that they had relished the shifty conditions. “You had to chip away at it. In races two and three we were probably fourth or fifth at the top mark, but there were opportunities. You just had to believe in what you saw and try as much as possible to sail your own race.
“Otherwise it was testament to Igor’s driving and concentration and all the guys on the team for bouncing back.”
With the RC44 celebrating its 10th anniversary it was appropriate that the class’ creator, Sir Russell Coutts, took time off from his duties as architect of the 35th America’s Cup to visit the fleet.
“It is good to see them in Bermuda,” said Coutts. “They have been around for a while now and it is good that they have come here. All the owners I have spoken to are surprised at what this place is. They were expecting to be in the Caribbean, but Bermuda has its own unique style – I think they are enjoying it.”