It was a day of mixed fortunes for the top teams as fleet racing got underway today at the RC44 Cascais Cup. In light to moderate conditions off the Portuguese sailing mecca, three races were held in an 8-10 knot northwesterly and a long but shallow Atlantic Race swell.
Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF got off to the strongest of starts, comfortably winning the first two races. “We just wanted to be consistent and to avoid any collisions, so it was pretty simple,” claimed the Slovenia skipper.
CEEREF’s British tactician Adrian Stead expanded on this: “In the first race we wanted the pin and to work to the right – which we got. In the second race we wanted the right hand side of the start to go to the right – and we got that as well. It was the kind of course where if you were confident in your laylines you could make nice gains.”
However in the third, as Lah admitted they were “too greedy…” Shaving the committee boat, they were a second or two early and were immediately called back to restart. Sadly they were subsequently unable to recover adequate ground and came home ninth. “That was a pity. But we know we can do it - we will not make the same mistake,” concluded Lah.
Stead was generally optimistic: “Our goal today was nine points or less, so we missed that but we are still in the frame. The tempo and how we sailed the boat was good – Igor was driving the boat really well and executed exactly what we wanted. It was unfortunate that one of the starts was one second too early.”
Adhering more closely to their ‘consistency pays’ mantra was John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum. A 2-4, followed by a win in today’s final race, leaves the Gibraltar-based team leading.
“It was very good, great fun,” Bassadone observed. “The boat seems to be going well. Everyone seems pretty relaxed and the racing, as always, is super-tight. It was a good start, but our focus is on trying to be consistent and conservative, but not too conservative - to try and sail like we know how to sail and see where we end up. Obviously there is a very long way to go.”
Peninsula Petroleum’s Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto admitted that they had struggled to find the right upwind mode in the first race. “Everyone was pushing hard to the right and if you got a nice lane you could sail to your target.” In fact the fleet seemed obsessed with the right, land side of the course, both on upwind and downwind in the first two races.
“There were plenty of nice women on the beach!” quipped Vascotto. “We know that usually in Cascais the right is strong, due to the little right banana [shift] at the end. We feel very comfortable here - it is one of those places, like Porto Cervo, where you feel at home. You know where you have to go. The problem is...so does everyone else…”
There was a small blemish on Peninsula Petroleum’s scoreline when she was awarded a one point penalty for a marking rounding collision with Nico Poons’ Charisma. She still ends the day two points ahead of Chris Bake’s Team Aqua and Vladimir Liubomirov’s Bronenosec Sailing Team, tied in second, with today’s star performer, Team Ceeref, just a point behind them in fourth.
Also starting to show form today was the new Russian RC44 team, BlackWater, which held second for most of race two, before being overhauled by their mighty compatriots, Bronenosec Sailing Team.
“The second race was good. We started well and we had a very nice, first mark rounding when we were second. Basically it was down to the tactician and the helm and the team in this race didn’t make any mistakes. It feels very good when you see most of the fleet behind you. It is a funny feeling - you are happy and a little bit scared, because everyone’s pursuing you…” explained Andreas Savvidis, one of BlackWater’s trio of young owners, who was breathing a small sigh of relief: Whenever BlackWater wins its first ever RC44 race, his co-owners in BlackWater, Alexander Zaytsev and Maxim Merzlikin, have promised to shave his head.
Fleet racing continues tomorrow at 1200 local time.