Dramatic cloud formations over the mountains surrounding the Bay of Tivat and an overcast sky suggested that 44Cup Porto Montenegro competitors would be in for another day of adrenalin-filled competition in winds in the high teens.
In the event the wind started dropping almost the moment the timing for the sequence was announced. As Andy Horton, tactician on Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing recounted: “We went out and there was that big black line to windward of us and we said ‘Torbjörn put on your boots we’ve seen it rain and hail here’. Because the breeze was up, we put up our J2s on and did our tune-up.”
But then it all changed: “With the pre-start a couple of minutes away, the cloud split and one part went down the right and one went down the left and all of a sudden the wind dropped out and it was a quick fluster for everyone to get their genoas on. We didn’t hoist ours until 3.5-4 minutes out and a few were later. So we were straight into genoas with no training.”
Artemis Racing won the pin but was held up from tacking by the boats above her. Nonetheless the left side seemed to pay off up until the very top of the beat when coming in from the right the new Russian 44Cup team, Pavel Kuznetsov’s Tavatuy Sailing Team scored a major coup rounding the weather mark first with Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika also slipping in ahead of Artemis Racing, the Swedish RC44 relegated to third.
With the wind going soft and left on the run, the course axis was adjusted and the course shortened for the next upwind. On this Tavatuy Sailing Team took the left as Artemis Racing and Team Nika went right. On this occasion the right paid with Team Nika slowly easing ahead. With the wind dropping to nothing across the bay, the race was shortened at the top mark. Team Nika and Artemis Racing ghosted across the line, the Russian team taking her second bullet of the 44Cup Porto Montenegro.
“When the wind is dying you have to keep moving,” explained Team Nika’s Vladimir Prosikhin. “We were pretty close to Artemis. They tacked and tried to leebow us, but in these conditions that was almost impossible. I had some boat speed and they had to go 5° lower just to accelerate to our speed for 10-15 seconds, so that created a gap and we were completely safe by the finish. For us it was a nice race. We didn’t make mistakes like we did in previous races.”
Yesterday was not the best for Team Nika - OCS in one start and picking up a penalty in another dropping them from a close second to a lowly fourth. Aside from their starting, Prosikhin attributed Thursday’s issues to bedding in the rig after having changing all their standing rigging. “We struggled with the speed a bit and the fleet is so equal that everyone comes together which shows the level of the fleet. Tiny differences can change your position from first to last. That is what makes this class so special.”
According to Andy Horton on Artemis Racing closing on the finish there wasn’t enough wind even to tack the mainsail’s battens. The situation was far worse for the boats astern many of whom stopped dead in the water for several minute before the lightest of winds finally filled in, albeit from the north, forcing the tailenders to finish the upwind leg under spinnaker.
After a pause the fleet was sent ashore, and after a patience wait, racing was concluded for the day. As Principal Race Officer Peter Reggio explained: “The breeze never really materialised until late in the afternoon. If we started them then the race would have turned out bad, plus the lights would have go out. Tomorrow it will be catch-as-catch-can.” Que sera sera. However to make up for the loss in schedule the time for the last warning signal has been protracted to 1700 CET, the last time a warning signal can be made.
Today’s race has left Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF still leading but with John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petrolum now up to second ahead of Chris Bake’s Team Aqua. Fourth placed Team Nika has closed the gap on the podium down to three points.