The RC 44 class made its debut in American waters in conditions that make Miami a renowned racing venue: a northwesterly breeze gusting over 20 knots and the boats planing around the racecourse north of Government Cut at speeds of 17 to 20 knots.
The ORACLE RC 44 Cup Miami commenced today with the 14-boat fleet split into two groups of seven for preliminary match racing. If time permits by mid-Thursday, semifinals and a final will be held for the top two from each group.
Wintertime racing off the southeast coast of Florida has long been a sailor’s playground. The sun is brilliant, the water is warm and the conditions usually challenge the best of crews.
Although the Northern Hemisphere winter is still officially two weeks away, chilly temperatures this morning had the sailors thinking it came early. The passing of a cold front helped stir up the strong northwesterlies, and the fleet completed eight flights of five matches for 40 races in total.
In Group Alpha, Cameron Appleton has Chris Bake’s Team Aqua tops in the group with a 5-1 record, followed by Harm Müller-Spreer and Markus Wieser in Team Sea Dubai. Sea Dubai actually posted a 6-0 record, but had penalty points applied by the umpires.
In Group Bravo, Terry Hutchinson guided Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis to the top of the group with a 5-1 record. Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino enjoyed its best day since returning to the class and is second at 4-1 with one flight to complete the round. BMW ORACLE Racing, with Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts, is third at 4-2.
The conditions taxed many of the crews, who were sore from being thrown about the light-displacement yachts, but none other than Daniel Calero’s crew aboard Islas Canarias Puerto Calero. The Spanish crew from the Canary Islands was forced out of action with a broken mast before morning had turned to afternoon.
Islas Canarias had just completed a jibe in its Flight 1 race when the mast broke about five feet above the gooseneck, where the boom attaches to the mast, and the spar went over the port side.
“We had just completed our jibe when we heard a big crunch,” said Calero. “There wasn’t much we could do to save the mast.”
Crewman Carlos Hernandez jumped into the warm Atlantic Ocean to help the crew recover some of the sails and disassemble the rigging so the mast could be brought back aboard the yacht for the motor to the harbor.
Islas Canarias Puerto Calero returned to shore where the crew began stepping a spare mast that the RC 44 Class Association has available at each regatta for just such an incident.
“This is the good side of this class, there’s a mast ready to go and we’ll be ready to race tomorrow,” said Calero. “We were enjoying the great conditions today and can’t wait to get back out tomorrow.”
ORACLE RC44 Cup Miami Day 1 Quotes
Cameron Appleton, Team Aqua: “We came off the water with one loss and that was good on a day like today. It was very shifty. Wind started out with puffs up to 28 knots or more, we saw the first rig come down in the class, and everyone seemed to be handling the conditions in different ways. It was a good test for the crews. A really good crew was rewarded today by sailing the boats well. Today was tricky because of a little cross swell and change in pressure. It kept us all on our toes.
Francesco Bruni, Mascalzone Latino: “We’re very happy, obviously. We had four good starts. We’re making big progress from Valencia to here and are now starting to win some races. We’re learning the boat more and more. It’s normal to struggle in the beginning, but now we’re learning again. We had 20 knots, sunny and breezy. It was puffy, shifty, a very nice challenge. It was just a bit too cold, but everything else was brilliant.”
Pieter Heerema, No Way Back: “Today was exciting, a beautiful wind but tough. Lots of people had problems in boathandling. That makes the sailing exciting. We had an up and down day. We sailed well, no problems with the boathandling, but we didn’t always grab the opportunities we created for ourselves. At a certain point you just have to nail it.”
Terry Hutchinson, Artemis: “It was an incredibly difficult day. Our guys sailed very well. This was our first regatta since Dubai where we had any training prior to the first day of racing and it showed. Sailing north of Government Cut (the channel leading to Miami Harbor) was pretty good. The course gave options for both sides to work.”
Harm Mueller-Spreer, Team Sea Dubai: “We had six wins, good boatspeed and very good starts. We had a bit of bad luck in the second to last race because we hit the Russians (Synergy Russian Sailing Team). But our boathandling is good, the maneuvering is good and the feeling for the pre-start is good. I feel very comfortable. First off we had not so much wind and then it increased to 25 knots or more and slowly decreased all afternoon.”
Ian Williams, Ironbound: “The boat’s fantastic. The best thing is that you only have eight guys and lots to do. Everybody needs to pull their weight and be aware of what’s going on, doing right things at the right time. It makes it a great challenge as a team to do well.”
ORACLE RC44 Cup Miami Provisional Results
(Through 8 flights)
1. Team Aqua (UAE) Chris Bake/Cameron Appleton – 5-1, 5 points
2. Team Sea Dubai (UAE) Harm Müller-Spreer/Markus Wieser – 6-0, 4 points*
3. Synergy Russian Sailing Team (RUS) Maxim Logutenko/Evgeniy Neugodnikov – 2-3, 2 points
3. No Way Back (NED) Pieter Heerema/Ray Davies – 4-2, 2 points*
3. Katusha (RUS) Guennadi Timtchenko/Paul Cayard – 2-4, 2 points
6. Peninsula Petroleum (ESP) John Bassadone/Inaki Castaner – 1-4, 1 point
7. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (ESP) Daniel Calero/Jose Maria Ponce – 0-6, 0 points
(* penalty points applied)
1. Artemis (SWE) Torbjorn Tornqvist/Terry Hutchinson – 5-1
2. Mascalzone Latino (ITA) Vincenzo Onorato/Francesco Bruni – 4-1
3. BMW ORACLE Racing (USA) Larry Ellison/Russell Coutts – 4-2
4. 17 (USA) William Douglass/Jimmy Spithill – 4-2
5. Ceeref (SLO) Igor Lah/Rod Davis – 2-4
6. Ironbound (USA) David Murphy/Ian Williams – 1-4
7. AEZ RC 44 Sailing Team (AUT) René Mangold/Christian Binder – 0-6
After wishing for more boatspeed following the match racing portion of the RC 44 Valencia Cup, Anders Myralf of Denmark guided James Spithill and the 17 crew to three first place finishes today to wrest control of the fleet racing portion of the regatta.
The 17 crew won the first, third and fourth races, and placed fourth in Race 2. Their low score, however, is 8 points due to a 1 point penalty imposed by the International Jury.
Second place is held by Chris Bake and Team Aqua, winners of the match racing portion of the week-long event, with 14 points on finishes of 2-3-5-4.
Third place is held by Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis at 20 points (5-7-2-6).
“It’s incredible to come down here from Copenhagen and jump into a boat that is so organized and well sailed,? said Myralf, an amateur sailor who races aboard the Farr 40 Nanooq with the Prince of Denmark. “I’ve never seen such a good crew. I’ve got the easiest job on the boat.?
The southeasterly sea breeze that marked the match racing didn’t materialize today until the fourth race, but it lacked its typical punch. Instead, the fleet sailed in mostly an easterly wind between 8 and 10 knots. Only in Race 4 did it shift to the southeast and increase to 12 knots.
The new conditions made consistency hard to achieve. Instead of trusting the right side of the racecourse, some found the left side of the course favorable. Aside from the top two, the rest of the fleet had at least one, if not two finishes out of the top five.
“We were able to stay in the top five, and in this fleet that’s saying something,? said Bake of Team Aqua. “The field was fairly mixed up.?
Another marked difference from the match racing portion are the amateur helmsmen, as required by class rules. In most cases that is the owner driving the light-displacement yacht.
Completing the top five are a pair of Russians: Guennadi Timtchenko and Katusha, placed fourth with 20 points on finishes of 9-1-8-3, followed by Maxim Logutenko aboard BMW ORACLE Racing with Russell Coutts at 22 points (finishes of 10-6-4-2).
For Timtchenko, this is just his third regatta. Ever. He’d never raced before joining the RC 44 Class, but got into it due to Tornqvist, a friend and business associate.
“I raced with Torbjorn aboard one of his boats,? said the 57-year-old Timtchenko. “The RC 44 is the right class for me. It’s an interesting boat, fast and maneuverable. I make a lot of mistakes, but my crew gets me out of trouble.?
Marring an otherwise great day, 17 was penalized 1 point by the jury after a protest from Islas Canarias Puerto Calero and owner Daniel Calero.
At the start of Race 4, Puerto Calero was the windward yacht with 17 overlapped to leeward. Puerto Calero alleged that Spithill, the professional helmsman, took the helm. Class rules state that the professional may take the helm only on safety grounds.
Puerto Calero maintains that Spithill took the helm to help push them over the line early. Puerto Calero was on the course side at the start.
According to International Jury chairman Bill Edgerton, Spithill said in the protest hearing that he had a hand on the wheel, but only to help turn the yacht down to avoid potentially hitting Puerto Calero.
“We didn’t want to have them disqualified, but we wanted to raise the issue that it is against the rules,? said Daniel Calero.
RC 44 VALENCIA CUP
(Fleet racing provisional results)
1. 17 / Anders Myralf (USA) 1-4-1-1, 8 points*
2. Team Aqua / Chris Bake (UAE) 2-3-5-4, 14 points
3. Artemis / Torbjorn Tornqvist (SWE) 5-7-2-6, 20 points
4. Katusha / Guennadi Timtchenko (RUS) 9-1-8-3, 21 points
5. BMW ORACLE Racing / Maxim Logutenko (USA) 10-6-4-2, 22 points
6. No Way Back / Pieter Heerema (NED) 8-2-7-5, 22 points
7. Ceeref / Igor Lah (SLO) 6-11-3-7, 27 points
8. Islas Canarias Puerto Calero / Daniel Calero (ESP) 3-9-9-10, 31 points
9. AEZ RC44 Sailing Team / Rene Mangold (AUT) 4-10-10-8, 32 points
10. Mascalzone Latino Audi Team / Vincenzo Onorato (ITA) 11-5-6-11, 33 points
11. Team Sea Dubai / Harm Mueller-Speer (UAE) 7-8-11-9, 35 points
(* includes 1 point penalty by International Jury)