Chris Bake and his Team Aqua win the fleet regatta after a fantastic final battle whilst Torbjorn Tornqvist and Artemis conquer the Al Maktoum Sailing Trophy (the combination of the match race and fleet race rankings) ahead of Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back and Markus Wieser’s Team Sea Dubai.
The conditions were very difficult for the last day of the Al Maktoum Sailing Trophy RC 44, with a very shifty breeze blowing between 8-15 knots and a pale sky covered with sand and dust and a visibility reduced to half a mile.
Team Aqua, Artemis and to a lesser extent Ceeref were in a position to win the fleet race ranking this morning. BMW ORACLE Racing took the best start at the pin end whilst Aqua managed to find clean air in the middle of the line. Things weren’t going that well for Artemis, who ended up sailing in the other team’s turbulences. A massive right shift made the Swedish team’s life even harder whilst giving a nice edge to No Way Back and Team Aqua. In a normal race, this would have been it but this definitely wasn’t a normal race. Indeed, the gusts, the shifts and the marks of course were hardly noticeable due to the dust.
“We felt that the temperature was dropping brutally”, explained No Way Back’s owner Pieter Heerema at the end of the race. “This was a clear indication that the wind would turn right and blow from offshore.” Indeed, the wind started veering in the middle of the second beat, sending half of the fleet way over the lay line and giving a beautiful opportunity to Artemis to catch up. The wind carried on turning right during the last spinnaker ride, forcing the boats to finish under jib however without affecting the results much. No Way Back won the race ahead of Team Aqua and Puerto Calero, whilst Artemis recovered well, going from last to fourth and keeping a chance to win the overall title.
With four points between Team Aqua and Artemis ahead of the last race, all remained possible. Ceeref was also still in a position to grab the second place from Artemis. However, a premature start in the last race immediately made this look unlikely.
This last race was a strange one. The wind had shifted by almost 180 degrees since the first regatta and the land couldn’t be seen. Many teams looked disorientated and didn’t manage to adopt their usual pre-start routine. Two boats started prematurely, whilst many were late. Minutes later, Artemis refused a very basic port-starboard priority to its direct opponent Team Aqua. Chris Bake had to crash tack for the second time in two days to avoid a bad collision. After completing its penalty, Artemis ended up rounding the top mark in last for the second consecutive time.
The wind carried on turning to the right and the last beat and spinnaker ride turned into reaches. No Way Back once again benefited from its tactician Ray Davies’ fantastic understanding of the situation to win a second race in a row, ahead of Puerto Calero – also excellent today. Thanks to this achievement, No Way Back gains one place in the overall ranking ahead of Ceeref. “It’s a shame, commented Ceeref’s owner Igor Lah at the end of the day. “We miss the fleet race ranking podium for one point and this costs us three places in the overall ranking. We would have finished second and we end up fifth!”
Well known for his spectacular come-backs since last year’s Gold Cup – and this week’s match race - Pieter Heerema’s No Way Back is the winner of the day; he ends up third in the fleet race ranking and second overall.
However, the fight for victory was happening at the back of the fleet, between Team Aqua and Artemis. Both teams had misfortunes during this race. Artemis’s spinnaker got twisted whilst Team Aqua took the very conservative – yet inefficient - decision not to raise theirs until the last quarter of the last leg. Artemis finally crossed the arrival line in sixth whilst Team Aqua finished eighth: both teams’ worse result in the event. Nevertheless, Team Aqua wins the fleet race title whilst Artemis finishes second. Already third of the match race ranking, the Swedish team also conquers the overall Al Maktoum Sailing Trophy ahead of No Way Back and an excellent Team Sea Dubai, winner of the match race event and fifth in the fleet race ranking.
The next regatta of the RC 44 Championship Tour will take place in very different conditions, in the Austrian mountain lake Traunsee, on April 20 – May 4.
Fleet race, final results after nine races:
(Ranking, name of team, helmsman, results, points)
1) Team Aqua (Chris Bake), 1, 2, 1, 2, 4, 1, 6, 2, 8 – 27 points
7) Team Austria (René Mangold), 8, 3, 9, 5, 9, 8, 3, 6, 4 - 55 points
8) Team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (Daniel Calero), 7, 8, 4, 9, 5, 6, 9, 3, 2 - 57 points
9) BMW ORACLE Racing (Mike Perris), 9, 9, 6, 6, 7, 9, 8, 8, 9 - 67 points
Al Maktoum Sailing Trophy RC 44 final results:
(Ranking, name of team, match race points, fleet race points – total points)
1) Artemis 3, 2 – 5 points
2) Team No Way Back 2, 3 – 5 points
3) Team Sea Dubai 1, 5 – 6 points
4) Team Aqua 7, 1 – 8 points
5) CEEREF 4, 4 – 8 points
6) Katusha 8, 6 – 14 points
7) Team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero 6, 8 – 14 points
8) BMW ORACLE Racing 5, 9 – 14 points
9) Team Austria 9, 7 – 16 points
Chris Bake: “We were confident this morning and we didn’t have any specific plan of action against Artemis. The last race was really tough: we went from last to first and back to the bottom of the ranking again… But as Artemis was struggling too it never became a real issue.”