RC 44 Gold Cup-Dubai

We started out really badly today by finishing last in the first race. We were sailing with the number 2 jib on as the breeze was up today and we really struggled with our speed upwind. Toward the end of the race we made some changes in our set up and it seemed to help us the rest of the day.

In the second race, we had a good race going and at the end of the first lap we were in fourth. The wind shifted 40 degrees to the right and I had us too far to the left so we gave back 4 positions on the second windward leg of that race. We passed one boat down the run to the finish but still a disappointing 7th.

For the last race, we had a good start, actually our starts were good all week and that is a credit to Bob Little and Morgan Gutenkunst. We were battling away in 5th most of the race and then we passed TeamAqua down the final run to finish 4th in the last one.

It was not our best regatta that is for sure. We made a lot of mistakes and had more than the normal amount of things go against us. So that is the recipe for mediocrity.

BMW Oracle had a good day winning the first two races and No Way Back just dominated the series and the season. No Way Back has put more time and effort into this Class than any other team this year and it shows in the results. They have two coaches; one for the sails and one for the crew work, and they show up one week before the regatta starts to train. That is how to get good at sailing the boat. Ray Davies does a very nice job with the tactics as well so well deserved.

I am off to SFO for about 20 hours and then to Rio on Tuesday where I will be racing in the Nestle Match Cup which is a match racing event. I will be sailing with a bunch of my Star buddies as crew. We are racing Bennetau First Class 40.7’s I believe. I really like Rio and haven’t been in a while so I am looking forward to spending a few days down there with some good friends. I will report in on Wednesday or Thursday.

For more information go to www.rc44.com

RC 44 Gold Cup-Dubai

A decent day for Katusha today. Actually apart from one incident, it was a great day. The wind came in around 1330 and we had 8-9 knots in the first race, then up to 12 knots at a moment between races, then 11-8 knots for the second race and 7-8 knots for the “DHL Coastal Race” (as DHL is one of the sponsors of the RC 44 circuit).

We got third in the first race in a very tight race all the way around with Artemis and No Way Back. At the finish line, the three of us were overlapped and we came out of it third with Artemis fourth. I honestly can’t even remember who won that race. Maybe TeamAqua.

Then in the second race, we had a nice start and decent windward leg to round 4th. Down the run we made some good choices, passed third and second, and got to the gate at the same time as Cereef who had been leading. Cereef was on starboard and we were on port as we approached. As we were laying the left gate mark, we slowed to let them go ahead. We were not sure which mark they were intending to go to but when they crossed our line and kept going, so we assumed they were going to the other mark. So we went behind them and toward the mark Just then they gybed just to leeward of us. We were instantly overlapped on the inside with no way to get out. They protested us for taking room at the mark. The umpires ruled that we fouled Cereef so we had to take a penalty turn. Then while completing that penalty turn, as we were winding back up onto the wind, Artemis was approaching, yelling and screaming, and they protested us for making them tack before we were finished with the penalty (totally on the wind). Both penalties were probably correct. So we went from 2nd to last, but hung tough on the second lap and passed three boats to finish seventh.

Then in the DHL race, we had a good start and worked the middle left of the course initially. A lot of the fleet really wanted to go to the right next to The Palm. We felt there was more pressure out to the left but the wind would eventually go right. Tricky. All these races have been tricky. Anyway, we were about 7th and then we got a break and ducked through a small hole in the traffic and popped out in a strong position for fourth. We defended that position as the course wound right around The Palm and up to the Atlantis Hotel. We set spinnakers up there and reached and then ran back to the harbor. The race was shortened as the sun was going down so we finished in 4th. And that race counted double.

So we now sit in 4th place for the fleet racing, 3 points out of 3rd and 3 points ahead of 5th. Still plenty of points to be had out there as racing continues tomorrow.

For more information go to www.rc44.com

RC 44 Gold Cup-Dubai

We had another light wind day today with a max of 8 knots from 345 degrees around 1400. The race committee did well to get 4 fleet races in. We had a mediocre day onboard Katusha with a 4,5,6,9. Some of the teams that won races immediately finished last in the next race. It wasn’t easy out there.

There were too many ups and downs to go through it all. Obviously, we did not sail great so we hope to improve on that tomorrow. Artemis had a good day with a 5,3,3,1 I believe and may be winning the fleet racing.

Tonight Team Aqua, whose owner Chris Bake, lives here in Dubai, is hosting a barbeque on the beach. We are headed down there now.

It was pretty warm today topping out at 30C.

Tomorrow is supposed to be light winds again. We have the DHL Race which is a short coastal race. We will race around The Palm to some extent. We will probably have a couple of windward/leeward races after that wind permitting.

For more information go to www.rc44.com

RC 44 Gold Cup-Dubai

The Match Racing boiled down to 4 races as there was no wind yesterday and we got started at 1230 today. Likewise, we did not race everyone in the fleet. The fleet was divided into two groups and we did one mini round robin within each group.

On Katusha, we had a good day by winning three of our four races. We had a bad day because in the first race, we were involved in a prestart incident where the umpires decided we were at fault and because the two boats touched we got a scoring penalty of one race and then because there was damage, albeit minor, we got another race taken away. Plus, we had to do the penalty turn during the race.

This was extra frustrating as I believe we were not in the wrong and the tactician of the other boat even came and told me he was very concerned that they were in fact in the wrong.

So there you go, we start four race event with a minus 2 score. Pretty bad. Meanwhile, in another race, one boat T-boned another boat, the hole was bad enough that they were taking on water, and they got the same penalty as us!

I went and talked to the umpires after the racing was completed, asking about such a heavy penalty, 2 races deducted, and they said, “Sorry, it is written that way in the sailing instructions so there is nothing we can do.” You know what, someday we will have a commissioner in our sport, just like in the NFL or the NBA and he will have discretion to make the right call.

But I have to hand it to the Katusha team; we won everything from that first race on and finished realizing we are the same strong team that won the Match Racing in Slovenia 8 weeks ago.

Bob “Peaches” Little did an excellent job for us today in calling the wind and we won the side of the start we wanted in the three races we won. We even shut out Artemis at the committee boat in the last race of the day which was nice.

So, we aren’t happy about our score but we are happy with how we are sailing. And we take that into the fleet racing tomorrow.

I should mention that my long time friend Rod Davis, skippering Cereef, won the day by winning all four of his races. Rod is surely the oldest pro helmsman out here at 53. Thanks Rod for taking that honor and good on you for winning! In fact, as bad as it was for us, we will not be last, I am sure we beat Aqua and Artemis. I don’t know the final results of the day yet but you can check for them on the class site below.

I think I better go have a beer and let this one blow over.

For more information go to www.rc44.com

RC 44 Gold Cup-Dubai

Not a lot to report from Dubai. Unfortunately, the good wind of the last two days seems to have left a bit of a void here. Today the wind never got above 6 knots and mostly was 4 knots and under.

It wasn’t possible to race in these conditions. Sid Bensalah, the General Manager of Dubai International Marine Club, told me that today was the first race day they have ever lost for lack of wind here. I was also told that it is not uncommon after a couple of days of “shamal” (that is the name of the strong northwest wind here…cool name) there is typically a bit of a vacuum.

We made the most of the day by training in the very light conditions anyway. First, after the racing was postponed outside, we came to the inner harbor, alongside The Palm in order to find a little breeze. We trained inside for about an hour just doing a very short course of windward/leewards hoisting and dropping the gennaker, gybing and tacking. Then there was a little breeze out in the channel which goes out to the sea so we trained there for an hour or so. Then there was finally 5 knots of wind outside, but not in the race area around 1600 and we sailed for another hour. So we probably got 3 hours of training in which is good for Katusha. I steered for about half of it and Peaches steered for the other half.

Speaking of Peaches (Bob Little), I have gotten many emails regarding his nickname. So here is the real story. His Mom did not give him the name. It came when he was part of a delivery crew with my good friend Kimo Worthington and the young Curmudgeon, Craig Leweck. They were delivering one of the Pendragon’s up the coast from LA to San Francisco. Young Bob apparently did nothing but eat the canned peaches the whole trip. So it was Kimo and Craig that gave Peaches his name and it has stuck!

The Match Racing will be shortened due to losing today. So, we will race five matches each and likewise won’t race against everyone. It is kind of random as to who you sail. At the end of those five flights, the top two will race for the finals, second two for the 3rd and 4th places, etc. Let’s just hope there is wind so we can race.

Friday through Sunday is the fleet racing part of the RC44 Gold Cup. The forecast is improving for each day as we go forward so it should be all on by the weekend.

For more information go to www.rc44.com

RC 44 Gold Cup-Dubai

We had a good day today on Katusha. The forecast was for fresh winds and big seas, so most teams stayed at the dock until 1300. Since our boat is still relatively new, we took the opportunity to get out early, on our own, to check our boat and rig thoroughly from structural point of view. All was good and we had a nice sail from 1100 to 1230.

We came back to the dock, made a few changes to a new mainsail, ate lunch and headed out at 1330 with the other RC 44s for the practice race. As the seaway was large outside the harbor….2 meter waves, Peter Reggio the Race Committee Chairman, decided to have three practice starts inside. What does “inside” mean? It means between The Palm and the shore, so hidden a bit from the waves. This was also a great idea because we were sailing right under all those big buildings I sent you pictures of yesterday. Good spectating and good PR for our sport!

We had Bob Little (“Peaches” as he was nicknamed by his mother) on the helm. Bob is a very good sailor who decided to get a real job a number of years ago. As the fleet racing is an amateur driver competition, Bob enjoyed the opportunity to get some starting practice in. He did a great job working with our bowman Morgan Gutenkunst getting their time-on-distance judgment down.

Then we went outside for the practice race. We had a good start, but struggled to find the groove in the big waves. We got better as the race went on. Downwind was a lot of fun as the boats were surfing the big waves and it was easy to gain and lose a lot of ground downwind. We did not do that well in the end, 6th I think. We have a debrief every day after sailing and we have been very positive about our training whether we win or lose. The key is to keep building our strength as a team. We will learn the tricks of these boats.

We had a nice welcome cocktail tonight and tomorrow is the first day of match racing. The format is a single round robin and since there are 10 teams here each team will have 9 matches. The winner of this part of the competition will be the team with the most points. We should be getting underway with the first flight around 1130 wind permitting. Unfortunately, the forecast is for the wind to lighten up substantially so let’s hope it doesn’t all go away. As you know, we have been sailing in plenty of light air recently.

For more information go to www.rc44.com

RC 44 Gold Cup-Dubai

We have had two days of training here in Dubai on Katusha. Today was a very good day with wind speeds up to 14 knots. The boats were surfing downwind and there was plenty of action.

We trained with Aqua most of the day. We had about eight match race starts and three races with them. They had the upper hand on us all day, but we learned a lot. We have two new crew members for this regatta, Bob Little who will be our fleet racing helmsman and match racing tactician and Alan “Buddah” Nakanishi who is helping Robbie with the trimming of the kite and the jib. Alan is from Hawaii and been around as long as I have.

The remainder of the crew includes: Morgan Gutenkunst on the bow, Sander van der Borsch in the pit, Tahito Sanchez (mainsheet assist), Robbie Naismith (genoa-spinnaker trim), Jared Henderson (cockpit), Marco Constant (mainsheet) and me steering in the match racing and tactician in the fleet racing.

I took a few photos at the airport and around the Dubai International Marine Club which is hosting the Gold Cup. The airport is HUGE! You would think Dubai is the hub of the world with how many flights and people pass through here. I was here a few times 5 and 6 years ago and I can tell you that all those building behind the Yacht Club were not here as well as most of the other structures near the marina. We are just in front of The Palm and it is still under going massive construction. You wonder who is going to buy all these places.

The forecast for tomorrow is even more wind, maybe up to 20 knots, from the Northwest, then easing for the rest of the week. Hopefully not too much easing.

For more information go to www.rc44.com

Louis Vuitton Trophy – Nice, France

Artemis ended the Nice event with a loss today against All4One. It was a close race but the French/German team had the upper hand at the first cross and they did a nice job to protect their lead.

Two matches were completed early this morning in the northerly drainage wind. In those matches, Emirates Team New Zealand scored a come-from-behind win over Synergy in the last 100 meters of the race as the wind was dying and the boats sailed downwind into a very large sea rolling in from the east. In the other match, BMW Oracle handed Team French Spirit-Pages Jaune a loss in what was never really a close race.

Then we had the long wait as the wind transitioned to the easterly. We had a few issues on our boat before the start with a broken mainsail batten but we finally got underway around 1330. After our race, Emirates Team New Zealand and Synergy raced again and it was Synergy who took the win in a very close race with a few penalties being given to Emirates Team New Zealand. In fact, there was contact in one situation and the jury penalized Emirates Team New Zealand 1 point and Synergy 1/2 a point. So currently, Synergy leads that semi final with a score of 1/2 to 0.

In the other semi final, Azzurra was over the start line early and made things easy on TeamOrigin. So that semi final is tied 1-1.

Racing continues for the top four tomorrow but the bottom four are finished.

Artemis finishes up in 7th which is not what we were aiming for. But we have made a good investment in our future by getting the team together and competing here. We have learned a lot and will be stronger in New Zealand in March for it.

I am off to Dubai tomorrow with Robbie Naismith, Marco Constant and Jared Henderson where we will race next week on Katusha, the RC 44, with the rest of our team.

Despite the difficult conditions here with the wind in Nice, it has been a fantastic event and all the sailors have enjoyed the racing. This morning, at 0730, there was a line of people right out of the village gate waiting to get on the spectator boat list. Not bad for the middle of November!

Thanks to Louis Vuitton and the city of Nice for all of their support!

A hundred feet up at Fifty

Going up the mast is a young man’s job, or it was thought to be until this regatta when Paul Cayard, aged 50, went up the rig for the first time in his career as windspotter for Artemis…

As the skipper, or ‘team captain’ as he prefers to call himself, Paul Cayard could probably have put himself anywhere in the afterguard of the boat, his feet safely on deck. Instead, he banished himself to the windspotter’s position a hundred feet above deck.

“The view is beautiful, but the boat sure does look skinny from up there,” said Cayard after his first foray up the rig. It goes without saying that you need a head for heights, but you also need to be ready to take the knocks. Every time the boat crashes through a wave, the top of the mast is moving arcing back and forth by a matter of metres. Hanging on is not easy, and bruises are inevitable.

So why is the oldest man on the boat the one who gets hoisted up the mast? Cayard laughs and describes his new role as “a man facing up to his mid-life crisis”. More seriously, he continues: “We talked about it for a while and we decided for Artemis that it would be better to have Terry [Hutchinson] be the helmsman. Morgan [Larson] is his tactician in the Quantum Racing TP52 campaign they’ve been doing.

Louis Vuitton Trophy – Nice, France

Only one race was completed today and that was a semi final match between Azzurra and Origin. The Italians continue to sail well beat the Brits by over a minute to take a 1-0 lead in their best of three series.

No other racing took place. We have struggled here a bit with the wind but it is the end on November in the northern hemisphere.

We are first up tomorrow with a 0830 start which means 0730 dock out. We race All4One in a one race knock out. The winner of our race will race the winner of BMW Oracle-French Spirit for 5th place.

We had a few meetings today one of which was the shareholders of the World Sailing Teams Association. We had a very good meeting that included planning for next year. The Auckland event in March and Sardinia event in May were confirmed. We are working on two more and they will be confirmed by the end of the year.