RC 44 Maktoum Trophy

This is going to sounds like a broken record….we sailed badly again today.

The short story is that we ended up 6th overall.

The sob story is that while having a great first race today, sailing down the final run in third place, the wind shifted 120 degrees…that’s right…120 degrees. The whole fleet had to put jibs up on the run and we even had to tack. We finished last.

Second race, going well, third after the first lap, big shift, a mistake by us in droping the spinnaker, and were 7th.

Anyway, I’m thinking we got it out of our system. All the bad stuff in the same week.

With 40 years of racing under my belt, I can say that “it happens”. I can also say that we will go on and win many more races.

Artemis, who finished up second in the fleet racing and combined with their third place in the match racing, ended up winning the overall. That is great for Torbjorn Tornqvist and Terry Hutchinson.

And it is good for the whole Artemis team as we head down to Auckland next week for the Louis Vuitton Trophy. I will start writing updates from New Zealand around March 5.

That’s is from Dubai. Thank you to the DIMC, Sid Bensalah and Saeed Herab and the whole staff here. We will be back in November for the Louis Vuitton Trophy.

RC 44 Maktoum Trophy

Three races were held today in a southeast to south wind blowing between 15 and 25 knots. It was incredibly dusty, with the wind blowing sand into the air.

Artemis had the best day with a 2,3,1. Onboard Katusha, we did not have a great day as we made big errors in the first two races finishing 8,7. In the last race we sailed well, getting to the first mark just behind Artemis and staying close all the way around. We closed in on them a lot on the final run, with a nice puff, but they managed to hang on to beat us by a couple of meters.

In the first race of the day, we were not in great shape coming down the first run. It was windy and just before the leeward mark, we broached and got stuck on our side for a couple of minutes. Fortunately, Aqua was very heads up as we were heading for them in the middle of the broach. They had to tack onto port to get out of our way and that saved the two boats from colliding. We hurt their race as they were in the lead at the time and they eventually finished 4th. We apologize for that. We did our penalty turn even though one had not been signaled and we were well into last place. We had a bit of luck in someone else’s misfortune and we ended up passing Austria on the final run as they had a problem too.

In the second race, we were doing pretty well up the second windward leg battling away for third or fourth when a massive gust came down the course and shifted the wind 30 degrees. Sea Dubai had gone from last to first on this leg and were sailing past us in the new wind. So, I thought we should dig into it as it seemed it was filling. We got into it and were looking ok until that wind collapsed and the left filled back in. We lost 3 or 4 boats right there at the top of the beat and finished 7th.

Very frustrating for all of us.

So, it was nice to put a good race together in the last race of the day and come back to the dock feeling a bit better.

We really need to raise our game. We all know we can sail better. For sure the competition is tough but we must find a way to improve. With all that we are still in the same place we were in when we left the dock this morning…5th. Aqua still leads and Artemis is nipping at their heels.

Tomorrow, the forecast is the same, strong southerly winds which means the wind coming off the land and massive shifts of both wind strength and direction.

For complete results go to www.rc44.com

RC 44 Maktoum Trophy

The fleet racing portion of the Maktoum Trophy started today with four very competitive races in great sailing conditions. The wind strength was between 20 and 12 knots from the south all day. It was shifty with the wind coming off the land so that made things tricky and it did get a bit softer toward the end of the day but the boats were powered up and planing downwind all day.

There was so much dust and sand flying in the air that you could not see more than a mile. We were only 2 miles offshore and we could not see land in the first two races.

Team Aqua had a “blinder” as the Kiwis would say. The sailed very well in three of the races and got really lucky in the last one to come out with a 2,1,2,1. On Katusha we had an ok day with a 5,5,2,8 and we are in 5th. The fleet stays very close together in these conditions and small mistakes can cost 3-4 boats. We were over the start line early in the first race and battled back to 5th. Even in the race we were second, we were back in the pack at the first mark. So, there is plenty of mixing and you just have to hang tough all the way to the end.

There is no “coastal” race here this time, so just more of the windward leeward racing tomorrow.

The forecast for tomorrow and Saturday is for more of the southerly winds, even going southeasterly, and a bit stronger. Four races in this breeze is a good work out for everyone.

RC 44 Maktoum Trophy

Another tough day for Katusha. We only had one race today and we lost it. Actually, I lost it right at the start. I turned up for line too early and we got locked out at the committee boat end. That was the race. We kept it close but Aqua was always safely in control.

I hate to lose but I really hate handing it to people on a silver platter.

The cost of losing that one race, was the difference between 4th overall and 8th place.

It will take me a while to put this regatta out of my mind.

Sea Dubai went on to win which is great for our hosts. No Way Back finished strong in second and our team mates on Artemis were 3rd.

Tomorrow, we start the fleet racing portion of the event. Bob Little, aka Peaches, will be steering and I will be tactician. The rest of the team is the same.

We had the practice race for fleet racing today. We had an ok start but rounded the first mark 6th. Down the first run we lost one boat and rounded 7th at the bottom. But up the second windward leg we went right and passed a few boats to round 4th, then passed one more to finish 3rd. So that made us feel a bit better.

The winds were very light and fickle, under 6 knots all day.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for a southerly wind, quite strong, in the morning the fading late morning/early afternoon with a sea breeze building late afternoon.

RC 44 Maktoum Trophy

Light winds dominated the race course today. We had a two-hour postponement and racing finally got underway at 1345 in 7 knots of wind with smooth seas.

We onboard Katusha had a much better day today winning both of our races. In the first flight of the day, we were up against BMW Oracle which is being raced by the young Kiwi team led by Adam Monoprio. Adam and his team are the current Match Race World Champions. They had a slightly better start than we did but we quickly got to the right of them and that paid off. We led the whole way around, but up the second windward leg we had a nice tacking duel, complete with fake tacks and lots of downspeed sailing. The Katusha crew did a great job there and we stretched out our lead and went on to win rather comfortably in the end.

In the second flight of the day we were up against Puerto Calero from the Canary Islands. This team always gives us a tough race and today was no exception. We had a very good start in that we were able to dial them on the entry and hold them on starboard for the entire four minutes. We eventually pinned them outside the left side of the line and led them back to start late. We then retained control of the right. They closed in on us at the top mark and we had to luff them head to wind and park them there. We then stretched a bit and had a nice lead at the bottom mark. But by this time the wind was dropping in strength, now down to four knots and things got dicey. We picked the gate that sent us to the right side but that was wrong and before we knew it we had a race on our hands again. We barely managed to corral them out on the left layline, there we stretched and won the race comfortably.

The wind died soon after and the race committee called it around 1630.

Sea Dubai continued its roll and won both of their matches including a critical one against Artemis in the battle of the unbeatens. Artemis actually won the start in my opinion and had control of the right. But three-quarters of the way up the leg Artemis tacked and crossed to the left leaving Sea Dubai to the right. There wasn’t much room left out there but it was enough for Sea Dubai to grab the lead and they never relinquished it.

So, tomorrow morning we will have to finish up the round robin. Sea Dubai has mathematically won the Match Race part of this event. We still have a chance to be in the top four. We only race one of the remaining two races as we haven’t had our “bye” yet. There will surely be a few ties on points so depending on who beats who in the match ups, the ties will be broken and teams may go up or down 3-4 places.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for even lighter winds than today so that is not good. But then again, it is just a forecast.

RC 44 Maktoum Trophy

Tough day onboard Katusha. We had 5 match races today and only managed one win. I haven’t had that bad of a win percentage in a long time.

The winds were lighter and later to fill than forecast. The wind peaked at 10 knots from 285.

We started very well in all of the races except for the one against Artemis where we were over early by a second, all alone at the left end. We had to go back to restart and that gave them that race.

In the other four we had more than a fighting chance and something just ended up going against us. As an example, in race number two, we were even off the line against the Dutch and we had the right which gave us right of way at each intersection. After two intersections, we went back at them a third time.

Then BMW Oracle, which was in another match, tacked on us blocking our wind. We could do nothing other than tack away to clear our air but that meant three tacks to the one for the Dutch and that gave them a strong lead in the light winds.

Anyway, not to whine too much. We just had a bad one today. The good news is that through all the frustration of the day we stayed tight as a crew, not getting down on each other but rather staying positive.

The local team, Sea Dubai is having a great regatta so far having won all 5 of their matches. Our Louis Vuitton Trophy teamates on Artemis also had an excellent day winning all 4 of their matches.

The forecast for tomorrow is light offshore in the morning, shifting to light onshore as the land heats up.

We’re going for a good night’s sleep and a good one tomorrow!

RC 44 Maktoum Trophy

Today was a practice day here in Dubai and we had 15-17 knots of wind with 1-2 meter seas. A breeze known as a “Shamal” blew in increasing the wind strength from the normal 8-10 knot thermal breezes we usually experience here.

While all the teams went out training today, there wasn’t a lot of aggressive match racing practice going on as the conditions were a bit much for that and tomorrow is the first race day.

The format for 2010 has changed just a bit in that the first two days of the RC 44 events will comprise match racing, the third day will be a make up day for match racing and/or the fleet racing practice race. Then the final three days will be the fleet race portion. This new format gives the organizers a better chance to get a good match racing event in, even if faced with difficult conditions such as what we experienced here last November.

Last week the Artemis Louis Vuitton Trophy team….17 crew members….trained on two RC 44s, Katusha and Artemis for five days. The conditions were excellent with 8-11 knot winds almost every day and plenty of sun. We had an excellent organization with two top umpires, a coach and a race committee. By setting up drills that put the boats into critical race situations, as well as running real races, we got into more race situations each day than we would normally get into over an entire regatta. Having the umpires and coaches allowed us to debrief the situations, with video, and really learn the best way to manage these situations on the race course and the rules that apply. It was also a nice team building exercise for team Artemis.

Next stop for the Louis Vuitton Trophy team is Auckland from March 9-21.

For now, Katusha and Artemis are concentrating on the Maktoum Trophy here in Dubai through Saturday.

Race 1 from Valencia

Well, we finally got some racing and it was completely different than all of us thought. At least upwind.

The start was exciting…we had a dial up and a penalty! We had it all! I have to say that was worth waiting for. These boats are spectacular!

After dial up and skillfully controlling much of the prestart, BMW Oracle looked like they got stuck head to wind with 30 seconds to go while Alinghi did a nice job to escape and win the start by more than a minute.

From there the two boats stayed on the port tack and were much more similar in speed than predicted. It looked to me like BMW Oracle had a bit of both….closer and faster…. upwind.

The Americans rounded the top mark in what looked like 8 knots of wind with a 3:21 lead. I think everyone was waiting for Alinghi to come roaring up from behind but the opposite happened and BMW stretched out to a comfortable win for race 1.

Alinghi’s back is against the wall now. They are slower in “their” conditions and on the windward leeward course. On Sunday, the boats will race the triangle course which will be more to the Americans liking than today’s course.

So it could be a pretty sweet Valentines Day for Mr. Ellison. But as they say, it is never over ’til it’s over and these boats are at the cutting edge of technology. Reliability is something the Americans will be increasing anyway they can in the next 40 hours.

I am off to Dubai for some RC 44 sailing with Artemis and Katusha and my Eurosport buddies are off to Vancouver. Two big Sundays in a row this February…Super Bowl the America’s Cup.

Update #8 from Valencia

Just more of the same around here. Lots of energy being put in by the teams and the media to fill time and editorial space. Interviews with security guards and bottle washers now.

We did do one feature on the fact that the BMWOR trimaran has the “sail” 24/7 since they keep the wing up all the time now. There is a small army of people on a watch system, taking turns babysitting the boat on her mooring. We also did a nice interview with James Spithill. We asked Alinghi if we could interview their trainer to get an idea of what type of physical training the guys do during the regatta but we got turned down.

The start for Friday has already been postponed until noon. There are big waves on the course from the 30 knots that have been blowing through the area over the past 24 hours.

Tomorrow, Friday, is the last day of coverage from Valencia for us, the Eurosport on site team. Hard to believe we have been here for 8 days and have seen nothing. The world feed will still be carried on Eurosport whenever it happens. One more update from me tomorrow.

Update #7 from Valencia

Another frustrating day in Valencia. No racing today.

The writing was on the wall last night when the Race Committee postponed the start time for today from 1000 to 1200. Then at 0900 this morning they postponed again all the while keeping the teams at the dock. Finally at 1200 they cancelled racing for the day. The reason given was that the sea state was too rough for these boats. Next chance for a race is Friday at 1000.

The sentiment around the media center is that the first race will be held on Sunday. Many feel the forecast for Friday is poor also. I would say that the weather is too variable to predict accurately and with the criteria for racing requiring both wind and wave accommodation, the acceptable window is quite small.

With these delays, we are losing some media and fans I imagine. It is getting difficult to keep the energy up and to create content for television. There are only so many stories that can be written about the cool technology contained in these two boats. After a certain point, the people want to see a race. Eurosport will cover the race on Friday if there is one but today’s cancelation means that we wont be here to cover the final race, as the team is leaving for Vancouver on Saturday. I am heading to Dubai Friday night for the RC 44 event there.

I am very frustrated by all this as I feel we are not putting our best foot forward as a sport. Obviously, February in Valencia is going to be tough with the weather criteria as tight as it is for these boats. Maybe Alinghi and BMW Oracle should agree to postpone racing until May. That would allow for better weather and therefore a higher likelihood of racing when scheduled, and more time for sponsors to organize their visits and hospitality. Considering that they haven’t agreed on one thing yet, this is not likely to happen.