Archive | March, 2012

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Calm descends on Cascais

Posted on 31 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: RC44 Class] In contrast to yesterday’s foam up, the penultimate day of racing at the Cascais RC44 Cup was spent wishing for wind.

The fleet were held ashore until 13:00 BST in the hope the sea breeze would kick before motoring three miles west of Cascais, where the sea-breeze is more prevalent, racing eventually got underway at 15:30 in a light 7 knots breeze.

Event leader Katusha (RUS) showed the fleet the way in the first race, starting at the committee boat tacking immediately towards the shoreline, obviously wanting the right hand side of the track. Peninsula Petroleum (GBR) and Team Aqua (GBR) had the same plan and the trio rounded the windward mark ahead of the fleet. The top three places didn’t change, Katusha taking the win, Peninsula Petroleum second and then Team Aqua. The Russian flagged team was extending their overall lead on the fleet.

Race two started with a general recall, Race Officer Peter Reggio was quick to hoist the black flag with new boys Aegir (GBR) and RUS 7 being called over and disqualified from the race. Katusha and Peninsula Petroleum headed right off the start line again, but this time it was Team Aqua that popped out of the middle of the pack to lead at the windward mark. Peninsula Petroleum was next to round. As much as the team from Gibraltar pushed, but they couldn’t catch Team Aqua who sailed the perfect race, their second race-win of the event.

Steve Howe and Russell Coutts on Katusha followed their race win with a fourth place giving them a 13 point cushion going into the final day of racing. Team Aqua stays in second overall, reducing the margin by one-point and are clearly not giving up on the event win just yet. “Katusha have got a pretty healthy lead over us at the moment but everything is possible and we will defiantly try to catch them tomorrow.” Chris Bake, owner/driver, Team Aqua.

Peninsula Petroleum put in another incredibly consistent set of results after their two wins yesterday this time in very different conditions, they move-up into third overall on equal points with Igor Lah/Michele Ivaldi and the Slovenian CEEREF team. “I’m very proud of the guys, we’ve sailed unbelievably again today. To come out today and back up yesterday’s good day was important. I’m very happy with boat speed and tactics so hopefully we can keep it going for one more day,” Peninsula Petroleum owner John Bassadone (GBR).

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Telefonica to resume racing at 22:00 UTC, Saturday

Posted on 31 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

The “Telefónica” pit stop at Caleta Martial, a cove on Herschel Island (Chile) is going at a good pace and the boat will be fully back in the race at 22:00 UTC. Moored at the cove, the crew are eager to hit the water again, a mood that was made quite clear by the words of skipper Iker Martínez who is anxious to set off: “Let’s see if these reinforcements dry quickly and we can shoot out of here”.

The Spanish boat suspended racing today, Saturday the 31st of March at 04:37 UTC and since then the shore crew and racing crew have been working to achieve a clear objective: to get “Telefónica” back to 100% in the shortest possible time. Fortunately, as Iker Martínez says: “When we got here the boat was in the best state we could hope for: the exterior of the hull was intact”.

For now the situation is looking up, and according to the skipper of the Spanish team: “The reinforcements are going well and now we just need to wait for everything to dry and we’ll be ready to go. Once we’re happy with the job we’ll begin sailing again, first making our exit through the islands to get back to the point where we suspended racing yesterday night, some four miles northeast of Cape Horn. >From there we’ll be sailing up to Itjaí”.

Ñeti Cuervas-Mons, out of action with a minor injury

Things won’t quite be the same on board “Telefónica” after this pit stop at Cape Horn. Firstly the boat will be back to 100%. Secondly, Antonio Cuervas-Mons Ruiloba won’t be aboard for the final 2,000 miles to Itajaí (Brazil).

“Yesterday I was lucky enough to round legendary Cape Horn for the first time, but unfortunately it was bittersweet as a few days ago when a wave crashed down onto the deck it dragged me along with it causing a lower back injury affecting my sciatic nerve, which has made for some very uncomfortable sailing ever since. I even had to spend a couple of days in a bunk resting. Thankfully, as always, I was wearing my safety harness, so the blow was a lot less serious than it could have been… However, since we’re making this stop to repair the bow, together with Iker and our team doctor, Pablo Díaz Munio, we’ve decided that it would be best for me to disembark here at the cape in order to speed up the recovery process, which would definitely be a lot slower on board and I might even risk not being at 100% for the next leg”, said Ñeti.

The main aim now is for the Spaniard to recover as soon as possible from the injury, which with rest could take just a couple of weeks to get over, and as Iker Martínez pointed out: “As always, it takes much longer to get over these things on the boat, and even though he’s fairly ok now, we can’t risk him getting injured again because he wasn’t back up to 100%. Stopping off for these repairs has meant the possibility of him not finishing the leg with us, which is a real shame for us and for him, but looking at where we are on the leg it’s best for him to make a complete recovery and be back in shape for the training ahead of the in-port in Itajaí. The doctors say there’s no reason he can’t be back to full strength in ten days or two weeks, which is how long it’ll take us to sail up to Brazil, so we’ve taken the safest option”.

Known as the perpetual optimist on board, the Spaniard has taken a glass-half-full approach, which the Basque skipper also referred to when he spoke about the decision: “Ñeti is doing well and is in good spirits and you can all imagine that he, more than anyone, is really disappointed at not being able to complete the leg, but it’s definitely the right choice for the future”.

Ñeti Cuervas-Mons will fly directly to Itajaí (Brazil) with the rest of the shore crew to begin treatment as soon as possible, allowing him to get back into the crew routine as swiftly as he can.

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RC44 Cascais Cup – Day 3

Posted on 31 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

RC44 Cascais Cup – Day 3

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Telefonica rounds Cape Horn and commences 12-hour pit stop

Posted on 31 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Team Telefonica] At 04:05 UTC “Telefónica” rounded Cape Horn. 22 minutes later, at 04:27 UTC the Spanish boat officially informed the race organisers that they had suspended racing at 55º 57.3′ S 67º 08.20′ W and would motor to the meeting point agreed on with the 50-foot yacht transporting members of the shore crew and the team’s Technical Director Horacio Carabelli to meet the blue boat.

At 06:15 UTC the boat skippered by Iker Martínez was already alongside the yacht transporting the Spanish shore contingent. In the end the actual meeting point was at Caleta Martial, a cove on the island of Herschel (Chile) which also forms part of the group of islands known as the Wollaston Islands, positioned just North of Cape Horn and within the cape’s national park.

37 times across Cape Horn on “Telefónica”

Darkness accompanied the crew of the Spanish yacht as they made their way across Cape Horn. On this 31st of March 2012, the crew on board “Telefónica” have now notched up no less than 37 passages across the legendary cape between them; Andrew Cape: 8, Neal McDonald: 6, Xabi Fernández: 5, Iker Martínez: 4, Pepe Ribes: 4, Joca Signorini: 3, Jordi Calafat: 2, Pablo Arrarte: 2, Zane Gills: 1, Ñeti Cuervas-Mons: 1, Diego Fructuoso: 1.

Diego Fructuoso, the team’s MCM and a first-timer at this wrote: “We’ve just rounded Cape Horn. We could only see the outline, but we were all very excited, especially those of us who’d never been here before: Zane, Ñeti and myself”.

With the Cape Horn repair operation in full swing, the crew of the Spanish boat haven’t had much time to celebrate. “We haven’t had time for anything because almost as soon as we passed it we suspended racing and got the engine going. …

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Russell Coutts talks to VSail.info about the America’s Cup

Posted on 30 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

If you had the chance to talk to just one person about the America’s Cup, it would undoubtedly be Russell Coutts, not only because the Kiwi skipper is the most successful one in the 160-history of the event with four wins but, most importantly, because he’s the CEO of Oracle Racing, the current Defender. VSail caught up with Coutts in Cascais, right after a tough, long but successful day on the waters of the Portuguese city. Katusha, the Russian boat where Coutts is calling tactics, is leading the RC44 fleet races with 24 points, 14 points ahead of second-placed Team Aqua:

VSail.info: Two years have passed since you won the America’s Cup in Valencia and we are now more or less a year and a half before the next match in San Francisco. The top management of the America’s Cup Event authority went recently through a major change. Why do you change one organization roughly halfway through its mandate? Does it mean they failed in their job?
Russell Coutts: No, not at all. Richard Worth is now focusing on television and venue deals which is actually what he was doing prior to San Diego. Most of the broadcast deals are for the AC Word Series so far, with the exception of NBC in the US and, I think, TV New Zealand and one or two others that include the America’s Cup. All the others are just for the AC World Series. He now has to go and work on the deals for the America’s Cup.

I think that side of things is in a really good position right know. You must have read we announced the deal with Mediaset in Italy. Those channels, like Mediaset in Italy or Sky Sports in the UK are now taking live programming. Ten hours of live programming for an AC World Series event is a fantastic achievement, considering we have being going on for less than twelve months. The goal from the start was to create a better television product and I think there will be another broadcast arrangement, fairly major, pretty soon. This is a big step for the sport and broadcasters are now agreeing they are prepared to cover the sport live. This has been a major achievement but Richard has now to go back and finish those broadcast contracts.

It was a good strategy actually not to give them the rights right through to the America’s Cup because now everyone agrees the product is worth a rights fee. We can now start negotiating television deals appropriate for the coverage because the quality of the coverage is very good.

VSail.info: So, right now, would you state you are satisfied with the current situation of the America’s Cup?
Russell Coutts: There are, obviously, parts I’m happy with and parts I’m still unhappy with.

VSail.info: Such as?
Russell Coutts: The big focus right now is to bring more commercial partners. We have some excellent partners right now. Louis Vuitton has been a fantastic partner for years now and still continues to be. Obviously, Puma is a great achievement and we expect to have more to announce soon. We had a very good offer recently in one of the key categories but I can’t say more than that at this stage. Things are starting to move now but there is still a lot of work to do.

VSail.info: Is Larry Ellison happy with the current situation of the America’s Cup?
Russell Coutts: Yes and no. He’s very happy with the television product and he considers it a major step forward. He would have liked us to have had more commercial support today but you know, in a way, perhaps the time line was a little optimistic from day one because we didn’t have a television product. If you haven’t got a television product it’s hard to sell the event to commercial sponsors. Now that we have that and we have real numbers in terms of valuation and so forth we are in a much better position today than we were six or seven months ago.

VSail.info: If you had a magic time machine and you could go back to Valencia the day after you won the 33rd America’s Cup would you have done something differently?
Russell Coutts: Yes, a few things. I think, probably, we underestimated how good the television pictures would be for the AC45. If we had known that then, I think, we could have got away with a smaller America’s Cup boat which would have been cheaper. In hindsight that’s definitely something we probably do differently. In a way, lots of us, me included for sure, thought we needed a boat the size of the AC72 to really provide some scale and significance. However, you have to admit that looking at the television footage from the AC45′s that it’s actually pretty compelling, even if they’re smaller boats. That was a discovery this time and that’s definitely something to think about for the future and now that four teams have already their AC72′s under construction whoever wins can review that.

However, the AC72′s will be absolutely spectacular and at that time the value equations versus expenses might be better balanced in any way. I also think that you could do things such as making some elements of the boat one-design. I wouldn’t suggest making it all one-design but in order to save costs you could make some aspects of the boat one-design.

Russell Coutts helms Katusha on the opening day of the RC44 Cascais Cup. Cascais, 28 March 2012. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / VSail.info

VSail.info: Since you mention the cost of the AC72 boat, this is the fourth or fifth RC44 event I attend and I have to admit I become more enthusiastic about the RC44 yacht. Wouldn’t it have been easier for the America’s Cup or even you to create an RC90, considering the fact it’s your very own creation?
Russell Coutts: It was considered but, frankly, if you sit down with the broadcasters today they would have a different opinion. Let me give you the example of La Sete, the Italian network that covered the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia. They analyzed the figures from Valencia and decided it didn’t work for them. As good as we, sailors, think Valencia was, frankly, from a broadcast proposition it simply didn’t work well enough. It wasn’t the only thing that turned broadcasters off though, the legal problems for two and a half years didn’t help that.

However, it was the same description we received from major broadcasters in the USA. They simply told us, “Look, the sport as it is isn’t compelling enough for TV”. So we had a choice. We either kept it the same or experimented and made changes. The fact broadcasters are taking now live TV is a pretty good indication that it has a really good chance of working. In addition, don’t forget that an RC90 would also be very big and very expensive.

VSail.info: Maybe but I used the number 90 just to give an example. Why couldn’t it be an RC80 or an RC70?
Russell Coutts: Then you have the problem with the keel depth and you can’t go to a lot of harbors in the world. The multihull packs up pretty well and you can disassemble the hulls and pack them in a 40-foot container. Event the AC722 can be pulled apart and packaged. The logistics are a lot simpler and if you go to an AC World Series event you see there are only two cranes that lift the boats. It’s probably a lot more difficult lifting a bigger and heavier yacht. It’s much more complex, plus removing the keels is more problematic. Frankly, it’s hard to get a monohull that’s actually as visibly exciting across a range of conditions. The AC72′s will be flying a hull in probably less than six knots of wind. You can have a really good race with boats that move fast.

Another problem with the broadcasters were the delays we had in Valencia. We really needed a boat that could sail in very light winds but still able to sail in very strong winds.

VSail.info: I see from your answers that, for you, television is a fundamental issue. It seems to me that, in your opinion, we either have good TV or don’t have an America’s Cup altogether.
Russell Coutts: It’s pretty hard to imagine raising commercial sponsorship these days without having a media property that is actually creating value. Don’t you think? That’s why there was a major focus on changing the media value proposition. I think that we have taken the first steps, it’s still the early days but it certainly looks like it’s been accepted by the broadcasters. We had to address several things.

First, we couldn’t afford delays, like we had in the past. We had to narrow the chances of having a delay. Second, we had to have boats that were fast enough but even if we had multihulls without the course boundaries I don’t think the races would be anywhere near as interesting. But when you impose boundaries on the course and, more or less, force the boats to maneuver you can now program the racing to fit in a television time of, let’s say, 35 minutes. You know that by lengthening or shortening the race course by only a small amount you can be very close to that broadcast time. They are all good features.

Frankly, the discovery with the AC45 races is that there is a lot of passing, a lot of excitement, it is just as tactical as the monohulls and, frankly, the same sailors are still winning. It didn’t change the game so much that all of a sudden Dean Barker is not a strong candidate any more or Jimmy Spithill, the old monohull sailors. Quite the contrary. You’ll see that guys like Nathan Outteridge, who joined the Koreans, will be really good. I expect in the future this transition from Olympic sailing as these boats are more like sailing a dinghy, relatively. You’re going to get the top sailors out of the Olympics, like Ben Ainslie, Tom Slingsby or Nathan Outteridge, coming into the Cup and, frankly, they will be the ones to dominate the sport. That’s a good thing. In the old format we, honestly, had a lot of gray hair on the boats.

Russell Coutts helms one of the two Oracle Racing AC45 yachts. Plymouth, 14 September 2011. Photo copyright Guilain Grenier / Oracle Racing

VSail.info: You have gray hair yourself though…
Russell Coutts: Yes, that’s what I mean. I had a great time in the America’s Cup but I think it should be more about young people. I think it needs to be more about the athletes and that was another intentional change, to make the AC72 a very physical boat by reducing the crew number, for cost reasons as well, that does favor a younger sailor. That’s why I think we’ll be seeing those top Olympic sailors coming once they get established in these boats.

VSail.info: Will you consider it a failure or a disappointment if there are only tree challengers next year in San Francisco?
Russell Coutts: We have four teams that are building AC72 boats right now. I think there is a good chance we get some more. There is a good chance we get a team from France and a good chance we’ll get the Koreans and the Chinese. There is still chance they can make it and if they do, it will be fantastic. In reality, I’d love to have 12 teams out there. That is probably the situation the America’s Cup should aim for in the future but right now I don’t think the value proposition has been established right. I think the costs are still too high versus the commercial return and if we can get that better balanced in the next year and a half or two years I’m sure you will see more teams competing in the Cup.

Probably where the Cup needs to go next time is to look at what we think the commercial value of a team is. Let’s say, we might decide it’s 20 million euros, for example, and you are trying to keep the costs under that figure so that the teams can be sustainable. Right now, if the commercial value is lower than the cost it’s clearly not sustainable.

VSail.info: Does that mean you would be in favor of imposing spending caps for the teams?
Russell Coutts: I think the sport needs to look at all sorts of options and there are a lot of lessons from other sports. There are a lot of methods that could be adopted and frankly the sport has a fair way to go to manage itself professionally, like the other sports do. That’s also one of the reasons we took the decision to look for a new CEO because the America’s Cup is in America and there is a significantly different approach in selling the sport in that country.

We can learn a lot of lessons from some of those big sports that have been through some of these processes before. Even the NBA is restructuring itself at the moment. The PGA doesn’t have a Q school any more and even NASCAR is considering shortening their race times in order to have a better format for TV. We have to be open minded and keep working towards getting the sport on a better commercial structure such that the teams can come in and know they can create sponsorship value and hopefully make a profit at the end of the day. That will be a sustainable activity and it’s not the case today.

VSail.info: The new, interim, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) that has just been nominated is Stephen Barclay who also happens to be the COO of your team, Oracle Racing. However, one of the cornerstones of what you have been promising for the last two years was the independence of the America’s Cup organization. Don’t you think there is a contradiction here? How independent can Barclay be in his new role?
Russell Coutts: The important thing right now is that ACRM, in other words the on-the-water organization in charge of the rules, the regulations, the international jury and all of that, is independent. Everyone accepts that and they truly are. You are absolutely right, the goal in the future should be to have an independent ACEA. However, right now, how is ACEA funded? We are very, very fortunate to have Larry Ellison underwriting this. The money just doesn’t grow on trees, it just doesn’t come out of nowhere! He’s underwriting this and therefore, obviously, if you were the one putting most of the money, you would want to have a fair say as to how that money is managed. In the future we should take the example of the American sports leagues and have the team owners jointly controlling ACEA. That would be, in my opinion, one of the models that should be considered but right now there is one person funding it and you can’t expect him to say, “Alright, I’ll put all the money and I’ll let someone else run it”. That doesn’t make sense.

I’m only referring to the commercial side. Don’t forget ACRM and Iain Murray were elected by the other teams and everyone accepts the fact that Iain Murray is independent and has a team around him that really run the races fairly and independently. From a competitive sense, right now, this is the most important thing. Commercially, let’s be honest, you probably want someone like Larry Ellison driving some of these decision, like the television because he doesn’t have a bad track record commercially. It’s probably the best we could get right now.

Russell Coutts helms one of the two, then, BMW Oracle Racing RC44 yachts during the 'Media Evaluation Trials' held at the start of the 34th America's Cup cycle. Valencia, 22 July 2010. Photo copyright Pierre Orphanidis / VSail.info

VSail.info: Larry Ellison in an interview in the Wall Street Journal two days ago stated he would rather have the AC45′s in the America’s Cup so that there are “more teams and more drama”.
Russell Coutts: Absolutely. Like all of us he looked at the AC45′s and realized the pictures were pretty good while we are still going through the expense of the bigger boats. Maybe we could have got away with, if not the AC45′s, something that is smaller than the AC72 and create a rule around that. That’s another thing about the multihulls. They do look spectacular at that scale and on television, with all due respect, I don’t believe that a product like the RC44, which is the same size as the AC45, would look spectacular on television and make the broadcasters pick it up. Larry is saying the same thing. What we need to do is keep the cost down so that, ultimately, there is a commercial return for the teams.

VSail.info: Enough about the America’s Cup in general, let’s talk about your team. Where is Oracle Racing standing right now in its defense of the Cup?
Russell Coutts: I haven’t spent a lot of time with Oracle Racing lately. I have been really focused on the event for quite some time now.

VSail.info: You are the CEO of the team though, aren’t you?
Russell Coutts: Yes but I just haven’t had much time to actually be the CEO of Oracle Racing. They are progressing well at the moment. Jimmy Spithill is, obviously, leading all the sailing operations and so forth. He’s 33 years old and I think he’s also capable of leading the team now and that’s a good thing. I think it’s a great thing. We want these guys to grow, I certainly want that. I think that it wouldn’t be acceptable, probably, for him to just keep the same role, year after year after year. He has to grow and have more management responsibility and ultimately do what I was doing at Alinghi or Oracle last time. I think it’s great.

VSail.info: Is there a probability or possibility that Spithill will not be helming the defending yacht in San Francisco in September of 2013?
Russell Coutts: I think it’s a low probability, let’s face it. I think that right now most people would agree that he’s one of the best, if not the best, out there. He’s pushing real hard, he’s sailing A-Class cats and all sort of things that would up his skill level for the America’s Cup. We are really very happy with Jimmy but, obviously, in a campaign like this, and he’s the first to accept that, there are two things, particularly when you are defending. First, you need a good training partner and that’s why we brought Ben Ainslie in. I think these boats are ideal for Ben. As I said, as it turned out and probably none of us realized that the format would favor this sort of sailors so much. I’m talking about the Iain Percys and the Ben Ainslies of the world, that sort of guys, none of us probably realized when the concept was being developed that the format was perfect for them.

We need an excellent backup if something happens to Jimmy. It would simply be ridiculous to risk the whole campaign or set the whole campaign on one person and not have a backup. But he also needs competition, he needs to be pushed by guys like Ben Ainslie and Darren Bundock.

VSail.info: Last but not least, when are we going to see the Oracle AC72 launched?
Russell Coutts: At the end of July. We have the wing quite progressed right now. There are four teams that plan on building two AC72′s and if we get a few other teams they will be one-boat programs. It’s a big task, I can tell you, to build two of these boats. You’ve got plenty of work to do.

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Breeze on in Cascais

Posted on 30 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: RC44 Class] The forecasters had said the wind would ease, but instead torrential rain bought stronger winds which tested all 15 boats and teams competing at the Cascais RC44 Cup 2012. Sailing with their big masthead spinnakers in the first race of the day the wind increased to 28 knots, by the final run a number of the team’s fell foul to some spectacular broaches.

One team that relished the conditions was Peninsula Petroleum (GBR). They chose their favourite spot at the leeward end of the start-line in each race and went on to win the first two races before posting a solid fifth in the third, moving John Bassadone, Vasco Vascotto (ITA) and the Gibraltar based team up to fifth overall. Owner and the man at the helm, John Bassadone, was pretty pleased with their day on the water. “It was pretty scary today, actually very very exciting! We had unbelievable results and all sailed really well managing to control the boat, the crew did amazingly.”

Katusha (RUS) led the opening race of the day upto the final run before losing their spinnaker tack-line, which led to a dramatic spinnaker blow-out. With the halyard wrapped around the mainsail they couldn’t hoist their second kite and had to two-sail to the finish. “We were lucky to lose only three points on that run,” was guest helmsman Steve Howe’s synopsis after racing. The rest of the day proved less eventful, a solid second and third place followed leaving Katusha at the top of the overnight leaderboard, with a 14-point lead.

Team Aqua slotted in two sixth and a fifth to move up into second place overall whilst Artemis Racing (SWE) recovered from an average start to win the final race of the day. The team suffered two broaches right before the finish line of race one. The first was helped by a luff from Katusha, which saw the Swedes penalised for not keeping clear and incur a penalty turn. The second came on the last gybe and resulted in the spinnaker wrapping around the keel.

Morgan Larson (USA) tactician on Artemis Racing explained the conditions on the race course. “It was really tough out there today obviously windy and rainy but good action and the boats were perfect. The wind was top end for the boats but good, it would have been fairly under control if you had been sailing around on your own but when you start racing, sailing higher upwind and faster downwind with boats around you it gets pretty wild, with waves coming over the bow and into the boats, they get heavier and then you start breaking sails which is what you saw out there today.”

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Ian Walker reports from onboard Abu Dhabi’s Azzam

Posted on 30 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing] It’s amazing how quickly your priorities can change from racing to survival. One minute we were riding the back of a front making 500 miles a day towards Cape Horn getting a real taste of the Southern Ocean and with designs on a 4th or even 3rd place, the next we were genuinely concerned for our own safety as we sat with a damaged hull in freezing conditions 1,700 miles from the nearest landfall.

When the drama started I was on deck with Adil [Khalid] and Si Fi [Simon Fisher] facing 35 knots of wind in the pitch black. We were sailing with three reefs in the main and the number 4 jib. Despite having little sail area we had still picked up some huge waves and were hitting speeds of over 30 knots. Suddenly the call came from below to slow down as they had heard some ‘worrying noises’. On further investigation we confirming the crunching sounds were coming from sheared core material in the hull’s port side.

This in itself was not a problem but more bad waves could rapidly propagate the damage and worse still the outer and inner skins could be breached. This has already happened to Groupama and Sanya in this race with near disastrous effects. The damaged hull shell was flexing like rubber and we needed to stop the impact of the waves on Azzam’s side and try to brace the hull from the inside to give it some support. Trying to stop waves hitting the hull is pretty hard in over 30 knots of wind and large seas but Rob [Greenhalgh] spent hours on deck helming and doing his best. The next job was to chop up some bunks and stacking bays to jam in between the hull and the deck to support the hull panel temporarily. The rest of the night was spent nursing the boat downwind and hoping things didn’t deteriorate.

After consulting with the boat’s builders and designers we soon had a plan for a remedial repair but it would have to wait for daylight. Believe it or not the repair was to drill through the hull and bolt the hull laminate back together. Fortunately we carry threaded rod for just such an occurrence so Wade [Morgan] and Craig [Satterthwaite] set about getting all the materials ready. They chopped up other carbon panels in the boat to make a whole new ‘inner skin’ to glue and bolt to the sides. By lunchtime we were ready to tip Azzam on its side and send Justin [Slattery] over on a halyard in a survival suit and harness to push 32 bolts through the holes as they were drilled from the inside. I could never have imagined drilling 32 10 mm holes through the bottom of our boat when 1,700 miles from land with no possibility of rescue.

We spent the best part of five hours hove to with the boat on its side to keep the water off the port side while the work was done. We are now back sailing cautiously as daylight turns into darkness. The repair seems strong so far and the crunching noises have stopped. We are currently just edging our way north east for better weather and to edge closer to land. As yet I cannot confirm our plans moving forward.

Currently the safety of the boat and crew remains the only priority and I am considerably more relaxed about that now than I was 24 hours ago. Only in adversity do you really get the full measure of a team’s strength and today everybody played their part in stabilising what could have been a very serious situation.

Craig Satterthwaite inspects the bolts as the glue sets, after Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had to fix delamination damage, sustained during leg 5 from Auckland to Itajai. Photo copyright Nick Dana / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

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Compact racing for the RC44 fleet

Posted on 30 March 2012 by Valencia Sailing

[Source: RC44 Class] A full on day of racing in every sense saw four different winners from four races and a very compact fleet competing for every inch around the race course at the Cascais RC44 Cup 2012.

The steady easterly breeze averaged 15 knots throughout the day and produced some very close one-design racing. With 15 boats now competing on the RC44 Tour, all with very even boat speed, mark rounding’s have become very congested. Picking the port lay-line can be a risky manoeuvre with the prospect of a 180 metre duck if you get it wrong. One who fell foul of this today was Patrick de Barros (POR) and Mathieu Richard (FRA) on Team Cascais. The local team found themselves having to duck the entire fleet at the first windward mark of race three after finding no space to squeeze into.

Igor Lah and the team of CEEREF (SLO) had the most consistent day, their worst result was a sixth, their best a win in the fourth and final race of the day. The team managed to stay incident free but it wasn’t all as serene as it looked as owner owner Igor Lah explained. “Today was an excellent day, the conditions were fairly stable and anything could have happened at any moment. In one race we came from almost last up to second or third place. Every moment mattered today so you had to be very careful with how you performed, but Michele (Ivaldi) was calling very good tactics and the crew members were excellent, it really paid off.”

Katusha (RUS) helmed this week by Steve Howe (USA) with Russell Coutts (NZL) calling the shots finished the day one point off the lead with a 3,7,1,4 score-line. Steve Howe’s reaction to the racing: “Thank god for comebacks! Today’s racing was so close.”

Chris Bake and Cameron Appleton had an up and down day by their own high standards. They started with an eighth and bounced straight back to win the next. Despite having their wind instruments ripped off the top of their mast by Team Cascais in race three, they slotted in a third followed by a ninth leaving Team Aqua (GBR) third overall, seven points off the lead.

Synergy Russian Sailing Team started where they left off yesterday winning the opening race of the day, however a port starboard incident with AFX Capital (ITA) saw the team lose their crash box. Valentin Zavadnikov with Ed Baird calling the shots finished the day in fourth overall – 10 points off the leader.

New to the fleet is Brian Benjamin (GBR) and his Aegir team who are more used to Maxi boats, after two days racing in the RC44 he gave his thoughts on the new venture. “Today was fantastic, we had an easier run of it today compared to yesterday, we got beat up a bit in the match racing! We had some really good races; the conditions were great it wasn’t quite as windy as yesterday. Compared to the Maxi’s I’m pretty surprised by how close the boats are. It’s not quite like the Maxi races, it’s a lot more aggressive and there are a lot more boats, probably a lot more fun as well.”

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