[Source: RC44 Class] Lake Traunsee, Austria threw everything at the RC44 fleet today for the first day of fleet racing at the RC44 Austria Cup. The day started with a glassy lake that delayed proceeding. A light westerly breeze emerged and the 12 competing boats were sent afloat, only for the breeze to shut off just as the fleet arrived. After a drift in the sun the skies suddenly darkened and 25 knots of breeze filled the lake with white horses.
Just after 14:00 the first race got underway in a perfect 13-15 knots. Everyone seemed to want to head into the shoreline, it was Katusha (RUS) who won the pin-end of the line and seemed to get the longest lift ever before having to call for water on CEEREF and the fleet packed above. Only Aleph (FRA) and Peninsula Petroleum (GBR) had headed right into the lake, and at the first top mark it was Steve Howe steering Katusha with Brad Butterworth calling the shots who rounding just ahead of the Slovenian Team CEEREF.
Katusha hugged the coast line again down the first run to maintain their lead at the leeward gate, but there was more wind in the middle of the lake and out nowhere came the Dutch No Way Back, who finished third in Lake Traunsee last year, and the new Italian team AFX Capital who rounded third and fourth respectively.
Katusha headed back inshore, but it was No Way Back and Synergy who seemed to get the best from the lake, both gaining places on each leg to finish first and second in race one.
Race two swiftly followed, Katusha were on a charge once again picking a nice lane in the middle of the pack. They rounded the windward mark ahead again and maintained their lead until the last gybe into the leeward gate when their spinnaker spectacularly exploded.
It was Vladimir Prosikhin’s turn to take charge; the team from Russia rounded the leeward gate and looked in control before the wind did a 180 shift on the final beat. AFX Capital had to hoist their kite to make the mark, but it was the home team, AEZ, who made it round the top mark first and continued to beat to the finish line. The Austrian team finished just ahead of Torbjorn Tornqvist and the Swedish Artemis Racing with Igor Lah’s CEEREF taking third.
As the thunder and lightning struck and the rain poured, the fleet headed ashore. The home team were sitting at the top of the leaderboard, one-point ahead of the Slovenian Team CEEREF.
For AEZ’s owner and helmsman Rene Mangold it was an excellent end to a very tricky day. “The second race was tough; the wind kept changing on the last leg. You always have to watch the clouds here to try and predict what’s going to happen. We saw it coming on the last upwind under the big black clouds. The two boats ahead hoisted their kites and we saw that the breeze coming was good for us rather than them. The feeling on-board when we rounded the mark in front of everyone was very good, I was very nervous it was a lot of pressure to stay ahead. I hope we can continue.”
What the lake will throw at the fleet tomorrow is anyone’s guess but the last word has to go to race officer Peter Reggio who’s analysis of the day was “For years I felt this lake was trying to kill me but today it was just trying to make me look really stupid.”
Racing continues Friday at 11.30 (CET) through to Sunday 3rd June.
Quotes from the day
Markus Wieser (GER) tactician, AEZ RC44 Team (AUT): For the guys on the boat it’s a big deal to do well here, we came out and sailed well, we were lucky in the second race with the big wind shift, but we were in the top of the fleet the whole race, we just had to play the wind shifts to get a good results. We had a lot of luck today too but we sailed well, much better than yesterday.
There was a big thunderstorm come through at lunchtime and the breeze went up to nearly thirty knots so we had a delay until it passed and went down to under twenty knots and Peter was able to start the racing. We had a really nice first race between 13-15 knots and in the second race it dropped down to 10 – 14 knots until the rain came through were the breeze turned 180° and after that the wind was a messy 5 knots and tailing off.
Michele Ivaldi (ITA) tactician, Team CEEREF (SLO): It was a very tricky day, on the edge of being unpredictable especially in the last race when the wind basically shut down and filled in from the other side. We just had to race head down and work hard with what we had to get the most out of the boat. All the guys onboard did a fantastic job they kept the boat going fast all around the track and we were spot on in all of the manoeuvres, with a bit of luck today was our day.
Brad Butterworth (NZL) tactician, Katusha: Today was the same for everybody, its vey random and there’s a lot of luck involved with sailing here. It makes it difficult but i think we sailed very well today, Steve is helming the boat and so he’s been a pleasure to sail with, he steers the boat incredibly well and got two brilliant starts to lead around both top marks and then were a little bit unfortunate, we broke a shoot in the second race as we were going for the lead at the bottom mark, most of the fleet went around us there and we got a penalty which just compounded on it, then the beat turned in to a run and the run turned in to a beat so we got everything.