Whether it’s at the helm or calling tactics, in light winds and flat seas or fresh breeze and lumpy seas, Andy Horton has been delivering extraordinary results onboard Katusha. The Russian boat clearly dominated the first day of fleet racing at the RC44 Oman Cup with a combination of nearly spotless tactics and certainly flawlees crew work. They scored two commanding victories in the first two races and even after a mediocre first beat in the last race they clawed back to finish a very decent third in the last race.
katusha’s life was made much easier in the third race when their direct opponent, Team Aqua, ran into serious trouble. At the first weather mark Team Aqua’s bow hit the stern of Ironbound. At that moment it didn’t seem as too serious of an incident but when Ironbound was rounding the bottom a large piece came off the bottom of her scoop and a couple of minutes later the entire scoop fell off. Following a protest and hearing, Team Aqua was disqualified in the race and received an additional three-point penalty for the damage caused to Ironbound.
Muscat once again lived up to its promise and despite the slightly delayed start, the breeze came in, topping 15 knots in the afternoon, with lumpy seas that offered some exciting and spectacular racing. Unfortunately, the forecast for Friday isn’t as optimistic and PRO Peter Reggio has already signaled an one-hour postponement. Racing isn’t scheduled to start before 12:30pm and we should expect very light breezes.
What a difference a day makes. Even if racing was delayed by half an hour, the first fleet race of RC44 Oman Cup got off under nice conditions. The breeze was about 10 knots and building up. This proved to be the key in the tactics teams would use. According to the locals, as the breeze increases in strength it shifts to the right. Team Aqua and Katusha got it to perfection and rounded the first weather mark, in first and second place respectively. However, Team Aqua’s lead was to be short lived and Katusha was already ahead at the bottom gate. From that point the Russians didn’t look back and held on to their lead until the finish line.
Katusha’s domination over the race course off The Wave, Muscat became even clearer in the second race of the day. Thanks to a clean start, spotless tactics and crew work, the Russian boat got into the lead at the first mark and never had to look back. Andy Horton perfectly called the right shift that made the race committee change the course 10 degrees and Katusha scored their second bullet with a comfortable lead.
As the breeze got brisker and the sea bumpier it became evident that most of the crews were still a bit rusty. There were plenty of incidents, collisions and penalties even if conditions weren’t dramatic or extreme. However, of all the incidents, the most important in terms of the leaderboard was the one involving Ironbound and Team Aqua. Going into the third race, Chris Bake’s team was sitting second, just two points behind Katusha.
Both Team Aqua and Katusha hit the starting line on the pin end and opted for the left-hand side of the course in the first beat, a move that cost them dearly as the right was once again favored. As a result, they had to duck half a dozen boats as they approached the first weather mark and fall back to the second half of the fleet. In that moment, Team Aqua’s bow hit Ironbound’s stern but nobody thought this would result into serious damage. Nevertheless, things turned out fairly different. While Ironbound was rounding the bottom gate, a large piece of carbon came off her scoop and then the entire scoop fell off. That put, obviously, Irounbound out of the race but, more importantly, prompted the jury to disqualify Team Aqua and give her an additional penalty of three points for the damage caused.
The penalty to Team Aqua coupled with the remarkable comeback by Katusha from seventh place to third meant that the Russians ended the day firmly in command of the RC44 fleet in Muscat. Katusha might be the leaders of the day, it is also important to point out that the third race was won by Artemis. Owner Torbjörn Törnqvist had a disappointing start in the day and even missed the offset mark in the second race.
The full sequence of Ironbound’s incident at the bottom gate can be seen here