Racing

Katusha, Cayard Take RC44 Opener

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The RC44 class kicked off its 2011 season in style, with thousands of shore-side spectators on hand to see the Russian flagged Katusha, with Paul Cayard calling tactics and amateur helmsman Bob Little behind the wheel, win the opening regatta in San Diego.

Finishing second in the 11-boat fleet was Oracle Racing, with Russell Coutts calling tactics and owner-driver Larry Ellison at the helm. Third place went to TeamAqua, of Great Britain. Finishing a very respectable seventh place, with three first-place finishes in the course of the series was the newest team on the circuit, Ironbound, with U.S. owner-driver David Murphy at the helm.

The five-day regatta took place just off San Diego’s Broadway Pier, with the boats at times just a stone’s throw away from spectators. Racing was tight through, with the top three places still very much up for grabs on the last day of the event.

“The racing is just fast and furious on the tight racetrack inside the bay here,” Cayard said on the third day of racing. “Lead changes and gains and losses of five places in three minutes are common in the fleet.”

For Katusha, the key was consistency. The team came in first only once, but made a habit of finishing in the top three throughout the five-day event, allowing it to remain at the top of the standings overall on points.

On the final day of the regatta, Katusha took second place in the first two races. After that it was just a matter of shadowing Oracle Racing, the only team left in contention for the overall win. The two boats finished seventh and eighth, with Oracle Racing just ahead, but it was enough to give Katusha the regatta, its first fleet racing win since joining the circuit in 2009.

Team CEEREF, from Slovenia, won the match-racing portion of the San Diego event.

“We are very happy with our first fleet racing series win, and for me it was fun to have it happen here in San Diego where I lived for 12 years,” Cayard said. “It means a lot to win this regatta in a town that I spent so much of my life in.”

The San Diego regatta is the third in a row for the class in the United States. In December, the class held its 2010 season championship in Miami, Florida. In January, the RC44 class also took part in Key West Race Week 2011, with a half dozen of the carbon-fiber thoroughbreds toeing the line.

According to Coutts, who in addition to calling tactics on Oracle Racing is a founder of the class, he and the other crews were extremely happy with San Diego as a venue. He added there’s a good chance Southern California will see more of these boats in the future.

“This regatta in San Diego is one of our best for sure,” Coutts said. “It was just a great venue, lots of variables on the race course, lots of people here and lots of interest, it’s been fantastic. We are hoping to be back here again.”

The next stop for the RC44 road show—despite their racing pedigree, the boats can be easily broken down for transportation to venues around the world—is Lake Traunsee, in Upper Austria, in mid-May. This year’s RC44 world championship regatta will be held in Puerto Calero in the Canary Islands November 15-20.

For more on the RC44 class, including complete results form the San Diego regatta, click here.

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