Going into the final day of the Adris RC44 World Championship nine points ahead of second, Chris Bake's Team Aqua looked to be in a good position to win the 2012 title.
But John Bassadone and Peninsula Petroleum were on a roll. After the Gibraltar-based skipper and his mostly Spanish crew scored three wins on the penultimate day, in the final three races they continued their success claiming line honours in the first two. This left the outcome to be decided only in the final metres of the final race.
Once again conditions off Rovinj, Croatia were a carbon copy of those enjoyed throughout this week with a 6-8 knot breeze and warm sunshine.
In the days first race, Peninsula Petroleum stuck to their winning formula of claiming the pin at the start and then heading left. This paid huge dividends and by the time the boats converged at the top mark, her lead was already around 15 boat lengths and she was never challenged. But in addition to Bassadone's win, Team Aqua's championship-winning prospects were slipping through their fingers with a lowly 12th place finish, leaving them two points astern of Bassadone's team.
Race two and Peninsula Petroleum's pace came into its own and just before the start gun, they were luffed by Katusha, but then simply overhauled them, forcing Gennadi Timchenko's crew to tack away.
Team Nika reached the top mark first followed by Igor Lah's Ceeref with Peninsula Petroleum third. Bassadone's crew managed to edge ahead on the second beat and maintained their lead from then on.
For the third start, with Peninsula Petroleum now ahead of Team Aqua by five points, so the gloves were off with the two teams openly match racing. After one general recall and one postponed black flag start, on the third attempt Peninsula Petroleum opted for a safe start and for the first time since beginning her winning streak, headed out to the right.
And so it very nearly all went wrong for Bassadone's team. They rounded the top mark in 10th place with Team Aqua ahead of them in sixth. Another boat or two between them would reverse the World Championship result. As spectators waited to see which way it would swing, approaching the finish line it became apparent that Chris Bake's team had dropped a place while Bassadone's had gained one, allowing Peninsula Petroleum to win the World Championship by just three points.
"I am stunned, very very happy, it is unbelievable. We were hoping for a good result, but we definitely didn't expect to win,"
admitted Bassadone, adding of his crew. "The guys have sailed very very well. The team is fantastic and our tactician is world-class. We have sailed very solidly and they thoroughly deserved it."
This marks the end of only the second season in the RC44 class for Bassadone. "This is definitely by far my best result in sailing. At the beginning it was a little bit frustrating because we thought we were doing everything more or less right, but were fighting at the back of the pack. It just goes to show that hard work and patience and not getting yourself too down when it doesn't go your way, pays off."
With an outside chance of the regatta going in their favour, Bassadone said that this morning he tried to get the crew to relax and treat today as any other. "When things get a little nervy that is when you start making mistakes. It is such a tight, competitive class that just 3m can mean the difference between first and 10th."
Italian navigator Vasco Vascotto was also ecstatic. "We are very very happy and we realise that we are lucky to win this one event, but this event is the World Championship. Everyone can have a good week, but five firsts and two seconds: that's impressive."
After finishing 12th in yesterday's final race, Igor Lah and the crew of Ceeref today posted a solid 6-3 but letting themselves down in the final race when they were over early. With another 12th, the Slovenian team had to be satisfied with third place overall.
All was by no means was lost for Chris Bake and Team Aqua, who's second place secured them the RC44's 2012 season championship, retaining the unique prize for this - a pair of golden steering wheels for their yacht.
"The Peninsula Petroleum guys were on fire the last two days,"
admitted Bake. "We couldn't get our upwind sorted out whereas they could and they had the right end of the line every time."
In retrospect, Bake added, he should have got more aggressive in the start of today's second race. Otherwise he acknowledged that it had been another great year. "We are really happy to be the RC44 Tour Champions and are planning to be back next year."
Following their victory in Austria, Torbjorn Tornqvist and his Artemis Racing finished the season tied on points with Gennadi Timchenko's Katusha, after finishing seventh in Rovinj.
"You have to take disappointment and obviously this regatta was not the result we planned for,"
said Tornqvist. "We are third overall in the championship. We lost on a tie break to Katusha, which if you look at it is not a bad result."