After a testing race yesterday, the fleet of seven VO60s racing in the Volvo Baltic Race for the SEB Trophy were back out on the water today for the first of the windward/leeward races in this series.
This was the first time that these boats were short course racing, a new feature introduced for the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race in 2005.
After today's three races, which were held in shifty conditions with legs of two nautical-miles, a pattern is beginning to emerge. Challenge of Netsurvey (Matt HUMPHRIES) and TeamRS (Erle WILLIAMS), both extremely experienced crews, are clearly fighting their own private battles, with TeamRS snatching the overnight lead from Challenge of Netscape by just .5 of a point at the end of today's racing.
Yesterday four boats suffered gear damage and failed to finish, which has had an effect on the overall scoreboard. There are also three protests pending: Two against Nilorn (Fredrik FREJME) in race two by Atea (Jan MARTENSSON) and Pontona Youth (Thomas DAHL), and one against Challenge of Netsurvey by TeamRS at the start of race three, which will be heard later tonight.
Elanders Ten Celsius (Hans WALLEN) and Sony Ericsson (Thomas BLIXT) are both producing some good consistent results and are now in third and fourth places overall, while the rest of the fleet is struggling to put pressure on either of these two groups.
"We did an extremely good job today" commented Hans Wallen, skipper of Elanders Ten Celsius. "The three latest generation boats had a lot better boat speed than we had, so we had to work hard on our trimming and tactical skills to beat them, and we did it in two out of three races. Our goal was, in every race, to beat one of these three boats."
The teams who failed to finish yesterday's race, worked hard throughout last night to ensure they would be on the start line today, including Nilorn, who were able to find and fit a replacement mainsail after their only mainsail was damaged beyond repair.
Today, three windward/leeward races, with each leg measuring approximately two nautical miles, were completed, although races one and two were shortened as the shifty NW breeze failed to hold out.
In race one, overnight leader, Challenge of Netsurvey, led the fleet off the start line, but it was Erle WILLIAMS and TeamRS who made an early decision to tack onto port, gaining an immediate advantage on the right hand side of the course, which continued to be favoured throughout all races.
At the first windward mark, TeamRS held on to her advantage and racing was close and exciting as Sony Ericsson rounded on the heels of TeamRS followed a minute later by Challenge of Netsurvey and Atea. Nilorn approached the mark on port tack and had to duck Atea, while Elanders Ten Celsius and Pontona Youth were at the tail end of the fleet, which started to spread out.
The wind dropped completely as the fleet drifted down the run and the course was shortened, finishing at the next windward mark. TeamRS held on to first place, 1 minute 20 seconds ahead of Challenge of Netsurvey, followed by Elanders Ten Celsius (+5.50) who had made a nice gain.
After holding a good position at the first mark, Sony Ericsson dropped back to finish a disappointing fourth (+6.51), while Atea (+9.36), Pontona Youth (+11.44) and Nilorn (+12.11) filled the last three places.
The course was reset for race two as the wind filled in from the west. Elanders Ten Celsius started on the pin end with Challenge of Netsurvey and TeamRS flanked above her. Once again, TeamRS favoured the right hand side of the track and tacked onto port.
At the first windward mark, Challenge of Netsurvey led TeamRS by 15 seconds, followed by Elanders Ten Celsius, 5 seconds behind. The second group, led by Pontona Youth, were one minute behind Challenge of Netsurvey, followed by Nilorn, Atea and Sony Ericsson.
Challenge of Netsurvey held onto her lead to reverse the race one finishing order, leading TeamRS by 2.32 at the gun. Third was Elanders Ten Celsius (+6.50), and fourth Sony Ericsson (+7.03), both teams showing some consistent performances.
Nilorn suffered a twisted spinnaker on the final run and finished 9.39 behind the leader with Pontona just over a minute behind her, and Atea taking seventh place (11.14), both with protest flags flying.
Race three got underway immediately with Nilorn making a pin end start, but not able to finish above fifth. Team RS put in a solid performance to claim first position for the second time today, followed 58 seconds later by Sony Ericsson. Challenge of Netsurvey were third, 1.05 behind, which dropped them into second place overall. Elanders finished in fourth (+2.38) followed by Nilorn (+3.13), Atea (+5.27) and Pontona (5.54).
"Our crew work has improved a lot from yesterday,"
said Glenn BOURKE, sailing with the young team on Nilorn. "It was quite hard to get jibs down and spinnakers up quickly, but we felt that our manoeuvres were a bit better than most. Tactically we sailed reasonably well, but it was a testing day mentally."
The scores from all three races today are combined to count towards one final result for which full points are awarded. Today's result is then added to yesterday's result to produce an overall position. Finishing positions for each of today's individual windward/leeward races are shown in brackets.
Results overall after two races, (subject to protest)
TeamRS - 10 points
Challenge of Netsurvey - 9.5 points
Elanders Ten Celsius - 6.5 points
Sony Ericsson - 5.5 points
Atea - 4.0 points
Nilorn - 3.5 points
Pontona Youth - 1.5 points
The next race will be the 470 nm offshore race from Kiel to Sandhamn race, which starts on Monday, June 23 at 17.30 local time.