Saturday, August 28, 2010

Aussies miss out on championship

BMW ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill and sailing team coach Glenn Ashby put up a good fight at the International C Class Catamaran Championship, but couldn’t overcome a newer, faster cat.

The C Class cat Alpha, I4C winner in 2007 and runner-up in 2010

Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke of Toronto, Canada, successfully defended the title they won in 2007 with a 3-1 victory over the Australian duo.

The Final was intended as a first-to-five series, but was cut short with the Canadians leading and the northerly wind losing its battle against the southerly.

Jimmy takes a jab from Justin "Juggy" Clougher
“Full credit to them, they deserve it,” said Spithill. “To win we would’ve needed stronger winds, but we pushed them hard, won a race and I’m happy with how we sailed.”

Spithill and Ashby were racing Alpha, the 25-foot, wing-sailed cat that Eaton and Clarke sailed to victory in the previous I4C in 2007. Alpha was the starting point and trial horse for Eaton and Clarke’s new Canaan.

The defenders’ new cat has a taller rig that enables them to sail low and fast on the runs, which was devastating for the Aussies.

“We put the ‘am’ in ‘pro-am,’” said Clarke, who was a wing sitter for BMW ORACLE Racing in the 33rd America’s Cup, camping out overnight on the trimaran USA in Valencia to prevent it from sailing away.

After splitting yesterday’s first two races it was clear that the Aussies needed more breeze to negate the Canadians’ advantage downwind. But when the crews awoke this morning to a light 
northerly on Narragansett Bay, the outcome was hardly in doubt.

Glenn sets up the rig at the rainy beginning of the week
“We gave them a hard time in the starts, but couldn’t do more than we did,” Ashby said. “Jimmy and I were happy in the heavy stuff. We just needed more time to work on our light wind technique.”

When joking after the racing, it was suggested to Spithill and Ashby that they were given a knife for a gun fight. Ashby laughed and Spithill likened it to fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

Clarke, still fond of his old craft, had a different take.

“That’s no knife,” he said of Alpha. “We may have a .357 Magnum, but that’s at least a.38 Special.”

In looking back on the week that was, Canaan and Alpha, along with Invictus of Great Britain, were the only cats of the six entered that didn’t lose their wing or suffer catastrophic damage.

“Fred’s team should be happy to get both boats in the final,” Spithill said. “Full credit to the shore crew for keeping the boats going; our boat was reliable.”

The Aussies (left) made life difficult for the Canadians in the pre-starts

Alpha was every bit the equal of Canaan on upwind legs

Canaan couldn't be touched downwind in light windspeeds

(All photos courtesy Christophe Launay)