x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

No way back for rivals

The Dutch-led No Way Back team continue their impressive performances in the curtailed Sea Dubai RC44 Gold Cup.

The Team Aqua crew in the hiking position to counteract the weight of the boat at the start of the first of two fleet races.
The Team Aqua crew in the hiking position to counteract the weight of the boat at the start of the first of two fleet races.

DUBAI // The Dutch-led No Way Back team continued their impressive performances in the curtailed Sea Dubai RC44 Gold Cup yesterday, rounding off another solid day on the Gulf waters by taking the blue riband event of the final fleet regatta of the six-event series.

Pieter Heerema, the owner of No Way Back, must be wishing that Dubai featured more on the fixture list after his yacht romped home in the UAE leg of the DHL Trophy which is awarded to the winner of the long-distance race in the five-day regatta. Heerema has defied a broken rib to be at the helm of his boat. "Full credit to him because he is really suffering," said his professional skipper Ray Davies.

"We have tried to be consistent and avoid high risks and that strtegy has worked well for us. Our speed has been good, especially downwind." The resounding victory over local entry Team Aqua and the American boat BMW Oracle completed an excellent run of results here for No Way Back. The boat has not yet been out of the top four in three days of confrontation - the opening day was abandoned through lack of wind - and going into the last day is in contention to take overall honours for the season in what has been a highly competitive class.

The start of the long-distance race was comparable to the Grand National at a meeting of shorter match races and fleet races. There was indeed a considerable amount of jockeying for positions at the congested start as all 10 RC44s tried to go through the starting gate at the precise moment. That opening battle of a nine-nautical-mile encounter which went from Dubai Marina to the rear of the Atlantis Hotel on Palm Jumeirah and back again proved pivotal to the outcome of a fascinating struggle.

After chasing Team Aqua, the UAE boat owned by Dubai-based businessman Chris Bake, down the opening stretch of water, the Dutch vessel soon hit the front and it proved to be no way back for the rest after that early manoeuvre. The key to the destination of the trophy was where No Way Back finished in relation to the Swedish entry Artemis, which arrived here holding a narrow lead in three categories with hopes of taking the overall title. Artemis, with New Zealander Dean Barker at the helm, now looks destined to leave empty handed.

Artemis turned at the Atlantis mark in fifth place but could get no nearer to its rival and is now left with only the fleet race title to go for on today's concluding programme. It will be a tall order. Level on points with No Way Back at the start of yesterday's programme, they are now 11 points adrift. With a lack of wind having delayed the start of yesterday's racing, there was only enough daylight for three races. The Slovenian boat Ceeref was first to make its mark, leading home Katusha and No Way Back. Ceeref was narrowly denied a double when Team Austria snatched victory in the second race with No Way Back in third place.

wjohnson@thenational.ae