x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Organisers keep calm despite hitch

Weather woes plague Gold Cup as the first day's action in Dubai is blown out of the water with the wind conspicuously absent.

The Katusha team lay in wait with the sails folded up.
The Katusha team lay in wait with the sails folded up.

DUBAI // When Bernard Schopfer, the RC44 series' communications manager, strolled on to the balcony at Dubai International Marine Club to end any hope of racing on the first day of the Sea Dubai RC44 Cup, no one had expected anything else. The sun was out all day but wind remained conspicuously absent. Having spent 90 midday minutes marooned in a windless Persian Gulf, the 10 identical RC44 yachts - lined along the DIMC jetty by the time Schopfer relayed his news - would stay docked until this morning.

"We hope the wind will be back and it should be better," said Schopfer. "It is a thermal breeze, a sea breeze, and it needs some time to re-activate after the shamal of the past few days. It has completely stopped. Hopefully in one day, certainly two, the famous Dubai sea breeze will be re-activated and we will be able to race normally." Despite Schopfer's optimism, whether the weather can reboot in time to save the match-race format remains unclear.

"At this stage we are not sure if the match races will be completed, but we are hoping so," he said. "In theory it should build up after a calm day and we're very confident it will. It happens though, we accept it. When you do an outdoor sport, linked with nature, it is the sort of thing you have to be ready for." While the RC44 teams must compete against each other in one-on-one duels during the two-day match-race formats, a minimum of four flights must be undertaken for a winner to be decided. It is a scenario Noel Drennan, the mainsail trimmer on the BMW Oracle Racing vessel, is confident will happen today.

"Four flights need to be completed to have some sort of result. It's not the ideal way to do it, it's obviously better if we all race each other," he said. "That is possible, even if we do it all in one day, we've done it in previous regattas. They can also call it a knock-out system at any given time, which I'm sure will be implemented, and we will get a notice saying we have an early start [this] morning.

"Even if we end up with more [than four] races but don't complete the full schedule, there is a system for getting an overall result because it is a combined system of the fleet and match race results - it all works out so the best boat will win overall." With double points on offer in the Dubai season-ender, Drennan's crew - firm fixtures in global news in recent months because of the long-running 33rd America's Cup venue saga - sit fourth in the overall rankings. A strong showing is essential if the team are to rein in leaders Artemis.

"We need to have a really good result here," said Drennan. "It's double points so it's disappointing not to race and it will be unfortunate to go to a format where we don't race against everybody. Hopefully we won't end up in that situation." It appears the wind, a sailor's best friend, or their worst enemy, could determine that. @Email:emegson@thenational.ae