Monday, March 7, 2011

Katusha wins inaugural RC-44 Cup before large crowds on San Diego Bay

It is hard to tell who was the biggest winner of inaugural Oracle RC-44 Cup of San Diego.
Katusha, with Bob Little driving and former San Diego resident Paul Cayard calling tactics, claimed the title of the four-day, 14-race event on San Diego Bay with a pair seconds and a protective eight-place finish in the series finale Sunday afternoon.
But the biggest winner might have been the sponsoring Sailing Events Association of San Diego.
The four-day "stadium" event with a start-finish line located within shouting distance of the Broadway Pier brought much larger than expected crowds to viewing areas stretching from the flight deck of the Midway Museum to the Broadway Pier to the Embarcadero to Harbor Island.
The Oracle RC-44 Cup was the first event landed by SEA-San Diego, which hopes to bring other spectator-friendly sailing events to San Diego Bay.
"We’ve exceeded our expectations for delivering a really good spectator friendly event," said SEA-San Diego president John Laun. "We hope to have the RC44s back every year, we’ve had a great time with them."
And the high-performance, RC-44 sloops apparently had a great time with San Diego in a series of close and exciting races over twice-around, 2 1/2-mile, windward-leeward courses on the bay.
"It’s been really nice sailing in San Diego," said Islas Canarias Puerto Calero owner-skipper Daniel Calero. "It’s like playing football with all the crowds behind you, screaming and clapping. San Diego Bay is amazing, great atmosphere."
The Russia-based Katusha took the series lead in the third race of the second day and steadily pulled away over the final seven races. Katusha all but clinched the title with second-place finishes in each of Sunday's first two races and finished with a seven-point margin.
The Larry Ellison-skippered Oracle, with America's Cup icon and class founder Russell Coutts calling tactics, won Sunday's opening heat and finished second in the final standings by a point over the Scott Young-skippered Team Aqua, which finished seventh in Sunday's opening heat after drawing a pair of penalties.
"We're very happy," said Coutts. "The San Diego is one of our best for sure, it was just a great venue, lots of variables on the race course, lots of people here and lots of interest, it’s been fantastic. We are hoping to be back here again.’
First-day leader Artemis, which won a series-best fourth race Sunday, finished fourth another point behind.
Katusha won only one of the 14 races. But it had five second-place finishes and three thirds to make it a special win for Cayard, who lived in San Diego for 12 years around three America's Cup campaigns.

"It’s been fun to be here this week," said Cayard. "It means a lot to win this regatta in a town that I spent so much of my life in, and it’s been fun seeing all of my friends from some time past."