Dubai: The match-racing fans got what they wanted in Dubai, with six hours of intense racing, six flights and 18 matches on the menu. It goes without saying that the after-racing refreshments on the pontoon were more than welcome by some tired, sun-burned and happy faces.
The breeze was light and steady (8 kts), allowing the Race Committee to align the races without interruption. James Spithill (Team Ceeref) opened the show against Ray Davies, pro helmsman onboard the Japanese entry Beecom. There is no easy win, but the Slovenian team didn't have to push it too hard.
The second flight offered an interesting dual between Team Aqua (Cameron Appleton) and Team Ceeref (James Spithill), dominated by the Kiwi sailor until the last downwind leg.
"He got in a strong position, jibed and rolled us over," explained Appleton.
The intensity increased throughout the matches, with a number of exciting and close situations. The fourth flight proved to be particularly interesting, with a match between Dean Barker (on board Team ES Bankers Dubai) and Spithill.
Both sailors were unbeaten: was this match going to be the decisive one? Spithill took the best start and controlled his opponent throughout the race, winning a well deserved point.
After dominating Beecom, Team Omega won a second point against Barker before meeting Spithill for another "possibly decisive" match; a match that lived up to its promise, close and intense from the start to the end.
Once again, Spithill managed to take the best start and control the race. But the attacks were constant and there was no rest for the Slovenian crew, whose perfect manoeuvres helped their talented helmsman to always remain in control.
Unbeaten after competing against Appleton, Barker and Russell Coutts, Spithill will be difficult to overtake tomorrow during the last three flights scheduled. Both Ceeref and Team ES Bankers Dubai have only one more race to sail while Team Omega and Team Aqua have three.
Barker, helmsman of Team ES Bankers Dubai, said: "I definitely need more time to get used to this boat. The standard of racing is very high and the boat technical. But I have enjoyed today. It's a good change from what we usually sail."
Julia Mazzotti, main sail trimmer, Team Ceeref, said: "It's a great emotion for me to be sailing alongside Spithill and such talents from the world of sailing. What impresses me most is they are calm, professional, and precise.
"I also love the boat. It's fast and exciting. Being the only woman on board is not a problem. One of my advantages is I'm light."
SÃ©bastien Col, helmsman, Team Hiroshi - CittÃ di Milano, said: "I took the helm for the first time this morning, so obviously it didn't go the way I wanted. I got really surprised by the effect of the trim tab and lost three starts because of this."