The 44Cup returns to Italy next week for the first time since Porto Cervo in 2017. This time the high performance owner-driver one designs will be racing on the mainland, at a new venue for the 2021 44Cup World Championship. Located some 250km north of Rome, Scarlino is a favourite with other one design classes and features a magnificent bay, spanning Piombino in the north and, another famous Italian sailing venue, Punta Ala in the south with the island of Elba as a backdrop offshore.
While the RC44s may be new-comers to Scarlino, many of the sailors are not, as the marina is a key base for Nautor's Swan. “We have made one design racing our core business, that’s why we are so glad to welcome the 44s. As one of the leading owner-driver classes, with sailors of the highest calibre, we know it raises the bar. We feel excited to be part of this challenge,” explains event manager Claudia Tosi of Yacht Club Isole di Toscana.
Someone who knows these waters better than most is Michele Ivaldi, tactician on Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing, winner of August's 44Cup Cowes. Ivaldi spent six years with the Italian Luna Rossa America’s Cup challenger training out of Punta Ala during the 2000s. “From there, the first test we would do in the normal breeze was on port and we would go right across the top of the course in Scarlino. But that was a long, long time ago!”
Since then Ivaldi has returned and won events on these waters in a variety of classes. So he enters the 44Cup Scarlino with the benefit of ‘local knowledge’ but, as he warns, “when you know the place, that is when the problems start… You are confident and you don’t look at what is happening, or you are in denial about what is really happening.”
Taking place in early October, the 44Cup Scarlino comes at the end of the Mediterranean season with the temperature expected to be in the less scorching low 20s°C. Any of several different weather scenarios can occur. If there is high pressure then the differential between the land and sea temperatures is still enough for the sea breeze to develop. If not, then the wind may be offshore, from the north/northeast and very shifty or if a depression is approaching, then it could be southeasterly, wrapping around Punta Ala point, with flat water inside the gulf but rougher the further you go offshore.
Ivaldi has praise for the land-based side of the set-up in Scarlino. “It has a good ‘race track’. When we go sailing there, it is beautiful outside. And I like the place very much - the marina is relatively new and is very well done and they have good residences right there. It is a very good place to go out for dinner, with plenty of nice places to go. The class made a good choice to go there. Every time new classes visit Scarlino, like the 52s, they have enjoyed sailing there so I think the owners will be happy.”
“The events organised by Yacht Club Isole di Toscana are nothing without the Marina, the Yacht Service and the Resort, that create a special combination of services that make our venue highly appreciated by everyone that comes,” adds Tosi.
While Aleph Racing won in Cowes, their victory was narrow, just one point ahead of Igor Lah’s overall 44Cup leader on CEEREF powered by Hrastnik 1860 where local Solent expert and tactician Adrian Stead was calling the shots in the heavily tidal waters. The result elevated the French team to third on the overall leaderboard for the 2021 44 Cup, four points astern of CEEREF tied on points with Chris Bake’s Team Aqua
Of their World Championship prospects on ‘his home waters’, Ivaldi continues: “We had a few events where we started very well, but had a couple of bad races which put us back in the fleet. We have been really close to the top and all the time we were on the unlikely side of the points, just missing the top, but we have been racing well this year. We just needed a boost of confidence at the last event.”
But this means nothing the talented Italian tactician warns: “In this class, there have been so many times when we get to the last race and four or five boats can win and the regatta gets decided on the last cross of the last run. It will be another week like that - full stress all the way through.”