The fifth and final event of the 2023 44Cup takes place for the high performance, owner-driver one designs in the familiar waters off Lanzarote’s Puerto Calero next week. The Calero family, who own and operate four marinas in the Canary Islands, have long been friends of the RC44 class, even campaigning their own boat during the circuit’s early years. In turn, the 44Cup has regularly visited their marinas in the Canary Islands, the last occasion being when the fleet wintered there two years ago. The 44Cup will once again conclude it 2023 season and start its 2024 one racing off the island, famous for its dramatic barren lunar landscape.
Since last month’s 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina, the landscape has changed on the 44Cup leaderboard. Defending 44Cup champions and reigning world champions, Nico Poons’ Charisma, was defying the usual closeness of 44Cup racing having finshed 2-1-1 in this year’s first three events (in fact Team Aqua scored the same in 2013 before winning that season overall). A fourth good result off Gibraltar last month would have made Poons’ team virtually unbeatable for the 2023 44Cup title. However they wavered, finishing the regatta an uncharacteristic sixth. Meanwhile their principle rival, Igor Lah's Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 prevailed, winning (as is so often the case in this class) in the final race.
So far this season Charisma and Ceeref have won two events apiece, but whereas Ceeref's two other results have been a pair of fifths, Charisma's are a 6-2. 44Cup teams are not allowed discards at events, but are allowed to drop one of the five during the season, albeit not the World Championship, nor the last event. Having the ‘better discard’ means that Charisma can still win the season overall if at the 44Cup Calero Marinas she finishes fourth and Ceeref wins (or there are no more than two boats between them).
“The beauty of the 44Cup scoring system is counting the last regatta, so it is never done and dusted until the very end,” says Ceeref’s tactician Adrian Stead. “So we have a chance of catching Charisma, although the tie break is the Worlds where Charisma holds the trump [they won it], but it is still possible. 44 Cup racing often comes down to the last race: In 2019 we went into the last event in Palma, six points behind Aqua and Nika for the season and we won the season on the last beat…”
At present all of the teams on the 44Cup are capable of winning regattas. Hugues Lepic’s team Aleph Racing, currently third overall, has been on the podium in three out of four events this season and could easily step up to take the win in Lanzarote. John Bassadone's Peninsula Racing, host of the Marina Alcaidesa event, was leading their regatta for the first three days until some final deep results caused them to drop off the podium. Torbjorn Tornqvist's Artemis Racing also had a strong start to the event. Chris Bake's Team Aqua did the opposite, with three podium finishes in the last four races after a slow start, while Charisma returned to their bad old ways of either winning or coming last. Team Nika had their moments despite being two crew down due to sickness.
The team most strongly on the ascent currently is Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team. During the 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina they not only managed to win their first ever individual 44Cup race since joining the class last year, but also finished on the podium for the very first time.
“It was definitely a great result and I am happy of course to step on the podium,” says Zuerrer. “It was one of the goals we had this season - to be competitive.”
There is nothing like having an Olympic gold medallist on your crew and for Lanzarote Black Star Sailing Team once again will have Will Ryan, the Australian defending 470 Olympic champion from Tokyo on mainsheet. While one person can’t make all the difference, bringing on someone with Ryan’s credentials, and the Olympic discipline that comes with it, may have had a wider effect on the whole crew. Whatever the reason, Zuerrer is hoping they can replicate it – or better - next week. “At this coming event, we have to show we weren’t a ‘one hit wonder’. I am looking forward to Lanzarote – I know that it will be wavy and possibly windy, but it is the same for every team and we will have to do our best to stay on the top of the fleet.”
Adrian Stead concludes: “I am very excited with how the fleet is at the moment. The boats are such good fun to race. The 44Cup is the most competitive we have seen. We are up for another fantastic end of season and another great advert for the class.”