With the 44Cup Calero Marinas Lanzarote starting tomorrow, the high performance owner-driver one design class returns to having a double digit-sized fleet for the first time since 2016. Recent additions include the first team with a female owner, in Moscow lawyer Valeriya Kovalenko’s ARTTUBE, and German Christian Schwoerer's La Pericolosa with a crew including two time 470 World Champions Nic Asher and Elliot Willis and Tokyo gold medallist Will Ryan.
The first time ARTTUBE sailed in their boat was 2021’s final event here when they finished an impressive fifth. This year they start with some interesting new graphics on their otherwise fuchsia RC44, drawn by Misha Most, a famous Moscow street artist.
Naturally Chris Bake’s Team Aqua returns as holder of the 44Cup leader’s ‘golden wheels’ with the aim of staying on top. This is not the first time they have been in this position. “Every team learns from the last year - you reset, analyse what you did and didn’t do well and you try and develop your team,” explains Team Aqua tactician Cameron Appleton. This season they have a new crew in Dane Jonas Hviid-Nielsen. “You are always looking to see if there are ways to put a new burst of energy into the team, just to keep everyone on their toes. You have to find ways to develop,” continues Appleton.
While Team Aqua had a dip in form a few years ago, experiencing this in 2021 was Team Nika. The class’ only triple World Champions and overall series winner in 2015, ended the 2021 season last. This year they bounce back with Italian America’s Cup skipper Francesco Bruni on tactics and new addition Pierluigi de Felice. Bruni is the latest America’s Cup legend to sail on board following Coutts, Barker, Baird, Hutchinson, Slingsby…
“I am very happy – Cecco [Bruni] is easy going, we have good communication and I feel comfortable that I understand what he wants,” said owner Vladimir Prosikhin, but also acknowledging that the 44Cup is growing, winning will be even harder. “I believe the 44Cup has never been as strong as now. Every crew is very experienced and the boats are equal. It is a great pleasure to sail in such a strong fleet. There are no mistakes, the boats are very fast, but enjoyable and safe, because everyone knows what they are doing.”
Another team that has never quite found the form it had when it won the RC44 World Championship in 2012, is John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing, which finished 2021 in eighth. However this could change in 2022 with British two time Olympic Finn gold medallist, Giles Scott now on tactics.
“The team is amazing. It is a great set of guys who are good fun to be around and work really hard on the water. Hopefully, we can string some results together,” said Scott. “I really enjoy racing in this class because it is so close. Looking at the results, boats are winning a regatta and then in the next they are in the back few, which demonstrates the evenness of the boats and the high standard that every team has.”
Another change in boat dynamics will also occur on Nico Poons’ Charisma, where standing in for regular tactician Hamish Pepper is Italian 44Cup veteran Vasco Vascotto. “This is one of the classes where we feel we have the best sport,” says Vascotto, who for many years called tactics for Bassadone. “In this class the boats are the same and when you make a mistake you are at the back of the fleet and if you do a good job you are in front.”
Igor Lah’s Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, the 2017 and 2019 44Cup winner, missed claiming the series title last year by a mere point. “Unfortunately sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t,” said Lah. “This is such a competitive class that sometimes it comes down to luck and small things. We will try and do better this year.” For this season there have been no changes to the sailing team, once again led by Adrian Stead. “The fleet is growing, which shows how much people love sailing in this class.”
And this is not to ignore the remaining teams all also with potential to win. Notably Hugues Lepic's Aleph Racing, with Michele Ivaldi calling tactics, which in 2021 won the events in Cowes and Lanzarote at the end of the year, to finish third overall. Similarly good things can be expected of Pavel Kuznetsov’s Atom Tavatuy on which Evgeny Neugodnikov calls tactics, which finished second here last year. Last but not least is Artemis Racing, skippered by Torbjorn Tornqvist and with Andy Horton calling tactics. The Swedish team twice finished on the podium at events last year.