After a light start, conditions were optimum off Muscat’s Al Mouj Marina for day two of the 44Cup Oman, the fifth and concluding event of the 2022 44Cup. Three races were again held, but today the northerly wind peaking at 15 knots, enough to get the nimble RC44 one designs planing on the downwind legs. Meanwhile as temperatures elsewhere in the northern hemisphere plummet below freezing, so the air temperature today in Oman remained in the high 20s°C. The only small downside to the otherwise outstanding conditions was the lumpy sea state.
Today’s first race saw Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing continuing her winning ways. In today’s first race they made gains out on the left of the first beat, then found a good lane out to the right, setting them up with a solid lead at the top mark ahead of Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing. Following this with a 2-4, the French team was the lowest scoring boat of the day, elevating it from fourth to second place overall.
Standing in for Hugues Lepic on the helm for this event is experienced American driver Steve Howe, who, with his father Fred, has successfully campaigned Farr 40, TP52s and Melges 32s named Warpath. Steve has also previously raced in the RC44 although the last time was in 2013. The competition remains as hot in the 44Cup as it always has been, he maintains: “Everyone is good - there are no breaks out there. Our last race today we had to fight it out around the race course - nothing’s changed.” On Aleph Racing, Howe has old sailing friends like coach Steve Erickson, and crew James Dagg and bowman Greg Gendell.
Of today’s first race, Howe added: “It was hard. We made a good start and Michele [Ivaldi, tactician] did a nice job getting us around the race course. It was puffy, shifty, everything.”
Having a spectacular day was Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing, which didn’t win a race but today was the only boat to score three podium finishes. This was despite an incident in the second race when, after rounding the leeward gate, they tacked ahead of Black Star Sailing Team and Team Asyad Shipping, still charging downwind, and ended up being struck by the Omani RC44’s bowsprit, resulting in them receiving a small hole in their sacrificial stern. “Luckily it was a glancing blow,” explained tactician Andy Horton and they still went on to secure a third place. Back in their berth within the Al Mouj Marina later, they removed their RC44’s sacrificial transom and replaced it with their spare.
Of their day generally, Horton continued: “We battled back really hard. The guys sailed really well and we were in the pack with just good boat handling and speed.” Fortune was also smiling upon them: “We won the little battles today - we had a leeward mark rounding with Team Nika and we came in and had room to go right. If they had been 2m further forward they would have been able to get clear air in front of us and we would have had an awful one… Similarly there were just a couple of crosses and tight lanes that we lived in that were game changers.”
After two mid-fleet finishes, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua won todays’ third race by which time the wind had reached its peak. “I was a bit rusty in the first two races. In the last race we joined the dots up pretty well,” admitted Bake. “We had a good start and powered through and went all the way out on starboard – one tack and in. We got a few favourable shifts. That left corner seemed to have some decent wind channels. It all worked. We just managed to stay ahead of the fleet. We got clear and had a clean downwind. It was hard because the wind was really fluctuating in terms of direction and speed and with the waves it was hard to stay in the groove.”
Several 44Cup owners race with their offspring and today Bake was sailing with his eldest son Andrew, who despite his enthusiastic father’s long tenure in the class has managed, remarkably, to escape racing on the Team Aqua RC44 until this week. “It was a lot of fun,” said Andrew of this new experience. “I left for university in California in 2015 and I only moved back to London in October, so before I wasn’t old enough and then I left, so it just never lined up. Ben [Graham] offered to step down and I stepped up. I would like to stay involved because it is such a fun circuit.”
Team Nika’s run of supreme consistency only came to an end in today’s final race when they posted a fifth, however at this half way stage of the 44Cup Oman they continue to lead with a six point margin, although now over Aleph Racing. Behind it is close with just six points separating second place from Nico Poons’ fifth placed Charisma.
Racing continues tomorrow at 1200 local time (UTC -4 hrs).