The 44Cup Calero Marinas, the final event of the 2023 44Cup has become a two horse race going into the final day. Once again today the star performers among the high performance owner-driver one designs were Aleph Racing and Team Nika, both winning races and, crucially, the only teams to avoid posting any big results. They currently are on 25 and 29 points respectively with the 2023 44Cup’s overall leader Nico Poons’ Charisma third on 35.
Thanks to the offshore wind providing the most challenging of conditions over the last three days, this has been – by 44Cup standards – a high scoring regatta and going into the last day, with 27 points still on the table, ‘only’ six out of the nine teams can still win here. It also seems highly unlikely that Igor Lah’s Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 (currently fifth), can overtake and then put the required three boats between her and Charisma (currently third) to prise the 2023 44Cup title from Poons’ posse.
After two days of a painfully tricky northerlies, blowing over the top of mountainous Lanzarote, today the 44Cup fleet ventured out on to the water to find a decent easterly, blowing along Lanzarote’s shore and marginally more stable.
In this Ceeref and John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing did well on their own out on the left of the first beat only for the right to come good in the closing moments allowing Team Nika to round the top mark just ahead. At the bottom of the run Ceeref took the port gate mark as Team Nika went right, followed by Peninsula Racing. This time it was Ceeref on Team Nika’s transom at the top mark. On the run, Ceeref’s crew pulled off a masterful ‘dummy gybe’ that caused Peninsula Racing to fully gybe with Team Nika following. The result was a near photo finish.
Ceeref’s tactician Adrian Stead explained: “Peninsula was strong on us down the last run and had we gybed we would have been third. Instead we let them go, Nika went with them and then we got a nice split. Probably our dial-down into the finish line was too early and we should have gybed, so we lost by 4-5m. Had we not dummy gybed we would definitely have been third…”
After this the wind chose not to co-operate. Soon after starting race two the wind went hard left and the race was abandoned. Reluctantly the race committee reset the course closer in to Puerto Calero on the same northerly axis as yesterday.
In this, the first beat was difficult with Michele Ivaldi on Aleph Racing and double Olympic 470 gold medallist Hannah Mills on Team Aqua calling the shifts up the middle of the course with greatest expertise to pull out a small advantage over Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing at the top mark. These positions they maintained to the finish.
With the wind up to 15 knots, the third race again saw tacticians well tested as they responded to the fluctuating breeze. In this Team Aqua appeared to have done the better job up the first beat but overstood slightly coming into the top mark allowing Ceeref to get the inside berth and the lead. All did not go well for the Slovenian RC44 on the run losing the lead to Aqua, which at the gate chose to take the right mark as Ceeref split left. Once again it was ‘lucky left’ for Ceeref and after two crosses with Aqua they led into the top mark and from there to the finish. Seeing the tightly grouped RC44s blasting down the run was a reminder, if anyone needed it, of what fun these nimble boats are even in moderate conditions.
Of their performance today, Team Aqua’s Chris Bake commented: “The first race was difficult. We got into tricky situations at the windward mark and leewards, but the next two races were really good: Hannah [Mills, tactician] is doing to a great job, fighting through aggressively and calling the shifts. She is used to throwing a boat around a lot, so we are all doing a lot of work!”
Ceeref also posted two good results and one big score today. “It was just an incredibly tricky race track,” explained tactician Adrian Stead. “The wind is shifting around by up to 30-40°and quite gusty, so there is plenty going on with lots of good sailors who are good at reading the conditions, so it is great fight. It is always non-stop action in this class.”
Laurent Déage’s Team 69 had to withdrawn from the final race after suffering technical issues which will be fixed overnight. “It was very interesting because each day we make mistakes and each one loses you one or two places in the ranking, but we are making less and less,” he said. “But we are enjoying it. Today under spinnaker was incredible! The fleet is very close.”
His tactician Sébastien Col added: “The racing is very tight. The starts make a big difference, if you can hold a lane going in the right direction, but everyone here is able to do that. Then you have to round the top mark in good shape. It is standard racing, but at a very high level. You have to get all the details right. And it is physical – in more than 12 knots the crew needs to be well prepared.”