With a race lost on Friday at the 44Cup Portorož World Championship, to recoup the schedule four races were held today (Saturday). The race area was further offshore with the medieval nearby town of Piran as an eyecatching backdrop in one direction with another headland to weather strongly affecting the light breeze causing it to shift frequently between the south and southwest. This made for highly tactical racing with much position changing.
Absent due to business commitments, defending world champion Chris Bake arrived last night and back aboard Team Aqua, promptly won the today’s first race. First to the top mark having played the left, Team Aqua fended off Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team that had gybed early on the run. Team Aqua then played the mid-right on the second beat to score her first bullet of the series. Meanwhile overall race leader, Nico Poons’ Charisma, had a shocking first race in which they picked up two penalties leaving them last only to fight back to fourth. Team Aqua went on to score the third best score of the day propelling them up the leaderboard from seventh yesterday to third today.
“It was really tricky, but the boat is going really well,” said Bake. Of taking the wheel today he added: “Probably it was a little easier for me as I didn’t have the stress of the last few days so, being fresh and more on the shifts. We obviously had a good first race, but it was hugely fluky - we had 40° wind shifts on a regular basis.”
While a third consecutive World Championship victory would be a 44Cup first, Bake says he is not thinking about this. “It is always wonderful to win a championship, especially with this class being as competitive as it is. I am just trying to get the boat going, and keep it going right now rather than trying to win the World Championship.”
In true Nico Poons zero-to-hero style, Charisma fought back and in the second race masterfully played the shifts up first beat, finally benefitting from a major right shift lifting her towards the weather mark, leading around with Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing close astern. Unfortunately the shift left the leaders able to lay the leeward gate in one. A course change rectified this for the second lap and again playing the right enabled Charisma to hang to her lead over the remainder of the course – despite breaking from the pack and gybing early on the final run, a move no one else followed.
Today’s third race was the windiest with 8-9 knots. After leading both yesterday’s races but winning neither, the hard work put in by Igor Lah’s Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 finally paid off. Black Star Sailing Team put in a spectacular opening leg and reached the top mark on Team Aqua’s transom as, coming in on port, Ceeref struggling to find a gap to thread her way in, rounding in fourth. Team Aqua lost out badly gybing here leaving Black Star to lead into the gate with Team Nika. Black Star clung on at the top mark rounding ahead of Charisma. Up to third Ceeref was first to gybe and, in a dose of medicine served to them twice yesterday by Charisma, found better pressure to take the lead and the bullet.
Posting a 2-6-1-2 today, Ceeref was today’s winner, much to the team’s delight: “We made some small changes and they paid off,” explained Igor Lah. “We knew yesterday we could do it and we did it today! We are really looking forward to this match tomorrow.”
Tactician Adrian Stead explained today’s awkward conditions: “It was a tricky race track: With the breeze coming from the southwest sometimes it was coming around the headland and sometimes coming over the land. The breeze stayed in for longer than forecast which was great. It felt like we were going well upwind. On days when you have four races you have to keep bashing away. Everyone in this fleet is so good you can’t just sit there. You need to be active and look for the next shift.”
In the fourth and final race John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing showed their old form, at least partly attributed to the return of their old tactician Vasco Vascotto. The Gibraltar team led Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing and Team Aqua on to the run. While Ceeref and Artemis Racing gybed away, Peninsula Racing soon followed but was far enough ahead to lead into the leeward gate and for the next lap ahead of Ceeref. Behind there was a four way photo finish for fourth place, with Charisma prevailing. Team Nika would have been in this position had they not wrapped their kite during a gybe.
“When you finish the day with a terrible moment like that - losing three boats within lengths due to a bad gybe, it is quite painful,” admitted Team Nika’s tactician Francesco Bruni. “I am very happy that our owner always has a smile on his face. The team is down so we have to do all we can to recover tomorrow.”
Tomorrow is the final day of the 44Cup Portoroz World Championship and three more races are scheduled. The forecast is not looking promising but neither has it for the last three days yet the event has so far held its full schedule.