Four races were held on day three of the 44Cup Calero Marinas in perfect trade winds conditions – sun, waves and easterly winds at times gusting to 20 knots.
Discrete stars of the day were Igor Lah, tactician Adrian Stead and the crew on Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860. Despite never winning a race today, the 2017 and 2019 44Cup champions podiumed three times and scored no result lower than a fourth. Such consistency was rewarded with them going into the final day holding a massive 11 point lead over Vladimir Prosikhin's Team Nika.
As testament to the intense, but surprisingly equal racing, after six races, all ten of the RC44 teams had podiumed. After today’s final race six had won races.
The even-ness of the course, in the first race especially, resulted in neither side paying, so coming into the top mark the top nine boats were separated by just 30m. Not all could fit into this space resulting in several penalties. There was also drama: Nico Poons’ Charisma was leading into the mark, when their stand-in tactician, who was holding the runner as it was released during a tack, half fell overboard.
Surprisingly it was not an experienced team that came out best from the mark gridlock, but the newbies on La Pericolosa. However Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing was close behind, split at the gate, took the lead on the next upwind, going on to take the win. “We didn’t have a very good start, but were fourth at the top mark,” explained tactician Michele Ivaldi. “We have made huge improvements with our downwind sailing - we noticed a few things yesterday which we corrected.”
The second race saw John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing lead around the top mark only to be overhauled by both Pavel Kuznetsov’s Atom Tavatuy and Artemis Racing. Gybing early reaped dividends for Torbjörn Törnqvist’s team, which pulled into the lead and was never caught. It was hero to zero to hero, for the Swedes having won Friday’s final race and come last in today’s first race.
In the brisk conditions of race three, there was great joy when the 44Cup’s sole female owner Valeriya Kovalenko’s ARTTUBE, sailing just their third ever event in the class, won the pin, headed left, tacked and successfully crossed the fleet. Inevitably the big guns prevailed with Ceeref and Tavatuy rounding the top mark just ahead, however they were slow at the gate as ARTTUBE split right as Ceeref went left, to take the lead. Sadly for Kovalenko and her team, including her tactician, Igor Lisovenko, there was compression coming into the finish with Atom Tavatuy taking the win from Ceeref, as ARTTUBE finished a nose ahead of Team Nika.
“I feel very tired, but happy - I am pleased with the place of the pink RC!” admitted Kovalenko later. “This weather is very difficult for me with big waves and we have old sails and an old genniker.”
The breeze had dropped to 10-12 knots for the fourth and final race, with the fleet down to eight after the previous race when Team Aleph had been rammed by La Pericolosa coming the top mark. Having retired, Team Aleph ultimately received redress, scored fifth for the last two races.
For Team Nika, finally everything aligned on the race course in the final races, their tactician America’s Cup skipper Francesco Bruni bedded in. “We were coming to it - it was well deserved - finally we got in the groove!” said owner Vladimir Prosikhin. “The last race was - nothing special. We started with speed and did two tacks to the mark and had good speed upwind and good speed downwind. We weren’t even close to anyone.” They won by a very ‘un-44Cup’ 36 seconds from Peninsula Racing.
Sadly the rest of the day had not gone so well. “In the first race, I got a penalty at the start on Ceeref because we tacked on to port and lost all steerage!” Prosikhin continued. “But somehow we were climbing, climbing, climbing and finished fourth.”
As to his new tactician Prosikhin admits: “He has a strong personality and is very demanding. He started massaging the owner, but now he is similar to Terry Hutchinson! ‘No matter what you do you, you HAVE to sail 286°!”
Slowly rediscovering their form too is Peninsula Racing’s John Bassadone, also racing with an accomplished new tactician in double Olympic Finn gold medallist turned America’s Cup sailor Giles Scott. Peninsula Racing posted two seconds today, leaving them fourth overall.
“Today was brilliant, great fun,” said Bassadone. “It was exactly what we needed – four good races in decent wind and a bit of action, or too much action at times! We are fast and we feel competitive. When you are not competitive, it is extremely frustrating.” As to Scott, he added: “Giles is a clever guy, very calm. He is a fantastic sailor and super-good guy. His integration has been seamless.”
Racing continues tomorrow at 1200 when similar trade wind conditions are forecast and up to three races scheduled. All to play for…