Two full seasons dedicated to the RC44 class paid off today for Russian Alexander Novoselov, his American tactician Andy Horton and the crew of Katusha, when they won their first ever RC44 Championship event.
“It has taken us two years to win, so I am very excited,” said Novoselov. “It feels very nice. We have a very nice atmosphere on board with a lot of joking. It’s fun. We had good weather. Today we had great wind. We were just about in control! Porto Cervo is one of the best venues for sailing - we love it very much.”
Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda has offered the complete range of conditions for the nine teams racing at the RC44 Porto Cervo Cup this week, from very light to very strong. Despite a forecast indicating the wind would drop off, today it was definitely the latter. Yesterday’s Mistral conditions had abated slightly, the 25+ knot westerlies being at the very top of what RC44s and their crews can endure.
While they went into today’s three races with a two point lead, Katusha neatly consolidated her position scoring 1-2 in today’s first two races. This left them effectively winning the RC44 Porto Cervo Cup with a race to spare – something that occurs very rarely in this hotly contested owner-driver fleet.
Of the reasons Katusha came good in Porto Cervo, tactician Andrew Horton said it was just a question of time: “Normally you learn how to sail, you win a race, get on the podium and eventually you put it all together. We have the same guys with us for two years and we are still improving every day.”
Knowing they had won, barring coming last with a penalty, Katusha tried to sail the last race conservative but still they were among the leaders at the first mark. “It was a great regatta. In so many finishes the boats were shooting across the line together,” concluded Horton.
It was a day of mixed fortunes for Nico Poons’ Charisma. In the first race they broke their port running backstay, during which tactician Morgan Reeser fell overboard and was recovered. Having so nearly won two races earlier this week, finally they came good to take the bullet in race two. But even this they very nearly lost, narrowly coming out on top in a last minute, head down dash for the line with Katusha, while previously a chunk had been taken out of their transom by Peninsula Petroleum after the Gibraltarian RC44 had misjudged a duck. This left Poons’ crew having to get pumps on board smartly to bail out post-race. Meanwhile Peninsula Petroleum received a nasty gouge in their bow, plus a two point penalty.
“We got a 1, 2, 2 in this event, which wasn’t bad – that’s how it always should be!” summarised Poons. “We picked up a lot of positions today considering we didn’t finish the first race. We have high hopes for [the World Championship in] Marstrand.”
Aside from the racing, sailing the high performance RC44s in the big breeze was exhilarating for all the crews. As Charisma’s Olympic 470 medallist tactician Morgan Reeser observed: “The boats were in their element. You have to go fast enough so that you are about to wipe out – and then you are in a good mode. People don’t realise how fast these boats go.”
Team CEEREF’s Igor Lah agreed: “Downwind we were flying! It was amazing. You have to be on the edge all the time because if you’re not, you are not fast enough. But you have to be really careful not to cross the line. In 24 knots at the beginning it was pretty challenging but I am getting used to sailing in high winds and it is nice.”
Team CEEREF won the final race to secure the Slovenian team second overall. Of the conditions today tactician Adrian Stead: “This morning before the start we saw 28 knots: Porto Cervo delivered. It is always great racing here.”
Team Nika finished fifth overall. “Port Cervo is beautiful, a very nice venue,” said owner Vladimir Prosikhin. “I like it very much but I am not happy with my results. Terry Hutchinson is coming back for the Worlds in Marstrand so I hope we will improve then.”
Following this event, hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum, helmed in Porto Cervo by Chilean Dag von Appen, has taken the lead of the 2017 RC44 championship. With this they have recovered the coveted ‘golden wheels’, the class’ equivalent of cycling’s yellow jersey.
From here the RC44 Championship moves on to its World Championship in Marstrand, Sweden over 10-15th August.