As the cutting edge of sailing technology continues to pursue flying boats, faster speeds and ground breaking design you many wonder how much longer a 12 year old one-design monohull racing class like the 44Cup can hold on?
But hold on it does, and much more than that, it is still regularly attracting the likes of Tom Slingsby, Ray Davies, Dean Barker. For 2019 America’s Cup and multiple TP52 championship winning helm Ed Baird returns to the fleet as tactician for John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum, taking the place of Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto, who steps away after nine years with the team to focus on his America’s Cup campaign with Luna Rossa.
Baird is no stranger to the 44Cup having raced in the past with Synergy Russian Sailing Team, Team Nika and Katusha.
So what draws him back? “For me the reason people are dedicated to classes like the 44Cup and the TP52s is for the level of competition, it’s not for the technology. There is a different group of people for the full speed foiling boats, of a different mindset, that like the heavily technology-orientated type of sailing. Some of those people crossover and do both, but just because there is more technology and something can go faster it does not make the racing better.
“In the 44Cup what you see is people like Slingsby, Iain Percy, Cameron Appleton and myself here because the racing is very good and we are getting phone calls from people in the America’s Cup teams that are wishing they could sail more because the Cup boats right now don’t exist, they are just in their computers. The racing is happening here.
“One of the great things about the 44Cup concept is the mix of amateurs and professionals in the crew. The amateurs are very good and so when the owners come to these races, they get on the boat and everything works very nicely for them. It’s a simple process for the owners to step on and go racing.
“It is essential to understand the skill of the owner, what they are comfortable and uncomfortable doing, so we can place the boat in the best position on the race course, as we can. Each of us is also trying to damage the position of the other teams at the same time which makes it an interesting game and very special in this class.
“To be a tactician on an owner driver racing circuit is not easy. It requires a very specialised skill set, as you are essentially racing the world’s best sailors through the hands of an amateur owner who often has limited sailing experience, very little free time and business commitments tugging at his attention throughout the day. It’s a tough job.
“Another highlight of the 44Cup is we race in these amazing venues and we see the high competition every time. As tacticians our job really is to manage all of the key pieces of information for a new venue; to prepare ahead of the event, to take in the new race course and to learn quickly what works.
“Lots of people ask us about the comparability between the 44Cup and the America’s Cup and new circuits like SailGP, but it is a very different set-up. The primary difference to an America’s Cup campaign is that in the Cup you come to work every day trying, with limited time, to out-perform every other smart person in the world in a technological game.
“In the 44Cup every single day the guys come down and look to have an enjoyable experience on the water and do their best on the race course, but also be friendly and happy at the end of the day, so the intensity is very different. There isn’t the everyday pressure or secrecy - here the teams are very open with each other. They work together but when we race, we race hard.
“It’s also important to remember that the amateur guys on each boat are taking time out of work to be here to do what they enjoy. They will not be perfect but they will try their hardest and that is really fun to watch and to be part of. It’s a different way of thinking”.