Racing resumed in Europe for the eight high performance owner-driver one design RC44s today with the opening rounds of the 44Cup Marstrand, hosted by the Marstrands Segelsällskap and supported by Artemis Technologies. With the sky overcast for the first three races, conditions were relatively benign, the wind never exceeding 10 knots and more often closer to 6 and slowly backing from the southwest to the south over the course of the afternoon. The 44Cup teams and race organisers have been keeping an eye on the forecast which tomorrow is warning of 20-30 knot winds conditions which may not be sailable even for the highly adaptable RC44s. As a result in anticipation of possible disruption, four, rather than the usual three races, were held making use of today’s lighter conditions.
Once again demonstrating the high calibre of the 44Cup fleet, each of today’s four races had a different winner. After three races the three boats which had won races were tied for the lead on nine points: Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing, winner of the first; Nico Poons’ Charisma, winner of the second and John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing, winner of the third. With Chris Bake’s Team Aqua claiming the fourth and final race of the day ahead of Charisma in second, Poons’ Monaco-based team, the defending Marstand champion, tops the leaderboard after this opening day of racing in Sweden but in usual 44Cup style by just one point.
“It was a good day - we had luck when we needed it we sailed well the other times,” said Charisma’s Kiwi tactician Hamish Pepper. “The wind clocked left all day, but it was quite tricky - there were still veins of pressure here and there. So it was testing and a lot of boats were up and down, but the team sailed well and we are happy just to be up there at this stage, even if it is early days.”
Perhaps due to the light wind, where getting ahead into clear air was paying greater dividends than in stronger breeze, today’s race winners all finished with a substantial lead over the rest, the closest finish being when John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing won the third race by 26 seconds ahead of Team Aqua.
Peninsula Racing could only manage a sixth in the final race, dropping the Gibraltar team to third place, three points behind Aleph Racing, but are still showing signs of a renaissance, thanks partly to the return of their Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto and Spanish Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup winner Jordi Calafat. “Today was good, very difficult,” said Vascotto. “We had two good starts and then I made some mistakes. In the last start I lost a minute and I thought we were late. We had a good plan B - I have already spoken with my mother, she is very upset…!”
In the fourth race, the teams were paying more attention to the left side of the course with Team Aqua making the most of this gambit. “It was a tight start and we got off to the left of the course and punched hard left and the rest was all good shifts and that was it,” summarised Chris Bake. “The wind had gone from 210/215° all the way to 175° so the wind was clocking left all day.”
Since the first 2023 44Cup event in Oman at the beginning of March, all the boats competing have been equipped with the latest Harken primary and mainsheet winches. These replace the old generation winches which in some cases were first fitted to the boats when they were launched all the way back in 2006, notably Team Nika and Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, hulls #10 and #11 (although 16 years on, both are still being raced hard, regularly winning World Championships and even the annual 44Cup series). The first of the brand new Harken Air 180 have been fitted to the entire 44Cup fleet, along with substantially upgraded mechanics inside their pedestal grinder. The winches bring the considerable advantages including weight saving, a structurally more stable base and in particular almost double the line speed in ‘overdrive’. At this event teams are adjusting to the new high performance of the winches which are enabling them to make the RC44s faster in tacks, gybes, hoists and drops.
Given tomorrow’s forecast racing will start early with a skippers’ briefing at 0900 and a first warning signal at 1000 CEST.