An ultra-light onshore breeze at the 44Cup Portoroz World Championship should have made for a straightforward opening day to the high performance one design’s pinnacle event of the season. In fact it demonstrated how the nimble RC44 can race meaningfully in practically no wind, but still scores were high with all eight teams suffering at least one big result.
Despite a seventh place in today’s opening round when they were late for the start line, Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing went on to post a 2-1 in today’s final two races leaving the French team, at the end of the first day two points ahead of a trio of boats: Nico Poons' Charisma, local hero Igor Lah on Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 and Chris Bake's Team Aqua. After three races the mid-fleet remains close with second to seventh place separated by just four points.
“We had a very bad start on the first one - we thought that the door was going to be shut by Ceeref so we did a double tack and then we were very late,” admitted Aleph Racing’s star Italian tactician Michele Ivaldi. “We had a chance to get back into the race but we missed the left shift. But we learned and in both races after that we played the left side of the course. There was more pressure there.”
Ivaldi was kicking himself they hadn’t chosen the favoured left sooner as it had been recommended. Today guests on the eight RC44s were exclusively local Oppie sailors: “We asked Philippe, who is a local Optimist sailor, which side we should go and he told us ‘left’. We should have followed his advice from the outset. It is good to have the guest program back,” concluded Ivaldi.
The course today had the race committee boat positioned less than a mile from Marina Portorož with the weather mark 1.1 miles away and with St Bernadine’s point protruding into the course on the right. Technically a ‘left banana’ course, according to Ivaldi the favoured parts were “right at the bottom and left at the top and a little bit of pressure at the end of the left layline.”
The opening race was won in convincing style by Torbjörn Törnqvist and Artemis Racing. “It was a good race,” recounted the Swedish team’s US tactician Andy Horton: “We got off the line, had a good beat and got ahead and that was pretty straightforward. The guys sailed well and we were fast.
“It was questionable whether the right hand shore would work down by St Bernadine. We thought that might be 20% of the beat and the other 80% would be on the left. We didn’t get into a fight with that and just worked up the left side and that is how we got across of everyone. There was pressure on that side as there was most of the time.” Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team, #27 and the first new RC44 to be launched in eight years, came home second in the Swiss boat’s race debut.
In his usual ‘zero to hero’ (and back) style, Nico Poons’ Charisma finished dead last in the opening race (having won both of the last two 44Cup events this season in Cascais and Marstand) only to win today’s second. Typically the Dutchman’s team don’t like light conditions, but his highly experienced crew, led by tactician Hamish Pepper, seems to have overcome this. “The first race was very bad – we were on the wrong corner and we guessed we had something around the keel,” recounted Poons. “The second race went well and the third race was our best race because we fought back. It is too early in the event to look at the score.”
Racing is expected to again be light tomorrow with the start of racing already delayed to 1300 CEST.