Njörðr, the Norse god of the sea and the wind was clearly smiling upon both the 44Cup Marstrand and local team Artemis Racing for the first day of the 2022 44Cup’s third event off western Sweden’s holiday hotspot of Marstrand.
The eight teams and their high performance one design RC44 yachts were eased gently into the regatta. There was flat water and brilliant sunshine, while the northwesterly wind started at the lower end of the spectrum, at 6-8 knots, for the first race and then built to a moderate 12-14 for the third and final one.
Torbjörn Törnqvist, host of the 44Cup Marstrand, steered his royal blue RC44 to victory in the first race, taking the left side of the course on the first upwind as the rest of the fleet went right. Artemis Racing tactician Andy Horton explained: “Early in the day the left was favoured - there was pressure there, plus the pin was up, which gave us a couple of boatlengths lead. The guys are sailing the boat fast. We had three good starts and we could end up sailing straight almost as long as we wanted to.”
Then in the third race, Artemis Racing looked set to score her second bullet of the day, leading at the top mark only to lose it on the first run. “We missed the gybe in,” admitted Horton. “It [the wind] switched over and started working near the shore on the downwinds.”
“It was good all today,” said Torbjörn Törnqvist. “The boat was set up perfectly and we had speed. Everything was working well on board, like the manoeuvring. We have tried to improve. We have been training for one or two days before [each event]. And it feels good; great sailing. It was great to get going and to be here again. Tomorrow will be another nice day with warm weather.”
Although he heralds from Stockholm, on the opposite side of Sweden, Törnqvist adds: “I am enjoying sailing here and the atmosphere around this place, even though I am not from here. It wouldn’t be the same to be here without the RC44 teams. It is like having the family here.”
Ultimately Artemis Racing has ended up leading after day one, albeit on countback, tied on points with Team Nika, a past winner here in 2017 and winner of today’s second race after they started to weather of the fleet and pulled ahead by winning the right – ironic after Artemis Racing won the first race by going left. In race two Team Nika narrowly won from Igor Lah’s Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 and John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing.
Certainly the 44Cup’s Swedish team looks like it has changed a gear here. As Horton muses: “The group is working pretty hard. And Torbjörn has been here training and he is relaxed. It is amazing how much time on the water does.”
Victory slipped through Artemis Racing’s fingers in the third race after Nico Poons’ Charisma opted to gybe early on the first downwind. Gybing back to converge with the fleet they appeared to have made a substantial gain. As Charisma tactician, Kiwi Olympian and America’s Cup helm Hamish Pepper explained: “The boat was going well and the guys were sailing it fast. We had a nice lane and the others may have been jostling a little bit and off VMG and in the next minutes we had gained three or four lengths and we were leading. Plus we could capitalise on the free air and maybe some pressure - it doesn’t take much after that for it to become a big gain.”
At the end of day one Charisma lies third overall, four off the lead after at one point finding themselves dead last in the first race. “That was a tough race,” Pepper continued. “I didn’t get us off the line well and we got pinballed a little bit. Next minute we were last, but then another boat got a penalty at the finish, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.”
Most teams had their ‘five minutes’ today. This included the newbies from Switzerland, Black Star Sailing Team which was second at the top mark in the opening race only to drop a place, coming home a worthy third. As helmsman Christian Zuerrer explained: “We had a good start and good tactics and I am happy that we finished third because we had a broken kite - it got scratched on the hoist somewhere. It was a bit scary but it wasn’t getting bigger and we tried to keep the load off it while still going fast.”
Zuerrer is used to racing in his native Switzerland and the Mediterranean, but this is his first time racing in Sweden. “It is a nice place,” he says of Marstrand. “Sunny. Good breeze. It is a nice spot. I like to be here. The organisation does a great job to keep this all running, so I am looking forward to close racing over the next three days.”
Racing continues tomorrow with a first warning signal scheduled for 1130 CEST.