While Nico Poons’ Charisma, the 2022 44Cup Champion, is the event’s runaway leader, albeit still catchable, on day three of the 44Cup Oman several other teams had the opportunity to shine.
After an hour’s delay waiting for the wind to build, the race area off Muscat’s Al Mouj Marina for a third day offered the nine teams competing at the 44Cup Oman perfect conditions, starting with 8 knots and building into the teens for the final race.
In the first race it was tight coming into the top mark between Igor Lah’s Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing and Charisma. After a slightly chaotic run, Peninsula Racing led around the starboard leeward gate mark with Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing. From here it was a battle of the sides with the Gibraltar team taking the far right and Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing the most extreme left. Coming into the top mark with rights on starboard tack, while seeing off several threatening port tackers, put Peninsula Racing firmly into the lead which she maintained to the finish, with the Swedish team second.
In addition to new female crew Julia Miñana, Peninsula Racing has recruited Spanish sailing star - former 470 gold medallist and America’s Cup winner - Jordi Calafat to trim main this season. For Calafat, this is his first ever 44Cup race. “The boat is very good. It is fun to learn how it works and it is great fun racing. It is especially a fast downwind boat. The conditions have been excellent. I am really enjoying it.” According to Calafat their success in today’s first race came from successfully managing to reach the top mark despite a very tight layline. “In that case you can easily be first or sixth…”
At that race’s leeward gate, Team Nika had rounded the starboard mark immediately astern of Charisma and had collided with her transom. This had cost Team Nika a penalty turn plus two penalty points for hard contact and the damage incurred.
From ‘hero’ to ‘zero’, in the second race Peninsula Racing was pushed over the line and it was Charisma’s turn to lead up the first beat, coming across on starboard with rights and forced most of the fleet coming across on port to duck them. For the remainder of the race, Poons, tactician Hamish Pepper and the rest of the Monaco-flagged team did a good job cutting down any potential threats from the rest of the fleet to secure their second bullet of the regatta.
For the third and final race today the ENEerly wind was into the mid-teens and steadily building. With Chris Bake back behind the wheel today, Team Aqua found gold at the top left of the first beat, coming into the top mark with a solid lead. They extended down the run, only to lose their advantage trawling their kite at the leeward gate. Nonetheless they remained in first onto the final run. Here they remained on starboard gybe while Team Nika gybed early and, finding better pressure on the right, and after gybing back, sped into the finish line pipping Team Aqua to the post.
“He could have let me win one race - I worked so hard!” quipped Chris Bake afterwards. “It is really good to be back. The wind built through the day. The last race we played the ‘butterfly strategy’, but on the last downwind, we had 12 knots and Nika had 15. It looked like they were cruising…and we certainly weren’t…”
For a second day, Charisma was top scoring boat, but Artemis Racing also did well in the first two races and managed to salvage a fourth place in the last race despite having been eighth at the final top mark rounding, by heading to the right as the eventual winner, Team Nika, did ahead of them. This left them with a 2-3-4 today, and had Ceeref not stolen second place from them in the final metres of today’s second race, they would have equalled Charisma’s top points tally for the day.
“It is very close,” said Torbjörn Törnqvist of the final race. “Clearly at the top mark, there was only one way to go and that was where no one was…and it worked out. I am happy with the sailing here. We are doing very well around the course. We are getting there. There are fantastic conditions – I don’t think anyone was expected this - 25°C and 20 knots of breeze. I like the action and it is very special with these boats: they are fast and lively and a technical challenge,” he added, showing the blisters on his hands, he picked up helming his RC44 at high speed today.
Racing continues tomorrow with a first warning signal at 1200 with a three final races scheduled. While the top two places are looking solid between Charisma and Ceeref, they are by no means unassailable and in this class there is never a shortage of surprises.