Following the RC44 class’ World Championship in Cowes in August, the 44Cup resumes tomorrow in the shadow of another famous maritime British empire outpost - Gibraltar. Host of this event for the high performance owner-driver one designs is the 624-berth Alcaidesa Marina. This is located in Spain, metres across the border from the northern ‘Pillar of Hercules’, home of John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing team. Racing at the 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina will start tomorrow on the Bay of Gibraltar at 1100 CEST.
Appropriately given the move to Spain for this fourth event of the 2023 44Cup, a Spanish team will be in charge of the class’s trial RC44 this week. While the Noticia team has been a regular feature of Spanish yacht racing for years, the international community will most likely remember the name from a decade agowhen a Noticia Soto 40 competed in the complimentary one design fleet to the TP52s on the Audi Medcup. Noticia’s Santander-based owner Luis Martín Cabiedes latterly recruited the remnants of the Iberdrola former Spanish America’s Cup crew, performing well in the process.
From an IMX 40 to the Soto 40 and then on to J/80s (racing with Jose Maria ‘Pichu’ Torcida - two time J/80 World Champion) and a J/70 (with Torcida and Rayco Tabares – five time J/80 World Champion), both popular classes in Spain, Cabiedes acknowledges his yacht racing has retrograded over the last decade. But there is good reason for this: “Four or five years ago I decided to start steering, which will mean that I can keep racing for longer. So far we haven’t had good results, but I am no5 in the J/70 ranking in Spain. The truth is that I always like to sail with very very good crew like this one.”
The Spanish yacht racing scene is small and everyone knows everyone. Many of the Peninsula Racing crew had raced with Cabiedes previously and with the news that the 44Cup was visiting mainland Spain, they lured Cabiedes into trying out the RC44, although he admits he didn’t require much luring. “The RC44 was a boat that I always wanted to try, but I’m afraid I like it too much! It is a wonderful boat, a wonderful fleet and a wonderful circuit.”
To date he has just had some training on board. Tomorrow racing proper will start. So what does he like about the RC44? “It has the speed of a larger boat, but the feel of a dinghy. The Soto 40 was a little bit like that. It is a one design which makes the racing much more fun. And the fleet is incredible - teams have been offering us sails – as is the boat. It is like the last evolution of the 2007 America’s Cup monohulls. Now we have other types of boats which are great but this will stand for a long time. I am very sure the RC44 will become a classic.”
While Spanish, Cabiedes admits that he has never raced on the Bay of Gibraltar. The team that has are of course the local hosts on John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing, that is all except their Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto. “I’ve never sailed here but the guys know this place quite well,” commented Vascotto. “It is very interesting. On Tuesday I sailed here for the first time and it was shifting. You need to very very smart in terms of how to play them.”
This season the team to beat remains Nico Poons’ Charisma, the leader with a 2023 regatta scoreline of 2-1-1, including the World Championship title in Cowes two months ago. However behind the Dutchman's runaway train on 4 points, it is close between Aleph Racing second on 10 points and Team Nika in fifth place on 12.
Going into this event Peninsula Racing, Teams Aqua and Nika, Charisma and Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 have the same crew as normal. The others have made minor changes in personnel.
The crew on Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team has gained an Olympic Golden medallist in the form of Australian Will Ryan, who was the 470 champion at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Ryan has sailed with the RC44 previous for just one event, with the German La Pericolosa crew in Puerto Calero, Lanzarote at the beginning of 2022.
Ryan now lives in Switzerland and has become involved in many of the circuits there including the TF35 flying catamaran and becoming Swiss J/70 champion. But his biggest commitment is as wing trimmer for to the Swiss SailGP team.
“I love it - the racing is very dynamic,” says Ryan. “It is a very friendly atmosphere and coming from a dinghy background, downwind is always fun and the racing is short and intense. It is a really nice atmosphere on shore too - everyone is keen to help us out, people have lent us sails etc. I have very good memories and am excited to be back.”
Due to the severe weather forecast to later tomorrow afternoon, the race committee has chosen to advance the first start by one hour to 1100 tomorrow.