Conditions could not have been better for day three of the 44Cup Scarlino World Championship. Coming out two hours ahead of schedule to make the best of the breeze, the wind was already knocking on the door of 20 knots. By the time the first race started at 1000 the wind was firmly 20 knots and then spent most of the day in the low 20s, frequently gusting more.
Blowing off mountainous Tuscany, the offshore breeze was shifty and puffy. It caused numerous lead changed and seemed to favour no one. Thus, to make up the schedule after a lost opening day four races were held and each featured a different winner.
The overall 2021 44Cup leader, Igor Lah's Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, got off to a strong start winning today's opening race, but then a collision with Aleph Racing in the next saw them come home last with a two point penalty imposed on them for 'hard contact'.
Meanwhile Nico Poons' Charisma team was sailing a blinder. Winning today's second race caused them to move to the top of the leaderboard, tied with Artemis Racing, the Swedish team showing excellent consistency, despite the difficult conditions. But, as is proving typical here, this position was shortlived for both as they scored deeply in the next race. In this Chris Bake's Team Aqua finally scored a bullet, propelling his team up to second overall as Aleph Racing took the lead.
“It was pretty tricky!” admitted Bake later. “But what beautiful conditions – sunny, breezy. It was a full-on day today, but it was good. All the boats are going really well, one mistake and you are toast – you’ll get spat out mercilessly.”
Team Aqua’s tactician Cameron Appleton added: “It has been a battle. This fleet is tight and we’ve had tricky conditions to execute all the time out there. We always know we are capable of it, we just have to connect everything together. We finally got a good start and sailed well in the placement up the course. As soon as you get your nose out, things become a bit easier than when you are in the back of the pack trying to fight your way out of there, because you don’t get much room in this fleet.
“The fleet is so close and everybody just knows how to sail the boats well. Every regatta this year has been windy, so we don’t have to worry about that anymore. It is now about going out there and positioning better and doing the basics well. It is going to be a good battle all the way to the finish.”
In the fourth and final race of the day, a 1-2 for Artemis Racing and Charisma caused them to catch Hugues Lepic's Aleph Racing creating an ultra-close leaderboard going into the last day. In front is Aleph Racing, but the Frenchman's team is just one point ahead of Torbjörn Törnqvist's Artemis Racing and Nico Poons' Charisma.
“We have always known in this fleet that it is important to be always up there,” explains Aleph Racing tactician Michele Ivaldi. “You win regattas with an average of 3.5-4 points. So if you manage to squeeze in 2nds, 3rd and 4ths you end up in good shape.”
But consistency has been the one thing difficult to achieve in the blustery conditions this week and even the leader’s average score has been just under 4 per race. “With the offshore wind there are huge shifts, as much as 30° during a single race,” continued Ivaldi. “I think we managed to start reasonably well and be able to sail the first shift and then you have to sail the wind that you have and try to get out of phase as little as possible….”
As to the tight leaderboard going into the final day, Ivaldi is not surprised: “It is good to be coming into the last day with the possibility to win, but we know perfectly that four or five boats can still win. Everything is still up for grabs. We’ll just go out tomorrow as if it is a normal day.”
In the final race victory slipped through the fingers of Pavel Kuznetsov’s Atom Tavatuy, not once but twice. Firstly a beneficial shift while on starboard propelled them into the lead at the first top mark rounding. “We started very nicely on the downwind and gybed at the right time and we were leading by 100m,” recounted tactician Evgeny Neugodnikov. “But then the wind dropped to 12-13 knots and Charisma got in front but we were still second [Charisma going left as they went right at the gate].”
There was another roll of the dice up the second beat as Artemis Racing did well on the right to lead at the second top mark rounding with Atom Tavatuy a close fourth behind Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika. Gybing early and splitting from the leaders, Kuznetsov’s team rolled Team Nika and was again in contention for the lead but Artemis Racing and Charisma covered to leave Atom Tavatuy third. “It’s nice weather, nice wind and very close racing – like usual! I hope tomorrow we will be better,” concluded Neugodnikov.
Tomorrow, the final day of the 44Cup Scarlino World Championship, racing is scheduled to start at 1100 CEST and with three or four races likely to be held, weather permitting any of the top eight boats remains capable of winning.