The forecast for the penultimate day of the 44Cup Oman was for either a moderate northeasterly or for a light northwesterly. In fact the near non-existent gradient breeze and the similarly soft sea breeze made it a tricky day for both race officials and the nine 44Cup teams alike.
Ultimately one race was held, the north-northwesterly wind never exceeding 6-7 knots, but enough for the nimble RC44 owner-driver one designs to make this speed both upwind and downwind.
Starting to weather of the nine boat fleet, Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing was best positioned on the line and after sailing into a big lift up the first beat was able to lead around the top mark. However hanging on to their coattails in second place was not Nico Poons’ World Championship winners on Charisma nor 44Cup Oman leader Team Nika, or indeed any of the A-list 44Cup teams but local host Oman Sail’s own crew on Team Asyad Racing, who had done well making some sensible decisions up the right side.
Despite sailing the former Artemis Racing Youth boat, which for the past season has been made available to aspirant teams wishing to try out racing in the 44Cup, Team Asyad Racing managed to fend off the 44Cup hot shots on the run. They led round the starboard leeward gate mark, a few seconds after Artemis Racing had led around the port mark. After tacking on to starboard, the Omanis dug into a major lift as they crossed the breadth of the course and by the time they had returned to the starboard layline, Team Asyad Racing was leading.
Sadly for the local team, this proved to be their ‘five minutes of fame’ for while turning at the top mark their bowman was pitched into the water. They put their boat head to wind as their bedraggled crew was returned to them, uninjured save for his pride, by one of the 44Cup’s on the water umpires. They then continued racing.
“It was good, but it went wrong at the top mark. We just tried to hang on until the end after that,” said Team Asyad Racing’s skipper and Oman’s top 49er sailor Musab Al Hadi, admitting that if perhaps he had made the bear away slightly later they might have prevented the MOB. Of their success otherwise today (they ultimately still finished sixth– their best result to date), Al Hadi added: “It was great. It was exciting. We were just trying to keep it cool. If we can just continue matching the other boats…”
Ultimately it was Chris Bake’s Team Aqua led onto the run. Anticipating the breeze going right, they were quick to gybe and so held their advantage to the finish.
Team Aqua tactician Cameron Appleton commented: “The race was really tricky with a lot of decisions and a lot of thought going into positioning. For us it was a really solid race in the end, but there were a lot of up and downs, trying to balance out the whole fleet versus the wind. We got ourselves out to the right when the breeze went right and so we were able to lead on to the last run. It went heavily our way and we are really happy that it did.”
Appleton paid tribute to Team Asyad Racing: “They have been sailing a fantastic race and doing a fantastic job. It was unlucky for them that they lost a guy overboard - we felt bad for them.” (Team Aqua themselves had had a MOB incident yesterday…)
A disappointing eighth place finish in the race for Team Nika saw their carefully constructed six point overall lead evaporate. They ended the day tied on points with Team Aqua, but second overall on account of Chris Bake’s team having scored three bullets to their two.
Going into the final day the pointscore is showing the 44Cup’s usual closeness with just one point separating the top three and eight points between the top five. Any of the top seven teams remains mathematically capable of winning.
Tomorrow is the final day of racing with three races scheduled. Hopefully there will be more wind – Inshallah…