Another slow start for day two of the 44Cup Portorož World Championship saw the fleet held ashore with racing not getting underway until 1400. However when it did fill in, the breeze was a crucial two knots more than it was for the opening day and the eight RC44 teams were able to race with their high performance one designs fully powered up.
By rights the day should have belonged to event host Slovenian Igor Lah and his Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, the defending champions here in Portorož. Today two races were held before the wind began to disintegrate and in both the Slovenian RC44 sailed a superb first upwind, to lead around the top mark only subsequently to lose it on the downwinds. In the first race on the second downwind Nico Poons’ Charisma on her own gybed early and perhaps into better pressure and from there managed to sail deeper and creep ahead of Ceeref to take the bullet.
Remarkably similar occurred in the second race with Ceeref ahead at the top mark. On this occasion on the first run Charisma gybed much earlier and, lo, once again seemed to find her own personal something and had pulled ahead by the gate. Meanwhile, down to third at the gate, matters went from bad to worse for Ceeref as she got stuck in traffic on the next upwind and found herself being pinballed around the race course dropping her to last place (seventh – Black Star Sailing Team had been disqualified for being over early under a U-flag start).
Today’s results have left Charisma, winner of the last two 44Cup events, an impressive six points ahead of Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing at the half way stage of this regatta. Of today’s racing Poons commented: “It was really close - just metres apart at the marks. Downwind we were very strong. That was the big difference.”
Charisma’s Australian mainsheet trimmer Chris Hosking shed more light on their downwind dominance: “In that left hand corner looking upwind it gets a little bit light and Pepsi [tactician Hamish Pepper] chose to gybe out of there early and clearly it was a very nice move because we were into better pressure and just rotated around the bows. We were also in clear air, not fighting with guys on our weather hip.
“We have developed a nice low mode downwind - you might have seen the start of that in Marstrand... We have been doing that better than the other teams, but they’ll catch up - you can’t take anything for granted in this class. They are all top teams and when people have bad results they get that extra fire in their belly to get themselves organised. That happened to us when we finished last in the first race yesterday.”
Despite having his full fan club in town today, Igor Lah was not in the best of spirits after his team’s performance today. “It was a nightmare,” he admitted. “There is something wrong with the boat. We don’t know what. The shore team will check. The downwind legs were a disaster. We were not moving at all. Otherwise everything was perfect. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow…”
Second best team today was John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing which posted a 3-2 and is lying sixth, four points from the podium. Her position would be higher were it not for an unfortunate collision yesterday (before Bassadone arrived…) that saw his team penalised by two points.
“We all sailed pretty well today,” observed Bassadone. “We had a good debrief after yesterday and pretty much sailed as we set out to last night. It has been good - really great fun. It has been a long time since we have had the feeling that we were in control. It was very solid.”
The significant difference here is that back on tactical duties for the first time in four years, after retiring to take part in the last America’s Cup in New Zealand, is Italian Vasco Vascotto. Bassadone was trying to play down his influence: “He is a brilliant tactician, but it is a combination of everything. It’s about the little details, just putting in the hard work analysing everything and testing things and making slight changes.” Part may also be the legacy of previous tactician Giles Scott, now tied up with America’s Cup duties with the INEOS Britannia America’s Cup challenge.
Meanwhile Vascotto is enjoying his homecoming: “They know exactly how bad I am! And from my side I know the same about them! So it is great. We want to see Peninsula better in the game. We realise that we are not the same as we were before, so it is a case of working hard and trying to recover from bad positions. The guys are great.”
Vascotto, who heralds from nearby Trieste, added: “We had a good day and we are learning every single minute. It was light breeze and these boats are fantastic in light airs. In 5-6 knots you are already hiking and we saw 8.5 knots today. Maybe Charisma saw 9 - that’s why they won!”
Racing continues tomorrow when the early indications are that the racing may start earlier, on time at 1200.