After a zero wind opening day of the 44Cup Calero Marinas in Lanzarote, forecasts indicated day two might repeat this. In fact, after an hour’s delay, an easterly filled in and built to 12-14 knots, allowing three good races to be held.
Chris Bake’s Team Aqua sent a strong reminder of why their RC44 is fitted with the leader’s ‘golden wheels’. They came out of the blocks strongly in the opening race and, in an immaculate display, took the first bullet of the 2022 44Cup season, from Vladimir Prosikhin's Team Nika.
“We had the boat set up well and got a clean start with a decent amount of area around us,” recounted Bake. “We got on to the right side of the course and managed to stay bow ahead of everyone, got around the top mark and managed to hold on.”
The first race had seen a phenomenal performance by Igor Lah, tactician Adrian Stead and the crew on Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, when, after being over early and restarting, they had fought their way back up the 10 boat fleet to finish third. Their hard work was further rewarded in the next race, when, with Team Aqua on track to scoring a second bullet, Ceeref overtook them on the second upwind and went on to win the race from John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing.
After their strong start, it was Team Aqua’s turn to be OCS in the third race and, with Ceeref getting caught in traffic, Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing made the best start, led around the top mark and on around the rest of the course, coming out on top ahead of Nico Poon’s Charisma.
“It is great to come back here to Lanzarote,” said Törnqvist. “It didn’t look like we were going to sail this morning, but then it all changed, with perfect timing, for three high quality races.” He continued: “The boat feels good. We obviously got a wake-up call last time we were here [they were second last in November] and we have done a great deal of work to improve our speed in the light winds.”
Tactician Andy Horton added of their third race: “We had a good start and were going fast up the correct side of the course. Only Peninsula Racing and us had a J2 up so we were able to point a bit higher and get around everyone. Then we did an awesome jib change on the run to the J1 so we were good for the second beat. It was pretty tricky out there.”
Leading by a point at this half way stage is Ceeref, a mere point ahead of Team Aqua. “It was cool – a very nice day,” summarised Ceeref’s Igor Lah. “We enjoyed the sailing. The guys' handling was great and Ado [Stead] did a good course. In the first race [after our OCS] we were prepared for a worse result because we messed up the start, but in the end it came out really nice. We have been together so long, that the guys know exactly what to do.”
However this being the opening day of the season, and because of the ever-elevated competition on the 44Cup, the scoring was generally high: six teams managing podium finishes, but most also had deep results. For example after their strong place in race one, Team Nika’s results deteriorated. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli America’s Cup skipper Francesco Bruni, who is calling tactics this season, explained: “It wasn’t too bad. We started very well in the first race, but then had a couple of issues – a penalty turn in race three for tacking too close. In the second we were second at the gate but the second upwind was really bad for us and we were sixth at the top mark. It was a little bit painful, but otherwise I am happy with the team and the atmosphere on board.” Bruni previously was tactician on Artemis Racing. “It is great to be back. The racing is so close: There is not one leader, it changes all the time. You make the smallest mistake and you pay for it. That is the nice thing…”
The owners are enjoying sailing in the enlarged 10 boat fleet: “I think it is nice to have new teams out there. The whole class is trying to be as supportive as we can,” said Bake, Törnqvist adding: “There is a lot of interest around the class now, which is good to see. Having 11 or 12 boats would be fantastic.”
For the last two days of the competition the wind is forecast to fill in from the north or northeast, the direction of the trade winds, for which Lanzarote and the Canary Islands are famous.