In typical 44 Cup style, Friday’s racing at the World Championship for the leading owner driver one design circuit concluded with two boats tied in the top spot with third place just one point behind with two days of racing left this weekend.
With the wind having veered southwest overnight, the Royal Yacht Squadron’s race committee, overseen by class PRO Maria Torrijo, moved the race area into the central-western Solent, off the Beaulieu River. The wind was also less, starting at 12-14 knots and dropping to 6-10, but gusty and shifty as a steady stream of clouds passed through bringing with them drizzle and reduced visibility. Given Saturday’s potentially vicious forecast and uncertainty over whether racing will be possible, four rather than three races were held today. The first start at 1130 coincided with the end of the ebb, which was followed by two highly tactical races when the tide was slack before it began flooding. Given the dynamic situation it was a relatively high scoring day.
After a lacklustre first day, Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing came out guns blazing and with some aggressive playing of the tide on the opening beat, was first to the top mark and from there to the finish ahead of Team Nika and Aleph Racing. With the bit still between their teeth, the Swedish team followed this with a third in the second race.
“It was a better day for us,” summarised Artemis Racing’s tactician 49er gold medallist Dylan Fletcher. “We had a big briefing and worked out what we needed to amend. It was a very difficult day with the tide changing and varying between the sides. Trying to understand that was difficult, but we are happy to have come out with some solid results.”
Of the first race he added: “Everyone knew it was a left hand track and we just had a really nice start and picked a good lane. We had good speed and are quite happy. In the second race we had an issue with the kite so we lost a boat, but here if you make one small mistake you get punished hard. But that is why everyone enjoys it and it makes winning all the sweeter.”
In the second race Chris Bake’s Team Aqua pulled in ahead onto the starboard layline coming into the first top mark rounding. Resolutely hanging on, Team Aqua notched up her third bullet of the regatta.
With the flood beginning, combined Solent wisdom suggested taking the right/mainland side of the beat where the tide on the plateau off the Beaulieu River would provide relief. Eight of the nine RC44s employed this tactic, with the exception of John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing which on her lonesome headed to the left/Isle of Wight side of the course. However a favourable shift caused the Gibraltar team to round the top mark with a monster lead of 1 minutes 52 seconds over Nico Poons’ second placed Charisma. The rest of the fleet was left fighting for positions with Charisma second ahead of Igor Lah's Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860.
Peninsula Racing’s tactician Vasco Vascotto explained: “At the start the wind was really right. We started to leeward and I said ‘to me this is the maximum lift we are going to see.’” Then everyone else tacked. “We were alone for a long time and prayed our choice was correct. I promise you that the next 10-15 minutes felt like hours - but it was nice to cross in front! Obviously we were relieved that finally something worked. It was nice to watch and I had a lot of messages, but the reality was that personally I had three other bad races. If we want to win this championship, I need to sail better.”
In the final race the right/mainland side of the course was definitely paying but by how much? Ultimately the tide left the group which had gone further right overstood, while those inside, Aleph Racing and Black Star Sailing Team, were sweetly lifted up rounding ahead and going on to win.
“We had a good last race,” said Lepic, whose team is the defending 44Cup Cowes champion. “We had a decent start, but we were on the right side of the course when there was a big right shift which Michele and Paul [Westlake] had somewhat anticipated. It is very humbling to be here in Cowes, but also very exciting and good racing.”
Tactician Michele Ivaldi admitted: “That as a bit of luck. We didn’t have a good start. The boats closer to the shallow water were getting relief in the current but there was a right shift and they ended up overstanding by quite a bit leaving us on the perfect layline.”
This win left Aleph Racing leading the 44Cup Cowes World Championship at the half-way stage, tied on points with Team Nika, with Charisma just a point behind. Along with Aleph Racing, the lowest scoring teams today were Nika, Artemis Racing and Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860.
Tomorrow the wind is looking possibly sailable in the morning but in afternoon the forecasts have it gusting to 30+ knots. As a result the first warning signal has been advanced to 0930.