Firing up tomorrow and running until Sunday is the RC44 Cascais Cup. For the nine high performance one design keelboats competing, this is the penultimate event of their 2017 Championship, before the Lanzarote conclusion over 23-26 November.
At present the Championship is the closest it has been in the RC44’s 11 year history. The top five boats are within two points overall and three are tied on points at the top of the leaderboard after three events: Team Nika, Bronenosec Sailing Team and Katusha.
“It is very close, but the fleet is so strong it can change quickly,” explains Team Nika’s Vladimir Prosikhin, leader of the trio and holder of the RC44 Championship leader’s ‘golden wheels’ due to his victory at the RC44 World Championship in Marstrand, Sweden last month that broke the tie. “There are no weak boats, but that is what is enjoyable. It is a big challenge and when you win you really have something to celebrate.”
For the other two skippers in the top trio, this is the first time they have topped the leaderboard, although their boats have under previous skippers.
“It is challenging,” admits Katusha’s Alexander Novoselov. “We will try to benefit from this position, but anything can happen all of sudden. It is a really even fleet.”
Kirill Frolov, sharing helming duties for the first time with Vladimir Liubomirov on Bronenosec Sailing Team this season, agrees: “It is great for me making my debut, but everything can change. The fleet is very strong and we still have two regattas. Right now I’m not feeling any pressure, but maybe tomorrow! It is great for our new team. Thanks to Cameron [Dunn, tactician] for this. He has motivated everyone.”
Some old faces are returning here, with Artemis Racing’s Team Manager Iain Percy taking over as tactician for Torbjörn Törnqvist, while the Sweden America’s Cup team’s skipper, Nathan Outteridge, and his fellow double Olympic medallist wing trimmer, Iain Jensen, are sailing with Gustaf Lidvall on Artemis Racing Youth. Back from winning the America’s Cup with Emirates Team New Zealand this summer is legendary tactician Ray Davies on Nico Poons’ Charisma.
“I am really looking forward to getting back into it,” says Percy. Apart from a couple of days at the RC44 Portsmouth Cup last year, the double Olympic champion hasn’t sailed in the class regularly since handing over tactical duties to Francesco Bruni two years ago. “It feels like the class has moved on technically. They are good boats and it is great racing, incredibly close. The class is getting stronger with more teams coming back, so I am encouraged for next year. Cost-wise it is pretty hard to beat to get such quality racing.”
Percy will be jumping back in at the deep end. About the only keelboat racing he has done since winning Star silver at London 2012 has been aboard an RC44. Otherwise it has all been on foiling catamarans. “Here you are racing for inches and it is much closer to what I’m used to with the Star. I will have to get my eye in. Hopefully I can remember how to do it!”
Percy is greatly looking forward to racing out of Cascais, where the RC44s are being hosted by Clube Naval de Cascais for a sixth consecutive year. “All of us who do a lot of racing have amazing memories of Cascais. It is one of the best places in the world to sail. It is almost ridiculously ‘made for regattas’ to the point that when you come into the marina, the wind dies and it is dead upwind to drop the mainsail! And when you get further offshore, it is glorious, what sailing’s all about: White caps, blue skies, 18-20 knots, great rides downwind and good racing upwind.”
Vladimir Prosikhin agrees: “It is beautiful. Everyone is in love with it. For sailing, it is amazing.” The venue also holds some fond memories. It was here Prosikhin won his first RC44 World Championship back in 2015, also the first time he sailed with American tactician Terry Hutchinson.
Although newer to the sport, Katusha’s Alexander Novoselov is also a fan: “It is a very good venue. All the RC44 venues are great, but this is really nice in terms of everything.” For Kirill Frolov, it will be his first time sailing here on the RC44, although he competed here a lot last year on board an SB20 sportsboat prior to their World Championship.
Racing at the RC44 Cascais Cup begins tomorrow at 1200.