On the concluding day of the 2022 44Cup’s final event, the 44Cup Oman, PRO Maria Torrijo defied the odds and was able to stage three races. As is usual with this fleet of high performance owner-driver one designs, the results were close going into the final day with Team Aqua, Team Nika and Aleph Racing separated by just one point for the lead. But today’s results would not only have a bearing on the event scoreline, but on those overall for the season.
Despite the race course being moved further out to sea light winds combined with cumulus clouds made for massive race winning/losing shifts across the course. Tornjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing read these to perfection in the first race, winning by the largest margin of the week, with Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team second, her best result of the event. After this race still just two points separated the lead trio, a third place for Team Nika putting her back on top.
Team Nika consolidated her position winning today’s second race, which also saw a return to form of RC44 World Champions Nico Poons’ Charisma, coming home second with John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing scoring her best result in third. This left Team Nika six points clear of second placed Artemis Racing, with still just five points separating the Swedes from Charisma in fifth.
With the sun getting low in the sky, the third race was held as the gradient breeze was establishing. Once again Artemis Racing was in winning form, tactician Andy Horton having a sixth sense about the shifts. With the Swedes comfortably out in front, one third of the way down the run on board fourth placed Charisma tactician Hamish Pepper made the call to gybe, and out to the right found better pressure and a favourable shift, enabling her to take the final race win.
This was a fitting season’s conclusion for Charisma which won three events back-to-back, including the class’ World Championship in Portorož in October. Here off Muscat’s Al Mouj Marina today she was best scoring boat of the day, elevating her from fifth place to the bottom spot of the 44Cup Oman podium. It was also enough to secure Charisma the 2022 44Cup title by seven points.
Charisma won the 44Cup in 2018 but this year’s victory was definitive. “In 2018 that was victory in the last race,” recounted Poons. “This was completely different. We even finished third here, which I wasn’t expecting - some of my crew were a bit ill this event. We had three event wins in a row, so this has been a sort of a fall back compared to that. Here CEEREF could only harm us if we did badly, but in the end they did badly.”
Poons was ably supported by his tactician, plus trimmers Chris Hosking, Ross Halcrow and Dimitri Simmons, pitman Ryan Godfrey, grinder Robin Jacobs and bowman Ivan Peute and American coach Morgan Reese, boat captain Julian Hampe and shore crew Sophie Heritage.
“It was just the experience of the team,” explained Hamish Pepper of their success. “We have been together for a few years now. We are just starting to sail the boat really well 99.9% of the time which gives me the opportunity to place the boat where I want to place it.
“This regatta about the overall season title. We knew CEEREF was close so we had to keep one eye on them and one eye on the breeze which quite intense.”
Aside from a lowly eighth in Saturday’s ultra-light race, Team Nika’s 44Cup Oman performance was exceptional. Their new British tactician Nick Asher has gelled well with the experienced team, despite having sailed with none of the crew before. “It is really pleasant to sail with them and a nice atmosphere on board,” said Asher. “The first two days we weren’t looking for the best start but we were in the race and picked our way through. Yesterday I messed it up a little bit and went for the win and rather than just ‘being in the race’. So we had a bit of a reset today.” Judging from today’s 3-1-5, this worked.
With Team Nika, Artemis Race put in the second best score today. The final minutes of the last race, tactician Andy Horton said were nerve-racking: “I don’t know where Charisma came from on that last run, but the places in that race really affected the season. It was crazy, but it kept everyone on their toes. It was fun!”
The prize-giving was held in the square by the Al Mouj Marina was attended by Omani dignitaries including His Excellency Sultan Salim Saeed Al Habsi, Chairman of the Oman Investment Authority and Dr. Khamis Al Jabri, CEO of Oman Sail. Here Team Aqua owner and RC44 Class President Chris Bake thanked the hosts and complemented Oman Sail’s own crew, Team Asyad Shipping which competed here: “It has been a challenging week. It is a real pleasure having Oman Sail sail with us – it is an ambitious program and their team has done an incredible job.”
Bake concluded: “It has been an incredible year and we look forward to coming back to Oman for the start for the 2023 season.”