July begins and so too the holidays in Sweden, with a deluge of tourists set to descend on western Sweden’s most picturesque island of Marstrand for the first official weekend of the summer. Visitors to this favourite holiday hotspot will also get to witness the 44Cup Marstrand, which sets sail tomorrow with the first of four days of competition, the event hosted by the Marstrands Segelsällskap with the support of the Marstrands Havshotell.
Eight of the high performance RC44 one design monohulls are competing at this the third event of the 2022 season. They include several previous winners. Favourite must certainly be Chris Bake’s Team Aqua, which out of the nine previous editions, incredibly, has won five, including the last two in 2021 and 2019.
Nico Poons’ Charisma team won here once in 2018 and comes in hot from their decisive victory at the last event in Cascais where they finished 12 points ahead of Slovenian Igor Lah’s second placed Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860. However Charisma, on which Kiwi Olympian/America’s Cup sailor Hamish Pepper calls tactics, has a reputation for its up-and-down performance. For example, victory in Portugal came after finishing a lowly eighth at the season’s first event in Lanzarote. Can they stop the yoyoing? “It is a new regatta with new chances,” says Poons looking ahead to this week’s racing. “It is a good place. We could end up doing well there too. We have won it before. Sometimes you need a chip on your shoulder to win.” Does he have a chip on his shoulder going into this event? “It is too early to tell. We will see…”
The hometeam, Artemis Racing, will be another to keep an eye on having finished on the podium at the last two events here. The Swedish team’s principal Torbjörn Törnqvist, host of the 44Cup Marstrand, has been quietly putting in a few more hours on the helm, turning up early to both this event and also last month in Cascais to gain extra training time.
“Marstrand is very special for me, because it is in my home country and I like the sailing here,” said Törnqvist. “Every event has its character. It is nice to see the boats back in Marstrand, but I am always worried about the weather...” Conditions are looking varied over the next four days: A light but sailable northwesterly on Thursday; similar on Friday but from the south; mid-teens from the west on Saturday and similar, but backed into the southwest, for Sunday.
Artemis Racing wasn't able to translate their extra work into points in Cascais where they finished sixth, albeit just three points shy of the podium. Can they turn it around in Sweden? “We have such wonderful speed, but we get ourselves into situations… Charisma is exceptional - they are very sorted in all conditions,” says Törnqvist.
Leading the 2022 44Cup overall after winning in Lanzarote and coming second in Cascais, is Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860. Surprisingly, having dominated the 44Cup circuit for so long, the Slovenian team has never won here. Of Marstrand, British tactician Adrian Stead summarises: “It must be one of the most varied venues: I have these snapshots of sailing here in a load of breeze, gusty, quite chilly northerlies, and light and shifty with current. But today we are dominated by high pressure. Later in the week there is more going on with the isobars.
“It is one of the choppiest and most seaway venues. Compared to Cascais, here there is more of a chop rather than rolling waves. Marstrand is an amazing place to keep coming to. You know what you are in for when you come here: Great hospitality. Long daylight. The dock is 80m from our hotel...”
As to the form, Stead reckons almost all of the teams are in with a chance. “That is what is so brilliant about this class, all these guys can put together a series and win. That is also what keeps the owners hungry…‘we can win this’!”
Among the others, Team Nika, winner here in 2017, can never be discounted, and is on the ascent with Italian and America's Cup helmsman Francesco Bruni calling tactics on board this season, while Hugues Lepic's Aleph Racing has on tactics the talented Michele Ivaldi who was tactician on the winner here in 2014-15. John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing has British America’s Cup tactician and two time Finn gold medallist Giles Scott helping the mostly Spanish crew raise it game.
New kids on the block, Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team will be hoping to gain more experience on the RC44 before picking up their new boat prior to the RC44 World Championship in Portoroz this October. On board Kiwi match racer Chris Steele is calling tactics this week with Cameron Dunn moving to main sheet.
Racing begins tomorrow with a first warning signal at 1130.