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Irish Involvement as 44Cup Returns to Swedish Home at Marstrand

29th June 2023
The 2023 44Cup fleet in Marstrand, Sweden
The 2023 44Cup fleet in Marstrand, Sweden Credit: Nico Martinez

After a lengthy break since early March, the 2023 44Cup resumes today in Marstrand, Sweden and three Irish sailors are competing.

As previously highlighted by Afloat, Donaghdee's Oisin McClelland and Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle are on board Aleph Racing, and the bay's Simon Johnson is on Black Star Racing Team.

The 44Cup Marstrand will take place from 29 June to 2 July off West Sweden’s paradise island.

Wednesday's practice starts, and racing for the eight owner-driver one-design RC44 racers took place in perfect conditions, with sun and 12-14 knots. Conditions over the next four days look more varied with light south-westerlies tomorrow, brisk 20+ knot westerlies on Friday, into the high teens on Saturday and high teens to low 20s for Sunday’s concluding races.

British Olympic 49er gold medallist Dylan Fletcher has an exciting new job since he called tactics for Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing in Oman. He is now a reserve helmsman for the British America’s Cup challenger INEOS Britannia, but is continuing his duties with the Swedish 44Cup team. For Fletcher, this will not only be his first time racing in the world-famous yacht racing venue of Marstand but his first time racing in Sweden: “I have watched lots of match racing here. I don’t know too much about it, but I am quite open-minded. It seems to be like the UK with quite a variety of conditions.”

The Artemis Racing crew line-up remains the same as Oman, with fellow British Olympic gold medallist Iain Percy on mainsheet but now with multiple world champion Matt Cornwell standing in on bow. As to their form, Fletcher says: “We are working hard. The fleet is incredibly competitive, but that is what makes it enjoyable. We have been looking at a lot of the data, but there are no silver bullets in this fleet. It is all about chipping away. And all happens at a slightly different pace to what I am used to!”

While Artemis Racing usually performs well in its home venue, at present a nose ahead in terms of 44Cup recent form are Nico Poons’ Charisma and Igor Lah’s Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860. Ceeref won in the opening event of the season in Oman and is the current holder of the ‘golden wheels’, the 44Cup’s equivalent of the Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey. Runner-up in Oman, Charisma was second in Oman but was the 2022 44Cup champion, and is the 44Cup Marstrand’s defending champion.

Of the 44Cup’s return to Europe, Igor Lah commented: “I am looking forwards to it. It looks promising. Hopefully, we will have nice wind, but everything is open. I prefer stronger winds.” His crew, led by tactician Adrian Stead, remains unchanged since Oman. “We will try to perform like we did in the last one. We have had quite a long break and it takes a while to get back in the groove.”

Meanwhile, never one to presume much at the start of a regatta, Dutchman Nico Poons said of the 44Cup’s Swedish stopover: “It is a gorgeous place. We have won here two or three times. I am feeling confident, but we shall see on Sunday.”

After finishing second to last in the 2022 44Cup, John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing is stepping up this season, finishing a point short of the podium in Oman. Back on board after his sabbatical with the Italian America’s Cup challenger is the Gibraltar team’s regular tactician Vasco Vascotto along with new Spanish recruits - female crew Julia Minana and big gun mainsheet trimmer, 470 gold medallist and America’s Cup winner, Jordi Calafat.

“It is a great race course and a great regatta,” said Bassadone. “I am happy to be here and I have the bit between my teeth and am hoping to have a good regatta. We have our new main trimmer, while Julia is our secret weapon. She is really good. We have made lots of improvements but then all the other boats have too. Everyone is improving. I hope this year we get ourselves back to where we believe we should be.”

Of Marstrand, Bassadone adds: “It is beautiful, especially on days like today. I love coming here. It is so unique. Since I have been to Marstrand I now come to Scandinavia on family holidays – Norway, Sweden, Iceland…”

Another of the few new faces on the dock here is American Bill Hardesty - stand-in tactician on Team Nika. Hardesty knows Marstrand well having sailed here many times in Match Cup Sweden, winning in 2011. This is only his second time racing the RC44, last time being here, on the same boat, eight years ago, then filling in between Terry Hutchinson and Dean Barker.

“The RC44 is great,” says Hardesty, who is a triple Match Racing, Etchells, Farr 40 and Melges 24 World Champion as well as US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman of the Year in 2011. “It has a lot of performance that most boats don’t have: They get up and go fast downwind and the systems are well thought-out. I really like them, though I am surprised there aren’t more of them racing.” While Hardesty is used to racing on Marstrand Fjord, where races this week are expected to finish at least on one day, he reckons he will be okay to the western, seaward side of the island. “We’ll figure it out. Sunday is look extra spicy and Friday could be good now too.”

Racing starts at 1200. 

Published in 44Cup Team

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About RC44

The RC44 is a light displacement, high performance one-design racing yacht competing in the 44Cup, a five-stop international racing tour. Co-designed by five-time America’s Cup winner Russell Coutts with naval architect Andrej Justin, the RC44 boats are strictly identical in terms of construction, shape of hull, appendages and weight/weight distribution, as well as a 50-50 split between amateurs and professionals in each eight-person crew. With everything, from the keel to the tip of the mast, made entirely from carbon, and with a powerful sail plan, the RC44 is rapid downwind, commanding upwind and performs exceptionally in both light winds and heavier breezes. The RC44’s innovative and technical design present an exciting new hybrid sailing challenge, with the crews expected to hike like a sports boat and grind as you would on a keelboat.

At a Glance - 44Cup 2023 Calendar

  • 1 - 5 March - 44Cup Oman, Muscat

  • 28 June - 2 July - 44Cup Marstrand, Sweden

  • 9 - 13 August - 44Cup Cowes, UK

  • 18 - 22 October - 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina, Gibraltar Straight

  • 22 - 26 November - 44Cup Calero Marinas, Canary Islands

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