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Ireland's Guilfoyle and McClelland Consolidate Lead on Aleph at 44 Cup in Lanzarote

26th November 2023
Irish sailors Cian Guilfoyle and Oisin McClelland are playing key roles on the French entry Alpeh in the 44Cup in Lanzarote
Irish sailors Cian Guilfoyle and Oisin McClelland are playing key roles on the French entry Alpeh in the 44Cup in Lanzarote Credit: Nico Martinez

Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle and Donaghdee's Oisin McClelland aboard Aleph Racing have consolidated their lead at the 44Cup Calero Marinas in Lanzarote.

The final event of the 2023 44Cup, has become a two-horse race going into Sunday's final day with the Irish sailors playing key roles on the French entry.

Once again, on Saturday, the star performers among the high-performance owner-driver one designs were Aleph Racing and Team Nika, both winning races and, crucially, the only teams to avoid posting any big results. They currently are on 25 and 29 points, respectively with the 2023 44Cup’s overall leader Nico Poons’ Charisma third on 35.

Thanks to the offshore wind providing the most challenging of conditions over the last three days, this has been – by 44Cup standards – a high-scoring regatta and going into the last day, with 27 points still on the table, ‘only’ six out of the nine teams can still win here. It also seems highly unlikely that Igor Lah’s Ceeref, powered by Hrastnik 1860 (currently fifth), can overtake and then put the required three boats between her and Charisma (currently third) to prise the 2023 44Cup title from Poons’ posse.

After two days of tricky northerlies, blowing over the top of mountainous Lanzarote, today the 44Cup fleet ventured out on to the water to find a decent easterly, blowing along Lanzarote’s shore and marginally more stable.

In this Ceeref and John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing did well on their own out on the left of the first beat only for the right to come good in the closing moments allowing Team Nika to round the top mark just ahead. At the bottom of the run Ceeref took the port gate mark as Team Nika went right, followed by Peninsula Racing. This time it was Ceeref on Team Nika’s transom at the top mark. On the run, Ceeref’s crew pulled off a masterful ‘dummy gybe’ that caused Peninsula Racing to fully gybe with Team Nika following. The result was a near photo finish.

Ceeref’s tactician Adrian Stead explained: “Peninsula was strong on us down the last run and had we gybed we would have been third. Instead we let them go, Nika went with them and then we got a nice split. Probably our dial-down into the finish line was too early and we should have gybed, so we lost by 4-5m. Had we not dummy gybed we would definitely have been third…”

After this the wind chose not to co-operate. Soon after starting race two the wind went hard left and the race was abandoned. Reluctantly the race committee reset the course closer in to Puerto Calero on the same northerly axis as yesterday.

In this, the first beat was difficult with Michele Ivaldi on Aleph Racing and double Olympic 470 gold medallist Hannah Mills on Team Aqua calling the shifts up the middle of the course with greatest expertise to pull out a small advantage over Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing at the top mark. These positions they maintained to the finish.

With the wind up to 15 knots, the third race again saw tacticians well tested as they responded to the fluctuating breeze. In this Team Aqua appeared to have done the better job up the first beat but overstood slightly coming into the top mark allowing Ceeref to get the inside berth and the lead. All did not go well for the Slovenian RC44 on the run losing the lead to Aqua, which at the gate chose to take the right mark as Ceeref split left. Once again it was ‘lucky left’ for Ceeref and after two crosses with Aqua they led into the top mark and from there to the finish. Seeing the tightly grouped RC44s blasting down the run was a reminder, if anyone needed it, of what fun these nimble boats are even in moderate conditions.

Of their performance today, Team Aqua’s Chris Bake commented: “The first race was difficult. We got into tricky situations at the windward and leeward marks, but the next two races were really good: Hannah [Mills, tactician] is doing to a great job, fighting through aggressively and calling the shifts. She is used to throwing a boat around a lot, so we are all doing a lot of work!”

Ceeref also posted two good results and one big score today. “It was just an incredibly tricky race track,” explained tactician Adrian Stead. “The wind is shifting around by up to 30-40°and quite gusty, so there is plenty going on with lots of good sailors who are good at reading the conditions, so it is great fight. It is always non-stop action in this class.”

Laurent Déage’s Team 69 had to withdrawn from the final race after suffering technical issues which will be fixed overnight. “It was very interesting because each day we make mistakes and each one loses you one or two places in the ranking, but we are making less and less,” he said. “But we are enjoying it. Today under spinnaker was incredible! The fleet is very close.”

His tactician Sébastien Col added: “The racing is very tight. The starts make a big difference, if you can hold a lane going in the right direction, but everyone here is able to do that. Then you have to round the top mark in good shape. It is standard racing, but at a very high level. You have to get all the details right. And it is physical – in more than 12 knots the crew needs to be well prepared.”


(After six races, penalty points in brackets)

1. Aleph Racing - 6 1 2 1 4 2 4 1 4 - 25
2. Team Nika - 1 3 3 2 3 7 1 4 5 - 29
3. Charisma - 3 2 1 4 8 3 7 5 2 - 35
4. Peninsula Racing - 2 6 5 6 1 6 3 6 6 - 41
5. Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 - 5 7 6 9 6 1 2 8 1 - 45
6. Team Aqua - 7 4 7 5 2 4 9 2 3 (2) - 45
7. Artemis Racing - 4 8 8 3 7 8 6 3 8 (2) - 57
8. Black Star Sailing Team - 9 9 4 8 5 5 5 7 7 - 59
9. Team 69 - 8 5 9 7 9 9 8 9 10DNF - 74

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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