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Windy conditions marked the first day of the 44Cup Calero Marinas in Lanzarote on the Canary Islands, in which Irish crews compete in the owner-driver high-performance keelboat league.

As Afloat reported previouslyRoyal Cork Yacht Club's Grattan Roberts is the latest Irish sailor to join the ranks of the R44 fleet.

Donaghdee's Oisin McClelland and Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle are on board Aleph Racing, Wicklow's Simon Johnson is on the Black Star Racing Team and, for 2024, Roberts joins Team Ceeref Vaider.

Despite a broach in the third race, Nico Poons’ Charisma managed to win the first race. Team Aqua and Team Ceeref Vaider took advantage of Charisma’s mishap and finished first and second respectively in the final race. Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika leads the overall standings after three podium finishes.

The next race is scheduled earlier on Friday due to an even stronger forecast.

44CUP CALERO MARINAS RESULTS:

(After three races)
1. Team Nika - 2 1 3 - 6
2.Team CEEREF Vaider - 5 2 1 - 8
3. Peninsula Racing - 3 3 8 - 14
4. Charisma - 1 5 9 - 15
5. Team Aqua - 9 4 2 - 15
6.  Aleph Racing - 4 6 6 - 16
7. Black Star Sailing Team - 6 9 4 - 19
8. Calero Sailing Team - 8 7 5 - 20
9. Artemis Racing - 7 8 7 - 22

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It’s all change for the 44Cup’s 16th season in 2024. While the circuit for the high performance owner-driver one designs will still comprise five events, including one World Sailing-sanctioned World Championship, this year it will visit three venues for the first time.

However, taking place at the end of February, the first event will be on very familiar territory, the RC44 owners and crews able to enjoy some winter sun in Lanzarote, with its uniquely barren lunar-type landscape as a back-drop. The Canary Islands are renowned for their regular north-northeasterly trade winds which average around 12 knots in early March.

Puerto Calero in Lanzarote hosted the grand finale of last year’s 44Cup, which was won by Hugues Lepic's Aleph Racing, (with Ireland's Cian Guilfoyle and Oisin McClelland on the strength) while a third place for Nico Poons' Charisma was enough to crown the Dutchman's Monaco-based team the 2023 44Cup champions. The 44Cup has a long association with the Calero family, who own marinas throughout the Canary Islands. For several years, the family even campaigned their own RC44.

For its second event, the 44Cup remains in Spain but heads for the mainland and, for the first time ever, to Baiona in the country’s most northwesterly autonomous region of Galicia. Located on the south side of the entrance to the Ria de Vigo, the town is open to the Atlantic. The prevailing wind is northerly, but the geography of the bay permits protection in the event of conditions getting too strong.

Galicia is world-renowned for its seafood and this area around Vigo, the Rías Baixas, for white wine produced from the Albariño grape. Baiona itself is historically significant for being where La Pinta moored, bringing news of the discovery of ‘the New World’ in 1493 and for being on the Portugese coastal pilgrimage route to Santiago di Compostela. With the town overlooked by the 16th century Monterreal Castle, the 44Cup’s hosts for the Baiona event will be the Monte Real Club de Yates de Baiona.

From Spain, the 44Cup makes its own annual pilgrimage north to Marstrand for its rendez-vous with the Swedish paradise island and its rugged terrain courtesy of Artemis Racing’s Torbjörn Törnqvist. The 44Cup will be hosted here by the Marstrands Segelsällskap club with the support of the Marstrands Havshotell. In the height of summer, conditions on the race area to the west of Marstrand island can vary from chilly brisk northeries to light, more balmy conditions if high pressure develops nearby. This will be the 11th time the 44Cup has visited Marstrand, Sweden’s premier regatta venue. This year racing will coincide with Midsommar, the summer solitice, one of Sweden’s most celebrated holidays. As usual the 44Cup will lay on a show and on at least one day a finish line will be set in Marstrand fjord providing great views of the action for spectators.

For 2024’s World Championship, the 44Cup will move inland to a lake. Due to their unique design that enables a 44ft long yacht travel as if a 40ft container, the RC44s are straightforward and relatively inexpensive to transport. As a result, they have often raced on lakes including Lake Garda in Italy and Lake Traunsee in Austria, but the last time this happened was in 2012. While the RC44s had an event on Lake Lugano in 2007, this will be the first occasion the 44Cup has visited central Switzerland where they will be racing on Lake Lucerne out of the small touristic town of Brunnen. This is located in one of the oldest parts of the country, close to where the Switzerland’s oldest official document, the Federal Charter – a pact between the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden - was signed in 1291.

The Brunnen event has come about at the recommendation of Christian Zuerrer who has raced and trained there with his Black Star Sailing Team often in the past. “It is a fantastic place. During COVID we spent one month training there and out of 30 days we sailed for 28 days. The guys were exhausted!”

Brunnen is located on the outside corner of a 90deg bend in the picturesque lake which means the racing area can be adapted to the conditions – the wind is largely thermal, building typically to 12-18 knots but as much as 25 at times. Zuerrer is setting up the event with support of the Brunnen town council and he is keen to show off 44Cup racing to visitors. “It is a spot where people come to spend a nice summer weekend, just to hang out at the lake. For me it is a chance to show them that this is a cool sport, so we want to make it friendly to the public and not stuck away in a closed marina.”

For its final event of 2024, the 44Cup will return to the British Virgin Islands at the end of November. The circuit last visited the Caribbean at the end of 2015, with the Virgin Gorda Cup. On that occasion the event was held out the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s clubhouse in North Sound Harbour, but this sadly was destroyed during the Category 5 Hurricane Irma in 2017. As a result for the 2024 44Cup’s conclusion the fleet will be based out of Nanny Cay marina on the main island of Tortola, famous for hosting the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival every April, where they will be hosted by the Royal BVI Yacht Club.

Racing here will take place on one of the world’s best courses – Sir Francis Drake Channel between the Tortola itself and the smaller off-lying islands to the south, such as Peter Island, Norman Island and Ginger Island. While the race area is still relatively open to the typical easterly trade winds which blow in this part of the Caribbean, the effect of these low-lying islands is to flatten out the water. For those visiting from north Europe, Tortola’s typical temperature in November is a welcome 25-30degC.

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Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle and Donaghdee's Oisin McClelland aboard Aleph Racing have won the final round of the 2023 44Cup Calero Marinas in Lanzarote.

The class act this week was Hugues Lepic's Aleph Racing, on which Louis Balcaen was stand-in helmsman. Under tactician Michele Ivaldi, Aleph Racing has been strong all season, with only one result off the podium. This week in 12 races, they scored four bullets and avoided the ‘big scores’, never finishing worse than sixth.

Balcaen was pleased with his perfect scoreline in 44Cup racing and thanked Hugues Lepic and the Aleph team. Ivaldi added: “I am super pleased. The crew was on fire this week - we didn’t make any errors and we had very good speed upwind and downwind.” Ivaldi is renowned as a specialist in shifty conditions which featured on the first three days here: “I like it when there are big shifts – they provide opportunities. And Paul [Wilcox – main trimmer] did a good job to help me out with them. The boat was going well, we started well, Louis did a good job and I like this place.”

Ivaldi described today’s racing: “In the first race we had a good start, believed in the left and we led at the top mark. After that it was easier. In the second we got a good start and gained quite a bit, but then we got locked outside of the layline by a couple of boats. But we fought back and finished third.”

The first attempt at the third race was abandoned after the wind faded. This was life saving for Aleph Racing – when the gun went they were parked some way from the line and with Team Nika just five points behind them, this may have cost them victory. When the race was sailed again, “we stayed in the same bit of water as Nika and [at the end of the first run] took them outside of the layline and sealed the deal there.”

There were a few tears on board Team Nika with long term Slovenian crew Mitja Margon and Iztok Knafelc retiring. Margon, who is also organiser of the 44Cup Portoroz event, will continue with Team Nika, but not sailing. “My first season was in 2007 so I’ve done 12.5 seasons,” said Margon. “I think it is time to quit. I have been offside trimmer for the last six seasons but it is a job for younger guys. I hope they enjoy it as much as I have.”

Dutchman Nico Poons was unable to stay dry once ashore from the final day of racing at the 44Cup Calero Marinas. As is tradition, RC44 Class President Chris Bake encouraged him to take a plunge in celebration of his Charisma winning the 2023 44Cup for a second consecutive year. Shortly after the Charisma crew was dowsed again, this time in champagne at the regatta prizegiving, where José Calero, founder of the marina group playing host to the Lanzarote regatta this week, provided the introduction.

Charisma had an exceptional season. Second in Oman, they followed this with wins in Marstrand and the RC44 Worlds in Cowes. Had Charisma posted another strong result of Marina Alcaidesa last month, their victory may have been secured, but it wasn't. This week their main competition was Igor Lah’s Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, winner of the last event, but which struggled in the difficult conditions here, finishing sixth. With Charisma’s third this week, and a discard applied, she won the 2023 44Cup by 7 points to Aleph Racing’s 10 and Ceeref’s 13. This win was not as resounding as last year’s when she won by seven points from Ceeref and Team Nika.

“This week we started reasonably well, but then we had a dip because of the weather. But today we had a good day,” admitted Poons. “The season was perfect: Winning for a second time and the World Championship… What more can you wish for in such a high performance class like the RC44?”

At the prizegiving he added: “I would like to thank the Calero family, who 10 years ago sold me their boat, which is why I am here with my team. Thanks to the local sailing club and all the others and especially to my team who I had a second very successful season with. I am very happy to come back here for the beginning of next season.”

For Charisma’s tactician Hamish Pepper it has been a good year, winning the 44Cup again and finishing the 52 Super Series tied at the top of the leaderboard. “The main objective from this regatta was to close out the season. We obviously had an eye on our main competitor, Ceeref. Half way, Aleph became a threat and we had to monitor her.” This week Charisma led after day one, but a few deeper results mid-regatta dropped them to third, but today she was top scoring boat.

“The fleet is strong,” continued Pepper. “We had some really good regattas, but we were never launched from the others. It was always close and we only won them by a point or two. It shows how close this fleet is.” He paid tribute to their crew: Chris Hosking, Ross Halcrow, Dimitri Simmons, Ryan Godfrey, Robin Jacobs, Flavia Tomiselli and Ivan Peute - plus shore support boat captain Edwin de Laat and boat builder Craig Thompson, chef Eva Rahl, coach Morgan Reecer and physio Sandra Sibbert.​

The 44Cup resumes in Puerto Calero in 2024, with the first event of the season from 28 February until 3 March.

44CUP CALERO MARINAS RESULTS:

(After 12 races, penalty points in brackets)

1. Aleph Racing - 6 1 2 1 4 2 4 1 4 1 3 5 - 34
2. Team Nika - 1 3 3 2 3 7 1 4 5 3 2 6 - 40
3. Charisma - 3 2 1 4 8 3 7 5 2 5 1 2 - 43
4. Peninsula Racing - 2 6 5 6 1 6 3 6 6 2 7 1 - 51
5. Team Aqua - 7 4 7 5 2 4 9 2 3 7 4 4 (2) - 60
6. Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 - 5 7 6 9 6 1 2 8 1 8 5 3 - 61
7. Black Star Sailing Team - 9 9 4 8 5 5 5 7 7 4 6 8 - 77
8. Artemis Racing - 4 8 8 3 7 8 6 3 8 6 9 7 (2) - 79
9. Team 69 - 8 5 9 7 9 9 8 9 10DNF 9 8 9 - 100

44CUP OVERALL RESULTS:

(After five events, with one discard)

1. Charisma - 2 1 1 6 3 - 7
2. Aleph Racing - 3 3 4 2 1 - 10
3. Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 - 1 5 5 1 6 - 13
4. Team Nika - 5 4 3 7 2 - 14
5. Peninsula Racing - 4 2 6 4 4 - 16
6. Team Aqua - 7 7 2 5 5 - 19
7. Black Star Sailing Team - 8 6 7 3 7 - 23
8. Artemis Racing - 6 8 8 8 8 - 30

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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.”

44CUP CALERO MARINAS RESULTS:

(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

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Irish crews were second and third overall in the 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina in Spain at the weekend.

Just two points separated the top four boats, and with nine points on the table, mathematically, any of the top six could still win.

Donaghdee's Oisin McClelland and Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle were on board Aleph Racing, and Wicklow's Simon Johnson was on the Black Star Racing Team, finishing second and third, respectively.

"First podium for this boat. Eight events in the making. First bullet this event, too", Johnson told Afloat after the much improved Black Star performance.

Ireland's Oisin McClelland and Cian Guilfoyle and the Aleph Racing crew with their second overall prize at the 44 Cup in Spain Photo: Nico MartinezIreland's Oisin McClelland and Cian Guilfoyle and the Aleph Racing crew with their second overall prize at the 44 Cup in Spain Photo: Nico Martinez

Racing started in moderate wind and rain beneath an ominously dark sky before building to 20+ knots in the gusts for the third and final race.

Wicklow's Simon Johnson was on the third places Black Star Racing Team at the 44 Cup in Spain Photo: Nico MartinezWicklow's Simon Johnson was on the third places Black Star Racing Team at the 44 Cup in Spain Photo: Nico Martinez

Leading by one point going into this race, life was made easy for owner Igor Lah, tactician Adrian Stead and the crew of Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 as their most threatening rivals tied themselves up.

Ceeref won the pin, claimed the left and, returning on port, screeched into the starboard layline and, from there, rounded the top mark just ahead of Team Nika and Chris Bake's Team Aqua. At this point, their top four rivals were not featuring: leader going into the final day and generous host of the 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina, John Bassadone and his Peninsula Racing and star of the first two days – Christian Zuerrer's Black Star Sailing Team – were eighth and ninth respectively both having committed to the unfavored right.

The closest of Ceeref's rivals was Aleph Racing in sixth.

44Cup Alcaidesa Marina Results: (After nine races)

1. Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, 34
2. Aleph Racing, 38
3. Black Star Sailing Team, 41
4. Peninsula Racing, 41
5. Team Aqua, 42
6. Charisma, 46
7. Team Nika, 47
8. Artemis Racing, 48
9. Noticia, 69

44Cup Overall Results:

(After four events, with one discard)

1. Charisma - 2 1 1 6 - 4
2. Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 - 1 5 5 1 - 7
3. Aleph Racing - 3 3 4 2. - 8
4. Peninsula Racing - 4 2 6 4 - 10
5. Team Nika - 5 4 3 7 - 12
6. Team Aqua - 7 7 2 5 - 14
7. Black Star Sailing Team - 8 6 7 3 - 16
8. Artemis Racing - 6 8 8 8 - 22

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Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team, which includes County Wicklow pitman Simon Johnson in its crew lineup, scored just their second-ever bullet and ended the day as top scoring boat at the 44Cup in Spain.

The Bay of Algeciras had a complete change of complexion for the penultimate day of racing at the 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina, with the southerly wind initially non-existent, then slowly filling into 8-10 knots. Thus, the race course was set up in the opposite direction to the second day, with competitors sailing towards the entrance of the Bay, with the formidable Rock of Gibraltar off to port.

Yesterday was well forecast as being light – the Bay of Algeciras laying on the complete test – so PRO Maria Torrijo announced a one-hour postponement to 1300. The first warning signal eventually was at 1320.

The lighter conditions seemed to the liking of one team that has been having a surprisingly sub-standard year. Igor Lah’s Ceeref, powered by Hrastnik 1860, finally found her form, winning the first race.

As the previous day, Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team went out to the right on their own, benefitting greatly on a lifting tack. But coming into the top mark, the wind went weird. Tactician Cameron Dunn described it: “It was radical - we were 25-30° higher than the boats coming in on our hip.”

Nonetheless, the Swiss team managed to continue leading around the top mark, with Ceeref and Aleph behind. On the run Ceeref’s tactician Adrian Stead did a better job reading the shifts and the Slovenian team led round the leeward gate. They then hung on to claim what, surprisingly, was their first bullet at a 44Cup event since Oman in February.

“The team work was brilliant and the guys did a brilliant job and Ado did good tactics today,” said Lah. “We were a little worried but I think the boat speed is back to what it was.”

Ceeref followed this coming second in the next race and even an OCS in the final race saw them salvage a seventh. This left them second top scoring boat of the day.

As on Friday, the drama-laden race of the day was the second. Yesterday it was one boat’s performance that shocked. At 44Cup events, teams from outside can charter the RC44 trial boat. This week was the turn of the Santander-based Noticia team of Luis Martín Cabiedes, well-known from the Soto 40, J/70 and J/80 classes.

Trial boat teams are not expected to win, but no one told this to Cabiedes, his tactician Rayco Tabares and their crew. In race two, they went right up the first beat and, to gasps from spectators, rounded the top mark first. Surely they couldn’t survive the run? They did. And despite being challenged up the second beat also led there. In fact they seemed to race to the bag until Black Star split left in the closing stages of the final run as Ceeref tackled them from the right. Ultimately Black Star was first over, and a better gybe by Ceeref on the line left Noticia third – still an exceptional result.

“Being in front of this incredible fleet has given us the confidence that with more time, we can be in front, and we can do it,” said Cabiedes. “It was a great call from the tactician to go right. From there we were able to sail on our own. We have still a lot to improve in our manoeuvres, but we have only been here three days. It was incredible to be up there. Some of these crews have been sailing these boats for 10+ years so you cannot expect to come here and win races. We have ladders to climb, but we are on our way.”

Meanwhile, Noticia’s loss was Black Star’s gain, scoring just their second-ever bullet and ending the day top top-scoring boat. “It is a combination of a lot of things,” explained Kiwi tactician Cameron Dunn, no doubt fired up by his nation’s rugby victory over Argentina last night. “We think we have made a jump in our speed. We talk a lot before the races about strategy.” Black Star is getting on top of their ‘speed loop’ allowing Dunn to concentrate on tactics.

After two lacklustre races, the final race went to Chris Bake’s Team Aqua. The Class President didn’t have much good to say about his first races, but of his final bullet commented: “We got a good start, got the right side of the course. We were slightly resigned we couldn’t do any worse, so we could only go up from there! It was fairly tricky. There were definitely big ‘sides’.”

However, despite all these names being up in lights, still hanging on to the overall lead of the 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina is John Bassadone and his Peninsula Petroleum. The event host posted three results in the top half of the fleet yesterday and hangs onto the lead by one slender point from Black Star Sailing Team, in turn four ahead of Ceeref.

In an attempt to recover the schedule, racing is due to start one hour earlier today at 1100 CEST with up to four races possible. Big winds are forecast!

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The Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes and the Solent provided a fitting stage for the leading owner-driver one design class, the RC44, to compete for their World Championship title.

Nine teams battled it out over four days in challenging conditions, including the famously complex British tides and fast-moving weather systems.

Despite the difficulties, Nico Poons, tactician Hamish Pepper and the crew of Charisma successfully defended their World Championship title. Unlike their win last year in Portorož, Slovenia, which was in ultra-light conditions, this time the regatta was held in more typical "Charisma conditions", with 20-knot winds playing a significant role in their victory with a race still to spare.

Charisma began the day five points ahead of Team Nika, with Chris Bake's Team Aqua and Hugues Lepic's Aleph Racing a further two and three points behind, respectively. While Charisma celebrated their victory, the race for the remaining podium positions was still ongoing.

Nico Poons, tactician Hamish Pepper and the crew of Charisma successfully defended their World Championship title Photo: Nico MartinezNico Poons, tactician Hamish Pepper and the crew of Charisma successfully defended their World Championship title Photo: Nico Martinez

With Charisma gone and Louise Morton's all-female Bullet crew retired, the final race saw a tight battle for the remaining podium positions. Aleph Racing was one point ahead of Team Aqua and Team Nika, but ultimately, Team Aqua, who led the pack on day one, emerged victorious in the final race, securing second place overall.

From here, the 44Cup moves to Alcaidesa Marina next to Gibraltar for the penultimate event of the season, over 18-22 October.

2023 44Cup World Championship Ranking 2023
(After 13 races)
1. Charisma - 4 2 2 4 8 2 6 2 1 1 1 3 10DNS - 46
2. Team Aqua - 1 1 4 8 1 7 8 4 3 2 4 7 1 -51
3. Team Nika - 7 3 1 2 4 5 5 1 4 5 5 8 2 - 52
4. Aleph Racing - 2 5 6 3 2 6 1 7 2 4 8 1 5 (2) - 54
5. Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 - 6 7 7 5 5 3 3 3 5 3 3 5 6 - 61
6. Peninsula Racing - 3 4 5 7 7 1 7 5 6 8 2 2 7 - 64
7. Black Star Sailing Team - 5 6 3 6 6 4 2 8 7 6 7 6 3 - 69
8. Artemis Racing - 8 9 8 1 3 8 4 6 8 7 6 4 4 - 76
9. Bullet - 9 8 9 9 9 9 10DNF 9 9 10DNF 9 10DNF 10DNF - 120

44Cup Overall Ranking 2023
(After three events)
1. Charisma - 2 1 1 - 4
2. Aleph Racing - 3 3 4 - 10
3. Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 - 1 5 5 - 11
4. Peninsula Racing - 4 2 6 - 12
5. Team Nika - 5 4 3 - 12
6. Team Aqua - 7 7 2 - 16
7. Black Star Sailing Team - 8 6 7 - 21
8. Artemis Racing - 6 8 8 - 22

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The RC44 Class Rule has been rewritten to allow for at least one female crew member this season, and the 44Cup will be seeing its first all-female team next week. The nine competing teams will include the "black boat," typically used by local teams such as Oman Sail and lent out to those looking to join the circuit. This time around, the boat will be campaigned by Cowes skipper Louise Morton and her Bullet team. Although new to the high-performance RC44 one design, Morton is no stranger to racing with an all-female crew and has had great success in "beating up the boys."

Her experience includes three wins of the highly prestigious Quarter Ton Cup, even beating out her vastly experienced husband Peter and four wins of the Women's Open Keelboat Championship. Morton's extensive sailing background includes transatlantic and Fastnet Races, numerous RORC seasons, and inshore regattas such as the St Barths Bucket, Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Rolex China Sea Race, and Phuket King's Cup.

Recently, she has even taken to yacht racing in the 5.5mR keelboat class. "I am really looking forward to it - it is something different," says Louise of the upcoming 44Cup Cowes. "All of the crew immediately said 'yes.' For them, it is a really exciting opportunity." Morton's RC44 will be named Bullet, just like her previous Quarter Tonner.

Cowes Skipper Louise Morton on her Quarter Tonner BulletCowes Skipper Louise Morton on her Quarter Tonner Bullet

Within the family, there is a little 44Cup form. Husband Peter Morton steered Team Aqua in place of Chris Bake for the first two days in Porto Montenegro in 2019. On the second of those, Team Aqua was top scoring boat. “He loved it,” Louise says of Peter’s brief stint. “I think he was hoping he might be asked next week, but he’ll have my role! He absolutely thinks we can have a crack at it and have a good time. We have local knowledge of the Solent, and we’ll be based at home, which will make life easier.”

With former Olympian Lucy Macgregor as tactician, Louise will be migrating her regular crew across to the new boat, although she has had to expand this. The Bullet crew will comprise Lucy Macgregor, her capable sisters Kate and Nicky; Annie Lush on mainsheet; Dutch Ocean Race sailor Laura van Veen; Annabel Vose; Midge Watkins; Mary Rook and Abby Childerley. While with the new rule for 2023, RC44s now typically sail with nine, all-female teams can sail with 10 and their combined crew weight can be 760kg compared to 730kg. However according to Lucy Macgregor they won’t be anywhere near these figures: “We are going to be wildly underweight. We will be ‘eyes wide open’ to work out our own way of sailing the boat, because we won’t have the power that some of the guys have in terms of body weight.”

Up until this year RC44s were regularly sailed with eight, so Lucy says: “I think effectively we’ll have two floaters - someone floating between bow and pit for example and another at the back of the boat. We will work all of this out as we go - I’m sure it will be one of those events where we’ll finish the last race wishing we were starting the event again, because we will have learned so much.”

Significantly for Lucy, this regatta will not only reunite her with her sisters but also with her past crew line-ups. She match-raced with Lush and younger sister Kate in the Elliott 6m at London 2012 and with Lush and both her sisters when she won the last of her four Women’s Match Racing World Championship titles in 2018.

Both Lucy Macgregor and Louise Morton are impressed by the level of support they have had from other teams and individuals in the 44Cup. Like all the other RC44s, the 'black boat' had the same Harken winch and pedestal upgrade. Over winter, she also received a full new paint job, non-skid plus standing and running rigging replacement. On top of this, the regular teams are lending them good quality racing sails.

Aside from being light, a lack of RC44 experience will be their principal hurdle. They will sail the boat for the first time on Saturday and will put in more training days before the race proper starts. However, on their 5.5mR team is Andrew Palfrey, previously Team Aqua’s long-term coach, and the Macgregor’s match racing experience will come to play: “I am sailing with some girls who have been on the match racing circuit for some time, and they are used to turning up at regattas and having to learn a boat and go racing,” says Louise. As to the specifics of the RC44: “It has got twin wheels, and I haven’t sailed very much with asymmetrics, which will be interesting…”

Lucy Macgregor concludes: “For me personally, the RC44 has always been on my list of fleets I wanted to sail in. It is a bucket list item for me to have this opportunity to race and race with our own team as well. We’ll be quick learners - we’ll need to be because there are a lot of established teams and some seriously high-quality talent across the fleet. We are just looking forward to getting stuck in and trying to make some impact in the class. I can’t wait.”

The 44Cup Cowes starts with practice racing on Wednesday, 9 August, with racing proper from Thursday, 10 August to Sunday, 13 August, culminating with a prizegiving at the Royal Yacht Squadron.

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Racing resumed in Europe for the eight high-performance owner-driver one design RC44s on Thursday, with the opening rounds of the 44Cup Marstrand and Irish crews are in the mix.

Donaghdee's Oisin McClelland and Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle are one point off the lead sailing on France's Aleph Racing.

With the sky overcast for the first three races, conditions were relatively benign, the wind never exceeding 10 knots and more often closer to 6 and slowly backing from the southwest to the south over the course of the afternoon. The 44Cup teams and race organisers have been keeping an eye on the forecast which tomorrow is warning of 20-30 knot winds, conditions which may not be sailable even for the highly adaptable RC44s. As a result in anticipation of possible disruption, four, rather than the usual three races, were held making use of today’s lighter conditions.

Once again demonstrating the high calibre of the 44Cup fleet, each of today’s four races had a different winner. After three races the three boats which had won races were tied for the lead on nine points: Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing, winner of the first; Nico Poons’ Charisma, winner of the second and John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing, winner of the third. With Chris Bake’s Team Aqua claiming the fourth and final race of the day ahead of Charisma in second, Poons’ Monaco-based team, the defending Marstand champion, tops the leaderboard after this opening day of racing in Sweden but in usual 44Cup style by just one point. 

“It was a good day - we had luck when we needed it and we sailed well the other times,” said Charisma’s Kiwi tactician Hamish Pepper. “The wind clocked left all day, but it was quite tricky - there were still veins of pressure here and there. So it was testing and a lot of boats were up and down, but the team sailed well and we are happy just to be up there at this stage, even if it is early days.”

Perhaps due to the light wind, where getting ahead into clear air was paying greater dividends than in stronger breeze, today’s race winners all finished with a substantial lead over the rest, the closest finish being when John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing won the third race by 26 seconds ahead of Team Aqua.

Peninsula Racing could only manage a sixth in the final race, dropping the Gibraltar team to third place, three points behind Aleph Racing, but are still showing signs of a renaissance, thanks partly to the return of their Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto and new addition Spanish Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup winner Jordi Calafat. “Today was good, very difficult,” said Vascotto. “We had two good starts and then I made some mistakes. In the last start I lost a minute and I thought we were late. We had a good plan B - I have already spoken with my mother, she is very upset…!”

In the fourth race, the teams were paying more attention to the left side of the course with Team Aqua making the most of this gambit. “It was a tight start and we got off to the left of the course and punched hard left and the rest was all good shifts and that was it,” summarised Chris Bake. “The wind had gone from 210/215° all the way to 175° so the wind was clocking left all day.”

Since the first 2023 44Cup event in Oman at the beginning of March, all the boats competing have been equipped with the latest Harken primary and mainsheet winches. These replace the old generation winches which in some cases were first fitted to the boats when they were launched all the way back in 2006, notably Team Nika and Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, hulls #10 and #11 (although 16 years on, both are still being raced hard, regularly winning World Championships and even the annual 44Cup series).

The first of the brand new Harken Air 180s have been fitted to the entire 44Cup fleet, along with substantially upgraded mechanics inside their pedestal grinder. The winches bring considerable advantages including weight saving, a structurally more stable base and in particular almost double the line speed in 'overdrive'. At this event teams are adjusting to the new high performance of the winches which are enabling them to make the RC44s faster in tacks, gybes, hoists and drops.

44CUP MARSTRAND RESULTS:
(After four races)

  1. Charisma - 5 1 3 2 - 11
  2. Aleph Racing - 1 4 4 3 - 12
  3. Peninsula Racing - 3 5 1 6 - 15
  4. Team Aqua - 6 7 2 1 - 16
  5. Team Nika - 2 6 5 4 - 17
  6. Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 - 4 8 6 5 - 23
  7. Black Star Sailing Team -7 3 7 7 - 24
  8. Artemis Racing - 8 2 8 8 - 26
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There is continued Irish involvement in the 44Cup fleet this year. Racing in Oman this week is 44 regular Cian Guilfoyle from Dublin Bay on Aleph, who is joined by Northern Ireland Finn sailor Oisin McClelland.

Simon Johnson is racing on Black Star.

In another step towards re-energising the 44Cup, the rules for the International RC44 One Design class have been revised for 2023 so that going into the 44Cup Oman, which starts out of Muscat's Al Mouj marina today, all nine teams will race with at least one female crew.

While not a completely new development, like so many professional sailing circuits it is possible to count on one hand the number of female crew that have competed during the 44Cup's 16-year existence. This will change for 2023.

To date 44Cup crews have only been permitted to race with four World Sailing Category 3 'pro' sailors on board. Now, this has been amended so that the remaining positions on board can now not only be filled with WS Cat 1 'amateur' sailors but also each team's boat captain, plus women and under 30-year-olds - even if they are pro sailors under World Sailing's classification.

Racing with a female crew is not mandatory, but the maximum weight limit rules have been altered, making it beneficial.

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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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