While the RC44 fleet might have regular consistent top performers, such as 2013 championship winner Chris Bake's Team Aqua, the applecart was upset during today’s practice race, when a team new to the circuit came out on top.
Dutch businessman Nico Poons is an old hand when it comes to one design racing, his Charisma team having been a longstanding competitor in the Farr 40 class. At the RC44 Cascais Cup, Poons is making his debut in this more contemporary fleet and, it seems, with great effect, after he won today's warm-up, ahead of racing proper tomorrow.
However Poons is realistic of his chances, also acknowledging the widely-held yacht racing superstition that deems it unlucky to win the practice races: "We have made a big mistake winning today! It’s unlucky, so I don’t have that much hope for a similar result in the coming week as the RC44 class has some very good teams.
“We made some good starts today and got out ahead, were first at the upwind mark and held our position. We’ve had two days practice that we needed to get used to the boat, but I have no idea how we will get on when it comes to actual racing."
Today's practice race took place in a 8-10 knot southerly with the Dutch newcomers coming out ahead of Gibraltar-based rising stars, Peninsula Petroleum, with Artemis Racing third.
Another force from the Farr 40 is past World Champion and TP52 MedCup winner, Terry Hutchinson, who returns to the RC44 fleet after a three year absence, as tactician on Team Nika.
"We’ve had two great days of sailing and I’m really excited about the future of this team," said Hutchinson. "I’m a little rusty on sailing these boats, but each day we are getting better and better."
As to how the RC44s have developed since he previously sailed as tactician for Artemis Racing, Hutchinson observes: "The fleet has not got any easier! The format is similar to the Farr 40-style racing I’m used to, except that the RC44 is a higher performer downwind and it’s got the trim tab upwind and the angles are different.”
A boat to watch in Cascais will be Synergy, winner here last year. Ed Baird was tactician on board when Valentin Zavadnikov and Leonid Lebedev’s team notched up what to date has been their one and only victory at an RC44 event.
“It’s a real pleasure to come to Cascais,” says Baird “Every time I’ve sailed here, the people have been friendly, the weather is wonderful, the racing is great.
“We will see a lot of different conditions again this year. There’s a subtle current that you have to pay attention too, there are headlands that affect the wind and how it’s working and the storm systems come through from the Atlantic and change things. There is a lot to think about.”
As to the American tactician’s predictions for this, the first RC44 event of the year to be held in Europe, he says: “The fleet is incredibly tight. Even the newest team Charisma won the practice race – it’s really close racing. Everyone is in the game and you have to have a good day from to finish in order to win. That’s what makes the class exciting – it’s so close.”