After two severe days, Sotogrande and the Andalucian coastline laid on perfect conditions for the final day of competition at the RC44 Sotogrande Cup. Mountainous seas gave way to a short chop, torrential rain gave way to brilliant sunshine and a stiff but shifty 20 knot, westerly offshore wind, to provide the tacticians with some welcome head scratching.
Despite this idyllic scenario for the crews and a tight leaderboard to resolve, today was formidably taxing for PRO Peter Reggio and his team as the wind repeatedly shifted causing numerous general recalls. It also proved treacherous for the crews with numerous ‘hero to zero’ moments across the fleet. None was worse than that of Team Aqua.
Ahead going into today, Chris Bake’s team increased increased their lead to five points after the first race. Then in the second, they were on track to consolidate their position, leading round the top mark. But soon after it all fell apart, as Bake recounted: “We set the spinnaker and everything was going great. The stern got picked up on a fairly decent sized wave and buried the bow at the same moment as there was a massive puff and it was white water all the way back to the wheels, which is very unusual. I was drenched – it was full on. Soon after there was this nasty crunch from the bowsprit and that was it.”
With the bowsprit broken they managed to recover the kite and then spent half of the leg unpicking pieces of severed carbon. Unfortunately they had to sail the remainder of the leg under jib but on the following run jury rigged their A3 spinnaker to fly from the bow.
Tactician Cameron Appleton explained: “It was a good idea in case someone else had a problem and we could save some points, but that wasn’t to be.” Their finishing last enabled John Bassadone’s Gibraltarian team on Peninsula Petroleum to take the lead by a point with Team Aqua two points ahead of Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika.
Team Aqua crew and shore crew rallied to fit a replacement bowsprit just before allow the shut-off for the final race of the day. In this, amazingly, the three frontrunners were last to the weather mark, but after the leeward gate Team Nika and Team Aqua split tacks with Peninsula Petroleum following Team Nika. This proved the wrong choice, as John Bassadone observed: “We couldn’t cover them both. Aqua was behind us and went to the other side and got a massive lift.” Team Aqua recovered fourth place at the weather mark which they hung on to the finish while Peninsula Petroleum came home last.
And so Team Aqua claimed the RC44 Sotogrande Cup. “It was tight out there, touch and go,” said Bake. “I think it was massive testament to the team work. It came down to the last leg of the last race. The sailing was phenomenal.”
Tactician Cameron Appleton was also overjoyed: “The fact that we battled back and the guys did a fantastic job repairing the bowsprit and then getting our heads back in the game - all week we sailed well and felt deserving of the win.”
Peninsula Petroleum was left second overall, but John Bassadone was delighted with their comeback considering his team had been in last place after the first three races on Thursday. “We would have signed up with a second then! It is decent start to the season and full credit to Team Aqua – they were the best team throughout the week and deserved to win.” He thanked the local organisers and the event sponsors for laying on another superb few days of racing in Sotogrande.
Another zero to hero moment occurred for reigning RC44 Champion Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF which led around the top mark in the third and final race only to rip their kite on the run. They peeled to a new sail but were unable to salvage a place higher than a seventh. This followed Team CEEREF’s ‘Did Not Finish’ in todays’ first race after a block blew up.
Including their last place in the final race Peninsula Petroleum was still top scoring boat of the day along with Nico Poons’ Charisma. Charisma’s new tactician Morgan Reeser said that they had been improving every day but their 5-3-3 today was not enough to elevate them from last place on the leaderboard. Reeser was pleased to be back on an RC44: “With this class I always think how impressive it is, with the quality of the sailors and especially of the organisation – it is world class. This class has got everything – it can’t be much better. The boats are a true joy to sail on.”
It could all have been different too for the Kirill Frolov-steered Bronenosec Sailing Team which, along with Charisma, performed a full mast-in-the-water broach just short of the finish line in today’s first race. “We should have gybed earlier,” pointed out tactician Cameron Dunn. “We went from third to seventh and broke a batten and our bowsprit.” However to have finished third, on their first regatta with an almost entirely new crew was a fine result. “We are absolutely over the moon. We did some of the nicest gybes we’ll ever do in 20 knots on an RC44.”
While Artemis Racing claimed today’s opening race and Peninsula Petroleum the second, Katusha, steered by Alexander Novoselov, won the third. “It was easier and much more fun today,” said Novoselov. “We had all the possible situations - a broach, missed the mark, leading the fleet and in the same race being last in the fleet.” In the first race Katusha had led into the top mark but thanks to a shift had run out of momentum and stalled. Unfortunately coming in behind her was Team Nika which, while to leeward, was unable to keep clear and picked up two costly penalty points for a collision.
After such an action-packed day, it is with great anticipation that we look forward to the RC44 Porto Cervo Cup taking place over 29 June – 2 July.