No matter how dedicated to their sport the RC44 owners are, there is still always the odd occasion when they there are unable to attend an event - there are some of the world’s leading businessmen after all.
This is where the role of the substitute driver comes in. This week retired American lawyer Jim Richardson is standing in on Aleph Racing for owner Hugues Lepic. We took the opportunity to catch up with Richardson on the dock and find out what it is like for an outsider to step onto an RC44.
How did you get involved with the RC44 fleet?
This is the third time I’ve been a substitute helm on the RC44. I’ve raced twice in Porto Cervo, Italy, for Team Aqua and that came about because I’ve know the tactician Cameron (Appleton) for years after sailing against him in the Far40. Chris (Bake) was unable make it to the 2015 event so I jumped onboard and we finished mid fleet in sixth. The opportunity came up again in 2017 where we finished eighth. I’m here in Lanzarote today for Aleph Racing. Hugues Lepic, who I also used to race Far40s against, is returning to the RC44 fleet with a new team after a year off but couldn’t make the first event, so I was happy to jump onboard.
What does it feel like stepping onto an RC44?
Oh my, well, they are a lot of fun to sail. You know when they are downwind in big breeze they really fly and they are spectacular to look at, Russell Coutts did a pretty good job in designing these boats.
How do you find the competition on the water?
It’s a very competitive class to sail in, all of the teams are incredibly well prepared and the boats are incredibly well sailed. We are a little off the pace but not much and you can tell the difference is all in the little details. Aleph are a new team coming back to the fleet this season and I think they will become competitive pretty quickly, but that means there is one more hard boat to beat on the race track for the other guys.
The ‘RC44 family’ is important, do you feel this stepping in as an outsider?
Everyone is really friendly, there are plenty of familiar faces on the dock from around the world. I like to follow the racing even when I’m not at events, it’s good to see how my friends are getting on and who the players are. But the racing is so even at the moment the top players seem to change from event to event, the winners come from all over the fleet.
What is the RC44 like to handle?
I think the best way to describe the RC44 is precise. It’s difficult to sail in the sense that things have to be perfectly in tune. You know it’s a technical boat so you’ve got to get it right, but once you have that balance it is a beautiful boat to sail and so much fun.
This is the 12th year of the Championship Tour what do you think keeps the owners interested?
I can see why the owners and sailors love racing these boats, they’re fast, they go upwind well and they certainly go off the wind very well. The thing is when you have a good boat design platform to begin with and a good level of competition the class could last forever - it becomes timeless. At the end of the day this is what we sail for, the competition – to race against the best. Looking at the RC44 line up of AC and Olympic pros the competition here is outstanding.