At the halfway stage of the 2016 RC44 Championship Tour the leader board couldn’t be tighter with only seven points separating first from seventh as the eleven international teams move into the business-end of the season.
With only the RC44 Cascais Cup and the season finale in Malta left for the tacticians and owners to make their play for the title, we recap on the runners and riders, power-plays and mistakes so far this season.
RC44 Bermuda Cup:
Shaking off the winter hibernation in style, the RC44 Bermuda Cup was a glamorous start to the 2016 season. The four days of fleet racing on Bermuda’s Great Sound produced fickle conditions which placed a premium on tactical calls and crew finesse.
The more dynamic the race course, the more the experienced teams in the fleet really showed their best form as the rest of the fleet struggled with consistency. No surprises that the two top preforming teams in Bermuda were class heavyweights Team Aqua, who are on their 10th season, and Bronenosec Sailing Team, who have invested a lot of time into their sailing over the last couple of years.
Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF delivered the drama on the first day of fleet racing on the Great Sound, when, soon after the start, they T-boned Artemis Racing leaving the Swedish boat with a massive Slovenian bow-shaped hole.
With Team CEEREF, in the wrong on port they incurred a disqualification and three-point penalty that cost them their position on the overall podium.
RC44 World Championship Marina da Sotogrande:
Round two and the fleet were back in Europe for the early season RC44 World Championships in Sotogrande, Spain. The spotlight was on defending World Champions Team Nika, but in the squally conditions and Atlantic they struggled to find their grove and finished the event a disappointing eighth.
After slogging it out on the final day of racing with home team Peninsula Petroleum it was Team CEEREF that were crowed worthy winners of the 2016 World Championships with local heroes, John Bassadone's Peninsula Petroleum from nearby Gibraltar, taking second place.
New to the fleet for Sotogrande, BlackWater Sailing Team put in a confident display for their first regatta, regularly mixing it up with the mid-fleet throughout the week.
RC44 Portsmouth Cup:
The RC44 Portsmouth Cup was a milestone event, not only for the competitors looking to make their move as the five stop global circuit moved towards the end of the season, but for the event which was hosted for the first time by the British challenger to the America's Cup, Land Rover BAR, and prelude to the America's Cup World Series the following week.
In ultra-shifty conditions tacticians were forced to make the most of their local knowledge, skill, intuition or sheer crystal ball gazing ability to anticipate what would happen next. In a return to form after their disappointing World Championship results, Team Nika found order in the chaos to take the event with a massive 14-point lead over second placed Team Aqua.
Rising through the ranks Katusha took their first ever podium in two and a half years with new owners Alexander Novoselov and Vladimir Sokolov, a sure sign that the team are stepping up the game.
RC44 Cascais Cup predictions:
For Cascais, expect to see a surge from the mid fleet as Artemis Racing Youth, Charisma and Aleph Racing jostle for positions. For the youth team in particular they have seen some great days racing this season and if they can get into a consistent groove could easily bridge the gap to the top half of the fleet.
With a reputation for big wave sailing and even bigger winds the Cascais race course is set on the Atlantic Ocean, at the mouth of the Tagus River, and is a favorite amongst the sailors offering a friendly welcome, good food, and strong prevailing northwesterly winds.
Team Aqua are the team to beat so far this season but with only a two-point lead they will have to work hard to stay in pole-position as Igor Lah’s Team CEEREF and John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum Sailing Team make their final assault in Cascais before the end of the season.