The 2014 RC44 Championship Tour has seen the 13-strong fleet compete in five events across three continents, with the finale played out this week on the Gulf of Oman. With no team able to discard the last event of the season, the podium positions were by no means secure as last day of racing got underway at the RC44 Oman Cup, in a sedate seven-knot breeze.
Going into the final day Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika, with tactician Terry Hutchinson calling the shots, sat at the top of the leader board having shown an unmatched level of consistency throughout the four days of fleet racing in Muscat. Defending Champions Team Aqua looked to have the overall Championship Tour wrapped up, but didn’t get off to the best of starts on the final day, being called over the line in the opening race, rounding the windward mark last.
Out in front Vladimir Liubomirov’s Bronenosec, rounded the windward mark first. The Russian team were trying to get back onto the podium for the overall Tour after a disappointing first three days of racing in Oman. Tactician Michele Ivaldi called a perfect race; Bronenosec extended their lead throughout to take their first win of the event. Fellow countrymen Synergy finished second followed by Peninsula Petroleum with the RC44 Oman Cup overall leaders, Team Nika finishing fourth. Team Aqua could only recover to ninth place.
With the breeze increasing, Peninsula Petroleum looked like they would lead round the windward mark in the second race of the day. They went for the tack underneath Charisma, thought better of it, instead ducking the leading trio Charisma, Artemis and Bronenosec. Nico Poon’s extended his lead throughout to take Charisma’s third win in Oman, and jump into second overall ahead of Team Aqua, who by their high standards was having a bad day, finishing fifth and falling to third overall.
Team Nika had already secured the RC44 Oman Cup with a race to spare, the fight for the remaining podium positions was now on. Four-point separated Charisma in second from Aqua and Artemis, both tied on 52 point going into the final race. Nico Poon’s team didn’t start well, 10th at the top mark, but recovering to sixth by the leeward gate. Team Aqua, with Cameron Appleton calling the shots, dug deep moving up to second by the finish, Artemis one place behind. Charisma’s seventh dropped them down to third overall.
Team Nika joined the RC44 Tour in 2011, and today owner driver Vladimir Prosikhin enjoyed his first victory in the class. “It was a long journey, I wanted it badly and finally we’ve done it, it feels great. Somehow we sailed really well, everyone on board, we had great starts and everything just worked really well. It was a very enjoyable week, perfect conditions only once did we drop below the middle line which was our goal for the regatta, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Terry Hutchinson joined Team Nika half way through the 2014 season and has helped turn around the fortunes of the team: “This is the first regatta Nika has ever won; it’s awesome to be part of that. Vladimir is a really good man we’ve got a great team. We were so close in Cascais, so we weren’t going to let that happen again, the more you do this sport the more you realise everything just needs to fall in to place. Good starts, fast upwind and good boat speed we were reliable all week.”
Team Aqua successfully defended their RC44 Championship title for another year, the fourth time the team have lifted the trophy since joining the class in 2007. They didn’t make it easy for themselves though, as owner Chris Bake explained. “We certainly like making it difficult for ourselves! It went down to the last race of the last regatta, it just goes to show how competitive the fleet is and what good sailors, we were fighting pretty hard to hold on. It feels really good to win the title in this class when it is so competitive.”
John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum had struggled for consistency during the first two days in Oman, but found their form for the final half of the regatta to finish sixth, enough to be runners up for the 2014 Championship Tour.
New boys Charisma, with Tom Slingsby calling the shots, had their eye on a podium position after joining the Tour this season at the second event in Cascais, but in the end Russia’s Bronenosec had an amazing day to take the final podium position for 2014. Team Nika will be looking to make sure their feet are cemented to the podium next year, after a strong second half of the season pulled them up to fifth overall.
With the 2014 sealed all eyes are on next year. The 2015 RC44 Championship Tour will start in Valletta, Malta, City of the Knights, before making its debut in Porto Cervo, then heading back to a couple of the classes old favourites; Marstrand, Sweden and Cascais, Portugal. The finale for the year will see the class back in the Caribbean for some winter sun at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Virgin Gorda.