When it comes to the search for a purer racing experience very few venues in the world can deliver like Cascais, Portugal.
Returning to the picturesque Portuguese port for the fifth consecutive year, from the 21-25 September, the RC44 fleet are readying themselves for the strong prevailing northwesterly winds and the rolling Atlantic swell that is typical of these waters.
After what was reported as their 'best day ever' at the Portsmouth Cup back in July, Artemis Racing Youth's tactician Freddy Loof is on the dock early in Cascais to help prepare and give his underdog team the best fighting chance: "I've been here a few times in the Star, once with the RC44s and it never disappoints. It's pretty challenging compared to most venues with the big seas that roll in but I hope the physical sailing here will suit the boys," explains Loof.
"Portsmouth's result has allowed our team to realise that we can be competitive in this fleet. At the beginning of this year we couldn't even keep up and suddenly we are right there, finishing ahead of Bronenosec and CEEREF. We need to stay on our toes but hopefully Cascais will be a good event," he adds.
Currently topping the leader board are old favourites Team Aqua, helmed by owner Chris Bake with Cameron Appleton calling tactics, who hold a slim two-point lead over their biggest rivals this season's, Team CEEREF.
Dominating the race track at the first two events of the season, taking well over half of the available podium positions up for grabs, Team CEEREF, helmed by Igor Lah with British tactician Adrian Stead, have already claimed the 2016 World Championship title and have the tour crown firmly in their sights.
However, the leading boats are far from in the clear. Having struggled to maintain their usual consistency in the punishing conditions at the last event in Portsmouth, the chasing fleet have closed in on the podium. Only seven points now separate seven teams going into the Cascais Cup, the penultimate event of the 2016 season.
Currently in third John Bassadone's Peninsula Petroleum, with fiery Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto is tied on points with the cool calm Ed Baird, tactician on defending series champion Team Nika. Katusha sit in fifth, one-point ahead of Bronenosec Sailing Team in sixth, who is in turn one-point ahead of Artemis Racing in seventh.
A crew change for Monaco based team Charisma sees American tactician Chris Larson join the crew for the first time in Cascais, whilst new team this
A crew change for Monaco based team Charisma sees American tactician Chris Larson join the crew for the first time in Cascais, whilst new team this season BlackWater Sailing Team broke through the fleet at the last event, to claim their best results to date. Quite an achievement at this level of cut-throat competition.
To follow all the of the action live tune in on Wednesday 21 September to the live race blog and GPS tracking available on the RC44 homepage.