Ex-Hurricane Bertha provided a lively opening day to the 2014 RC44 Marstrand World Championship with the wind at times gusting to 20+ knots and a lumpy sea that placed a premium on boat handling.
As usual at a RC44 regatta, day one was a continuation of the season’s rolling match racing championship and Principal Race Office, Peter ‘Luigi’ Reggio was able to lay on six flights for the 12 teams competing.
Star performer today was unquestionably Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika, which won all five of her matches. “We have good understanding and Terry [Hutchinson] is a great tactician,” explained Team Nika’s proud owner. Typically not all RC44 owners like to drive for the match racing and so pros are permitted to steer. However Prosikhin today was on the wheel for all five races. “I was a bit afraid of Ed Baird, but he was over early which made my life a lot easier,” he confessed of the flight five race against Synergy Russian Sailing Team.
However Team Nika’s hardest fought victory was against compatriots Bronenosec Sailing Team in flight one. As Prosikhin recalled: “It was very very physical, because they were fighting like hell. We did perhaps fifty tacks and gybes. Everyone was sweating a lot!”
Team Nika’s Tactician, Terry Hutchinson, newly returned for this regatta, complemented his helmsman: “Since we’ve sailed together, this was Vladimir’s best day, with the team, the co-ordination and his smoothness sailing the yacht. We’re optimistic. Now we have to sail like this, with the same composure and demeanour on board, against 11 other boats.”
Kirill Podolsky’s Gazprom Youth Sailing Challenge scored its best ever day of match racing with four wins and one loss, the same scoreline as Nico Poons’ Charisma. However Charisma, newcomer to the RC44 class this year, along with Team Aqua, were both docked one point for a collision that took place between them during their Flight 4 match.
Despite this, Poons was delighted with his team’s performance. “We are very happy – I’d never match raced until I joined this class in Cascais this April. Then I only had one win, in Sotogrande we won two and here we won four!”
Charisma’s match with Team Aqua saw some particularly aggressive match racing including several dial-ups, which Poons admitted came as a novelty. “I’d never done that. I had no idea what I was doing – but we all have that in life occasionally!”
Charisma’s tactician, Tom Slingsby, Laser Olympic gold medallst and ORACLE TEAM USA’s strategist for the 34th America’s Cup, also enjoyed that match. “It was back and forth: We were ahead and they overtook us up the last beat and then they got a penalty for a windward-leeward incident – I don’t know who should have got it, but the jury ruled in our favour. Then we followed them down and they set a mark trap for us at the finish, but we were able to sneak by and get the win. That was the most fun racing today.”
Poons praised his tactician and his team: “Tom is one of the best you can get, but it is down to the whole team, otherwise you don’t get there. We had the practice race yesterday which we won and we did well today. Let’s see what happens in the coming week.” Charisma has new sails for this regatta, and following today’s success the team is in a bullish mood going into tomorrow’s fleet racing World Championship.
Even newer to the class, sailing its first RC44 regatta here in Marstrand, is Artemis Racing Youth. Helm on board is Swedish businessman Gustaf Lidvall, while the Swedish America’s Cup team’s helmsman, 49er Olympic gold medallist and recently crowned Moth World Champion, Nathan Outteridge, is calling tactics.
Outteridge admitted that he was as new as his crew to the RC44 going into this regatta. “It was my first time in the heat of battle on an RC44. We have a lot of young Swedish guys who are new to keel boats, so it was very educational today, learning all the systems.”
Artemis Racing Youth got off to a good start leading around the top mark in its first two matches, only for boat handling issues to let them down. As Outteridge put it: “We made every mistake possible, but we only made them once…”
After four events, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua continues to lead the RC44 Championship Tour’s Match Racing ranking on 17 points, just one ahead of Valentin Zavadnikov and Leonid Lebedev’s Synergy Russian Sailing Team, with Team Nika up to third after her performance today.