Sotogrande Spain is known internationally as the place to be for golf and polo, but international yacht racing?
As Marina de Sotogrande celebrates hosting the RC44 World Championship and prepares for the J80 Worlds next month, we caught up with Team CEEREF’s offside trimmer and boat captain Michele Cannoni, fresh from his RC44 World Champs win, to find out what this up and coming racing destination had to offer.
“It’s a beautiful race track but really difficult to sail, especially for the tacticians,” explained Cannoni. “We had wind all week but with big shifts of 50°, so you couldn't really approach the day with much of a plan.
“The race track demanded a very responsive style of sailing. Our goal was to get a good start, launch the boat towards whichever corner we had committed to and then really focus on speed, playing every little shift upwind and downwind.”
With 11 teams on the starting grid, and each one capable of winning, the competition was tight and the World Championship title wasn't decided until the final race. With home team Peninsula Petroleumdoing all they could to snatch the crown away from the eventual victors Team CEEREF.
As well as the extreme shifts, the teams had to deal with tide and the rushing flow of fresh water poring out of the Guadiaro River, which created a spectacular line down the centre of the race track.
“We had this strange effect of the fresh water mixing with the salt water. Sometimes you were able to lay the upwind mark from a position that was totally wrong and then in the next race the lay-line was nowhere near and we were having to put two or three more tacks in to make the mark. Yes it is frustrating but you accept the challenge and go for it.”
Whereas some of the other teams in the fleet are more vocal on the water, Team CEEREF are a cool calm and ruthlessly efficient. Opening the regatta with a first, second, first, the feeling on shore after racing was that tactician Adrian Stead meant business.
Having previously won the RC44 World Championship in Lanzarote in 2013 the potential for Team CEEREF to become the only boat to have ever won a World Championship title more than once became a possibility and the stakes increased.
Day two saw a couple of deep results for Igor Lah’s Slovenian team, opening the door for home teamPeninsula Petroleum to creep into the lead by just one point. But rather than crack under the pressure, Lah and his crew thrived on the final two days of racing, taking five podiums out of a possible eight and clinching their second World Championship crown.
“I’ve raced with Igor for the last five years, he's very quite when he is at the helm. It almost seems emotionless, but he's just so focused on the task in hand. It’s something that makes a big difference to our team and performance under pressure. When Igor is on the boat we have his full attention for the whole day, he doesn’t think about business, he is never tired or distracted, Igor is like a machine.
He doesn’t get spooked if we are doing well or not, and he never raises his voice. He’s a real pleasure to race with.”
The RC44 Championship Tour now looks ahead to its UK debut with the RC44 Portsmouth Cup from the 13 - 17 July.