Odd man out

We look at Russell Coutt's unique RC44 class and see why it gets the thumbs up from its sailors and owners
In the context of other grand prix racing circuits that are out there - the Audi MedCup, iShares Cup, Farr 40, Melges 32, etc – the RC44 is an oddity. This is partly because it is the concept of Russell Coutts, based on the America’s Cup legend’s extensive knowledge about what is enjoyable in sailing and also what owners might enjoy from such a circuit. For Coutts may be one of the world’s greatest sailors, but he is also very much a pioneer. Compared to what we have become used to in recent years with other circuits, new one designs such as the Melges 32 or the TP52s on the Audi MedCup, typically there is a massive ground swell and a humungous take up. This is generally because the boat represents a performance leap compared to what came before it and also, usually, because it filled a gap in the market. The MedCup and the TP52s got up to 20+ strong fleets, despite the sizable campaign costs, as it neatly came at a time when IMS grand prix racing had reached the end of the road in Spain. Having made its debut at the end of 2004, the Melges 32 class has the support and marketing clout of a sizable boat builder behind them and 30 boats recently competed at their World Championship in Porto Cervo. So 10-12 boats campaigned the third full season for the RC44 might seem slim when weighed up against this. To recap a little about the class – the RC44 is a high performance one design, conjured up by Coutts and Slovenian naval architect Andrej Justin, who’s best known boat is the canting keel Maxi Jena, those who have raced in the Med will have come across. The boat doesn’t have what we perhaps think of