RC44 battle lines drawn up
The seventh RC44 Championship Tour kicks off this week with the RC44 Oman Cup presented by Oman Shipping Company and hosted by Oman Sail.
Anticipation among the 13 competing teams is growing; who can stop Team Aqua taking the Championship for the third year in a row? Who will master the conditions in Oman, a venue that most are unfamiliar with and who will be the most consistent team this season, in a race format where no individual races can be discarded, you have to count four out of the season’s five events and the final event that doubles as the World Championships cannot be discarded.
The event format remains the same in 2013, one day of match racing where the pros or owners can steer followed by four days of fleet racing where only the amateur owner can helm. 50% of the team has to be amateur and with this season spanning 10 months, the teams must continue to improve throughout the season and keep sharp over a long time period to win.
Chris Bake’s Team Aqua have been the victors of the last two RC44 seasons, Bake’s long term tactician Cameron Appleton knows what they will be looking for this season: “As always we will look to have continuous improvement in all areas of our program, whether they are large or small refinements in how we race these boats in the toughest one design class.” And are they expecting the result to be the same. “We would like to be in the same position as last year but know we need to approach things differently to be able to get to the next level above the other teams.”
This year the multinational crew on Team Aqua is extending their youth programme to young sailors from nations across the world. The first youth member to join the team in Oman will be Michael Boucher, 20, from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Lion Foundation Youth Training Programme, a scheme two of the team, Cameron Appleton and Andy Estcourt, graduated from. The team will then give the experience to sailors from Denmark, the UK and USA – the countries represented within Team Aqua's crew.
Having dominated the Match Racing in 2013 Valentin Zavadnikov’s Synergy Russian Sailing Team are not making any changes to their crew, with American match racer Ed Baird calling tactics for the second year.
John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum Sailing Team won the final event in 2012, and were crowned 2012 RC44 World Champions, their only crew change will be Gustavo Martinez Doreste standing in as tactician for the first event of the season. Boat Captain, German Panei revealed their team’s goals for the season: “We are always working to improve, last season was a great success; we improved race by race, with a fourth place in the Championship Tour and a win at the World Championships. This year we will fight to be on the podium at the end of the season and we will try to repeat the performance at the World Championship last season.”
Stepping into their first full RC44 season is Brian Benjamin’s Aegir Racing. The team will be joined for the season’s opener by class founder Russell Coutts. Benjamin is used to winning in his mini maxi, but how does he see his team faring in the RC44 class. “We would like to win of course! But we would be happy this year if we can consistently be in the top five boats. I’m really looking forward to Oman having never sailed in that part of the world before.”
Another team who are not underestimating the competition this season is Igor Lah’s Team Ceeref. “With the class getting more and more competitive it gets also more difficult to keep track of good results”. The team is not planning any major changes to their crew in 2013 and tactician Michele Ivaldi is looking forward to sailing somewhere new. “The RC44 circuit is going back to the Middle East and it is a very good thing for the class and for the sport of sailing in general. I have never been to Oman and I am looking forward to visiting Muscat and enjoying the brilliant sailing conditions I have been told about.”
Two more new professional sailors will join the Tour; 2008 Olympic Laser gold medallist Paul Goodison will join David Murphy’s Ironbound and former America’s Cup helmsman Flavio Flavini will be calling the shots on the newly rechristened Team Italia.
Oman Sail will play host to the RC44 Class from their headquarters at The Wave, Muscat. “Oman is proud to be staging the RC44 Oman Cup at Oman’s elite sailing venue,” said David Graham, CEO of Oman Sail. “While Oman Sail aims to reignite Oman’s maritime heritage, from helping to show its youth the attraction of water sports, up to developing its top sailors into Olympians and participants in the other pinnacles of sailboat racing, hosting regattas for classes such as the RC44 clearly has the potential for bringing wider reaching economic benefits to the country.”
Also supporting the 2013 RC44 Oman Cup is Muscat Municipality. The RC44 Cup will be one of the key events taking place during The Muscat Festival (30 January – 28 February) a cultural, artistic and entertainment festival that will give the RC44 sailors and guests an opportunity to explore Oman trough numerous activities.
Racing at the RC44 Oman Cup presented by Oman Shipping Company will start on Wednesday 30 January 2013 at 0730 GMT with the final day of racing Sunday 3 February.