10th anniversary RC44 season kicks off
The landmark 10th anniversary RC44 Championship Tour is to take place over 2-6 March, with some of the biggest names in the world of professional sailing and international business lining up on the starting grid for the RC44 Bermuda Cup.
Racing will take place on the azure waters of Bermuda's Great Sound for the eight teams, featuring 56 world class sailors from 15 nations.
The team to beat in 2016 is undoubtedly Team Nika. Defending both his 2015 World Champion and 2015 Fleet Racing Champion crowns, Russian owner Vladimir Prosikhin this season has American Ed Baird calling tactics.
As the only American helm to win the America's Cup since 1992, Baird's list of achievements is extensive, including multiple world championship titles plus several years in the RC44 fleet.
Contesting Team Nika's lead will be Vladimir Liubomirov's Bronenosec Sailing Team, which has been a consistent challenger for the podium over the past two years, and in 2015 was the Match Racing Champion and runner-up in the Fleet Racing. Liubomirov is joined by an experienced crew of Italian and Russian sailors once again with Michele Ivaldi calling tactics.
Chris Bake's Team Aqua returns for its 10th season with top match racer Cameron Appleton the permanent fixture as the team's tactician. Holding an impressive track history as five time Fleet Racing Champions and three times Match Racing Champions, Team Aqua will introduce some fresh blood into their crew for 2016 in the form of American sailors Sean Couvreux and Westy Barlow.
Leading the mid fleet charge, Igor Lah's Team Ceeref finished 2015 in fourth tied on points with John Bassadone's Peninsula Petroleum Sailing Team. British Olympian and multiple world champion Adrian Stead returns as tactician on Team Ceeref and legendary hot-headed Italian Vasco Vascotto is calling the shots on Peninsula Petroleum.
Tipped as the favourites for the RC44 Bermuda Cup, Artemis Racing and Artemis Youth Academy's star-studded line-up includes Italian three time America's Cup and three time Olympic sailor Francesco Bruni, joined by fellow America's Cup team mates Christian Kamp and Pieter Van Nieuwenhuijzen.
On board Artemis Racing Youth, Sweden's most successful sailor Freddy Loof and British Olympic gold medallist Paul Goodison use the RC44 class as a platform to encourage young Swedish sailors into the world of professional racing.
Both teams will be hoping the wealth of local knowledge their sailors have gained from training out of their team base ahead of the 35th America's Cup will give them the competitive edge needed.
The Russian team Katusha completes the line-up, with new owner Alexander Novoselov in the driving seat and experienced tactician Andy Horton hoping to continue their upward trajectory through the fleet.