They say in yacht racing that when conditions are light, flukey and difficult to predict, it is all about keeping a cool head and avoiding the big results. Italian sailors are renowned for excelling in this as they are the prevailing conditions around the Italian coast line, so it was little surprise that in the 5-10 knot northerly that was blowing over mountainous Lanzarote, two out of three of today’s winning boats at the 44Cup Calero Marinas had Italian tacticians: Michele Ivaldi on Aleph Racing and Vasco Vascotto on Peninsula Racing. 

While Nico Poons’ season’s championship overall leaders on Charisma led going into today, the Monaco-flagged team was eased out of the top spot in today’s first race by Team Nika. Then by the end of race three there was another new leader in Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing. The French team came out guns blazing today, hitting left side of the first upwind well in the opening race to lead at the top mark and from there on, to score their second bullet of the regatta. This race had an unusual finale when, after a sudden dramatic wind shift, the middle three finishers were forced to hoist jibs to reach the line while the final three came to finish under spinnakers (as the first trio had).

In the second race things did not go so well as Aleph Racing trailed the fleet up the starboard layline, languishing in last place. But going into the run they gybed immediately and two supremely timed gybes  later saw them going into the gate in first place. Ultimately they finished fourth and followed this with a second in the final race – their day’s scoreline elevating them to the top spot on the leaderboard. At this halfway stage of the 44Cup Calero Marinas they sit three points clear of second placed Team Nika, whose run of podium finishes came to an end with a disappointing seventh in today’s last race.

“We sailed consistently, which was the most important thing to do today in the super shifty, tricky conditions,” explained Louis Balcean, who is standing in for Aleph Racing’s regular helm Hugues Lepic at this event. “We have been first, we have been last and everything in between, so we are happy to be where we are. But there are six more races and anything can happen.”

Going into this event Aleph Racing also stood the smallest of chances of winning the 2023 44Cup overall, currently lying third, five points behind Charisma and two behind Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860. Here in Lanzarote Charisma is currently third overall and would need to end the event sixth or worse for Aleph Racing to stand a chance of claiming the title.

Of Aleph Racing’s day American bowman Greg Gendall shared his perspective: “We had a good day – it was puffy and shifty. We started reasonably well in two out of three races. Then Mick [Michele Ivaldi] did a great job keeping the boat in phase and the guys kept the boat going well. It all has a really good feel to it at the moment. In that second race we had that great run: we did a set gybe and passed a few boats right there and Mick did a good job picked our way down that run. We came around the bottom tied with Vasco for first.”

Of their new helm for this event he added: “We definitely miss Hugues, but Louis is doing a really job. He is quite experienced and has stepped right into it.”

In race two John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing was second to Ceeref going around the top mark, but gybed earlier than her Slovenian rivals to lead into the starboard leeward gate mark and hung on, despite a dangerous second beat when she got boxed in between Aleph Racing, Team Nika and Chris Bake’s Team Aqua. Although this situation was very tight, her Italian tactician Vasco Vascotto managed to thread them through to lead at the top mark and a small hitch to the right on the final run saw them comfortable take the bullet in the day’s second race.

“It is extremely tricky, shifty conditions – snakes and ladders, but it was fun,” said Bassadone. “We had a good solid second race, but in the third we were just over the line which was very frustrating because we were in a good position. The boat is going very well – we seem to have some speed.” They also have some local knowledge on board –bowman Gonzalo Morales is from the Canaries, making them the ‘home team’ for a second consecutive regatta.

While he is not Italian, Adrian Stead, who is calling tactics for Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, has won a Farr 40 World Championship for an Italian team and been part of an Italian America’s Cup challenger. In today’s third race, Stead showed his inner Italian, keeping Ceeref on the favoured starboard tack on the first beat as others around them tacked off  – a move that saw them reach the top mark with a comfortable lead, to which they resolutely hung on to from there.

Sadly this ray of sunlight came after several deep results including a last when they had gone the wrong way up the first beat in today’s opening race while in the second they were called OCS. “It was tough racing – always complicated,” said Igor Lah. “Today was easier than yesterday and somehow we were lucky in the last one. You need to realise you can still do it.”

Racing continues tomorrow with a first warning signal at 1200 and similar conditions forecast.

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