After two days of sun, Atlantic swell and prevailing northwesterlies, conditions turned around for day three of the 44Cup Cascais. Overnight the wind veered into the south and in the morning the eight RC44 teams waited ashore for an extra hour and half as the wind filled in.
Out on the race track the tacticians faced the perplexing scenario of the breeze from the new southerly direction, combined with, on the upwinds, more than a knot of current against them, but still with the residual Atlantic swell from the northwest with them.
Despite the about-turn of the race track, the hard right again was favoured and in the sub-10 knot conditions it was Nico Poons’ overall leader, Charisma, Chris Bake’s Team Aqua and Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing that went all the way to the starboard layline before tacking. The port tackers, Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, Team Nika and Artemis Racing picked up at the top of the beat, but thanks to a good layline call into the top mark all had to duck Aleph Racing coming across with rights on starboard.
After going the wrong way up the first beat, Charisma gybed early on the run, and finding better pressure she was propelled from seventh to second. She was able to follow Aleph around the starboard gate mark and out to the right. Both played the shifts well up the second beat and, with Ceeref in third, they gained separation which they held to the finish.
“We wanted the right,” recounted Team Aleph tactician Michele Ivaldi of their winning race. “We had a good start in the upper part of the line. The first two boats went off [to the right] and we waited another minute and then we went all the way too. Then we got a nice righty going into the mark. It was lucky we were on the layline so we didn’t have to do an extra tack.”
According Ivaldi the contrary current and Atlantic swell made it difficult to helm: “There was more wind at the top of the swell and less at the bottom so getting it stable was key.” Fortunately Team Aleph helmsman – former Rolex Farr 40 World Champion Alex Roepers, who is standing in for Hugues Lepic at this event – did a sound job.
Roepers himself is enjoying his first time steering an RC44 in anger. “The experience is incredibly good. It is amazing how fast they can sail in light air but we have had some very high breeze for the first couple of days and it is unbelievable to work these machines downwind. It was a bit of a learning curve for me to get the gybes right, but the Aleph team is top notch. I am very lucky and honoured to be a guest helmsman. My compliments to the RC44 management and the owners for a great class.”
A short delay saw the wind drop and return for a second race, but in continued light conditions. Charisma and Ceeref went hard right out of the start, but then on a long starboard tack across the course they managed to cross ahead of the entire fleet. Charisma rounded the top mark first with John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing pulled into second ahead of Ceeref. The lead boats all gybed early heading out to the favoured right, especially favoured thanks to a wind shift to the right. The lead trio remained the same to the finish but with Ceeref edging past Peninsula Racing on the second upwind.
Going into the final day the dominant Charisma has managed to recover the six point lead she had after her exceptional opening day here when she scored straight bullets. But with three races scheduled tomorrow in further south or southwest wind, as tactician Hamish Pepper puts it: “Any time you are leading a regatta in this fleet you are obviously sailing very well and we are just happy we are in front but it is still pretty close. Six points – you can lose that in one race and in this fleet that can easily happen and has happened in the past.”
Team Aqua lies in fourth place having had what skipper Chris Bake described as a “truly average day for us. It was difficult – very different to yesterday, different wind direction and you had a cross current under the sea state, which created a strange motion on the boat. But it seemed to go okay.”
John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing, on which double Olympic Finn gold medallist Giles Scott calls tactics, saw a moment of brilliance when they came home third in the final race today.It was good to get a decent result there,” said Bassadone. “But generally we are quite disappointed because the boat is going well and it is a combination of bad luck and a couple of boat handling things. It is good to at least to have half a smile on our face after that race today.”