Rally decides 44Cup 2023 opener

Published on March 5th, 2023

The 2023 RC44 season kicked off where it concluded in 2022, with the opening event held March 2-5 in Muscat, Oman.

Usually racing on the 44Cup circuit between the high performance owner-driver one designs is tight, but the leaderboard was clearly defined going into the final day with Nico Poons’ Charisma seven points clear of Igor Lah’s Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860, in turn eight ahead of John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing.

But unlike the previous three days when conditions built to 20 knots with a vicious short sea, the final day took place in light 5-8 knots, more typical of the Omani venue.

In the opening race Peninsula Racing was the runaway winner. This compressed the leaderboard points but only slightly with Ceeref coming home second and Charisma fourth.

As for Nico Poons’ team, the second race was a disaster. “We weren’t going particularly well and after a bad start, went the wrong way up the first beat and got a little bit stuck in the middle and didn’t recover,” said Charisma’s tactician Hamish Pepper. “And we got a penalty on the downwind – we thought we were racing Team Aqua for the title and they thought they were racing us…”

As a result, Charisma finished eighth, while another second for Ceeref caused Igor Lah’s team to take the lead by one point going into the final race. Ceeref was also ahead on countback so Charisma would have be two places ahead of her rival to win overall in this last race.

By this time the wind was down to 5-6 knots, and at the start Charisma tied herself in knots with an OCS and with a penalty against. Fortunately for Poons’ team there was a general recall and they made a better job of it when the second attempt got away successfully.

However, a nose ahead, Ceeref maintained a loose cover at the top mark was where she needed to be – immediately ahead of Charisma. This position she held to the leeward gate where she rounded the port mark, allowing Charisma to split right. At this critical moment Ceeref received a penalty for failing to keep clear of Peninsula Racing.

“That penalty was a little harsh, but we dealt with it and we got back into it,” said Ceeref tactician Adrian Stead.

Pepper observed, “They got a penalty and it seemed not to affect them at all – they were right back with us at the next cross.”

Coming into the top mark, Charisma was indeed ahead of Ceeref, but with Peninsula Racing on her inside, was not ahead enough… Ultimately it was all settled on the run: Ceeref gybed early and recovered the extra metres bringing her home sixth to Charisma’s seventh.

“I feel really good!” said Igor Lah of his victory. “Today was like a new day. We knew that we could do it and we did it. We have to come back to Oman!”

While it could be argued that Charisma lost this regatta as much as Ceeref won it, Stead noted: You have to bear in mind in this fleet it is so easy to come first or ninth – everyone is so good. No one gives you an inch. If you mess up the start and miss the first two shifts you are at the back and then there are gold medalists and AC sailors and everyone to get past.”

According to Stead this is the fourth year Ceeref has won the opening event of the season.

Winner of today’s second race, Team Nika had a slight zero to hero and back regatta. New British tactician Nic Asher assessed, “The guys sailed well – we were going fast. I just made a couple of mistakes today.

“I was kicking myself in the first race; we wanted to start at the boat, but it got crowded so I thought we’d start under the fleet, which was a mistake. Then I missed the layline into the gate which was pretty costly. After that we sailed well.”

As a relative newcomer to the RC44, Asher is still coming to terms with its light wind speed: “Often you don’t realize how light the wind is, because you are still powered up and heeled over. It can be only 4-5 knots.”

While there were distractions deeper in the fleet, Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing won the final race. Of his week the London-based Frenchman observed: “We were doing very well when it came to our speed and our tactical choices.

“We had a few hiccups with two MOBs, one OCS, three penalties and two penalty points and considering this, the result was actually very good. But a lot of action took place which was not very positive!”

Elsewhere in the fleet Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team had a better day with their new crew, finishing with a fourth, while the Oman Sail team found it easier today in the lighter conditions.

Series InformationEvent DetailsResults


Aleph Racing (FRA17)
Hugues Lepic (FRA) – Owner / Driver
Michele Ivaldi (ITA) – Tactician
Paul Wilcox (RSA) – Main trimmer
James Dagg (NZL) – Headsail Trimmer
Oisin Mcclelland (IRL) – Offside Trimmer
Jaro Furlani (ITA) – Pit
Cian Guilfoyle (IRL) – Grinder
Lara Poljsak (SLO) – Floater
Greg Gendell (USA) – Bow

Artemis Racing (SWE44)
Torbjorn Tornqvist (SWE) – Owner / Driver
Dylan Fletcher (GBR) – Tactician
Iain Percy (GBR) – Main trimmer
Maciel Cichetti (ITA) – Headsail Trimmer
Emanuele Marino (ITA) – Offside Trimmer
Stu Bettany (NZL) – Pit
Anders Ekstrom (SWE) – Grinder
Elisa Mangani (ESP) + Markus Tornqvist (SWE) – Floater
Piet Van Nieuwenhuijzen (NED) – Bow

Black Star Sailing Team (SUI27)
Christian Zuerrer (SUI) – Owner / Driver
Cameron Dunn (NZL) – Tactician
Flavio Marazzi (SUI) – Main trimmer
William Alloway (GBR) – Headsail Trimmer
Grégoire Siegwart (SUI) – Offside Trimmer
Simon Johnson (IRL) – Pit
Guy Endean (NZL) – Grinder
Anina Faessler (SUI) – Floater
Celia Willison (NZL) – Bow

Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 (SLO11)
Igor Lah (SLO) – Owner / Driver
Adrian Stead (GBR) – Tactician
Dirk de Ridder (NED) – Main trimmer
Javi De La Plaza (ESP) – Headsail Trimmer
Tine Lah (SLO) – Offside Trimmer
Andreas Axelsson (SWE) – Pit
Jelle Janzen (NED) – Grinder
Tina Mrak (SLO) – Floater
Matteo Auguardo (ITA) – Bow

Charisma (MON69)
Nico Poons (NED) – Owner / Driver
Hamish Pepper (NZL) – Tactician
Chris Hosking (AUS) – Main trimmer
Ross Halcrow (NZL) – Headsail Trimmer
Dimitri Simmons (NED) – Offside Trimmer
Ryan Godfrey (AUS) – Pit
Robin Jacobs (NED) – Grinder
Flavia Tomiselli (ITA) – Floater
Ivan Peute (NED) – Bow

Peninsula Racing (GBR1)
John Bassadone (GBR) – Owner / Driver
Vasco Vascotto (ITA) – Tactician
Jordi Calafat (ESP) – Main trimmer
German Panei (ARG) – Headsail Trimmer
Mikel Pasabant (ESP) – Offside Trimmer
Matthew Barber (GBR) – Pit
Facundo Olezza (ARG) – Grinder
Júlia Miñana (ESP) – Floater
Gonzalo Morales (ESP) – Bow

Team Aqua (GBR2041)
Chris Bake (NZL) – Owner / Driver
Cameron Appleton (NZL) – Tactician
Andrew Estcourt (NZL) – Main trimmer
Christian Kamp (DEN) – Headsail Trimmer
Aaron Cooper (GBR) – Offside Trimmer
Jonas Hviid-Nielsen (DEN) – Pit
Ben Graham (GBR) – Grinder
Tinka Visser (NED) – Floater
Juan Marcos (ARG) – Bow

Team Nika (MON10)
Vladimir Prosikhin (BUL) – Owner / Driver
Nic Asher (GBR) – Tactician
James Baxter (NZL) – Main trimmer
Pierluigi De Felice (ITA) – Headsail Trimmer
Mitja Margon (SLO) – Offside Trimmer
Pietro Mantovani (ITA) – Pit
Iztok Knafelc (SLO) – Grinder
Federica Salva (ITA) – Floater
Jeremy Lomas (NZL) – Bow

Oman Sail Team (OMN)
Musab Al Hadi (OMN) – Owner / Driver
Hussain Al Jabri (OMN) – Tactician
Nasser Al Mashari (OMN) – Main trimmer
Ali Al Balushi (OMN) – Headsail Trimmer
Haitham Al-Wahaibi (OMN) – Offside Trimmer
Akram Al Wahabi (OMN) – Pit
Raad Al Hadi (OMN) – Grinder
Ibtisam Al Salmi (OMN) + Maria Al Khaifi (OMN) – Floater
Yassir Al Rhadi (OMN) – Bow

2023 44Cup Schedule
March 1-5 – 44Cup Oman, Muscat
June 28 – July 2 – 44Cup Marstrand, Sweden
August 9-13 – 44Cup Cowes, UK
October 18-22 – 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina, Gibraltar Straight
November 22-26 – 44Cup Calero Marinas, Canary Islands

About the RC44 boat
Five-time America’s Cup winner Russell Coutts conceived the design of the light-displacement, high-performance one-design RC44 with naval architect Andrej Justin in 2005.

Created for top level one design racing in international regattas under strictly controlled Class Rules, the concept and design features of the RC44 are aimed at the amateur helmsmen with professional crews. For its thirteenth season in 2019, the RC44 Championship Tour was rebranded the 44Cup. https://www.44cup.org/

Source: 44Cup

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