Sunshine, a solid sea breeze and a start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes was the perfect way to open the third event in the 44Cup calendar as the fleet took to the Solent.

Hot foot from the class’ previous event in Marstrand, Sweden eight teams will compete in the UK event that runs from 11-15 August. And while today was officially listed as a practice day, you’d barely know it from the level of racing. This is a collection of highly experienced crews that only know one gear, winning, leaving few surprised that the showcase start and first beat to the west along Cowes’ famous Green turned into a competitive affair.

With the strong ebb tide sweeping them west the fleet arrived at the first mark, Gurnard in a matter of minutes which was always going to make for some close calls. But the fact that this mark was to be rounded to starboard, the opposite direction to normal in order to set up the fleet for the downwind delivery leg to the race area for the day, simply added to the pressure.



all images © nico martinez/martinez studio





The race course proper was set off Lee on the Solent and provided a wide open race area to the southwest for the three practice races that followed. While the sea breeze was well established and consistent at 15knots, so too was the strong ebb tide that made judging time on distances at the start crucial.

Throughout the afternoon several teams found themselves over the line at the start, albeit by the odd second or two. But during the course of the coming days this could well turn out to be one of several key factors that define success in this notoriously closely fought fleet. “The tide adds another dimension that we don’t normally have,” said Artemis Racing’s Torbjörn Törnqvist. “It’s interesting because the boats in this fleet are so evenly matched. We all spend a great deal of time watching each other and learning, analysing and improving so the tide really adds something to the racing.”









Penninsula Racing’s tactician Ed Baird was also clear on just how close the racing is likely to be this week. “Typically, everybody does win at some point and it’s putting together a good consistent series that is the challenge,” he said. “The last time the fleet raced here was in 2016 but that time we were based out of Portsmouth and raced outside the Solent to the east where the tide didn’t have such a big influence. This year the tide will be a slightly bigger issue than it was back then because there are differences across the course area and we have a deep water channel on either side.“

Aside from the local conditions the other big difference is that given the experiences of the last year, everyone’s super excited to be back out on the race course once again. But one thing hasn’t changed and that’s that to win everyone on the team has to be perfect, it’s that level of competition. As we know to our costs from the last event in Marstrand, it’s easy to go from first to last in one leg because you have duck one boat.”

So, while it might have been practice day today where no points were placed on the board, everyone sailed as if there would be. The result? A perfect taster for what’s in store for the rest of the week.

First warning signal for fleet racing tomorrow will be at 12.00 BST. To follow the racing live visit www.44cup.org









44CUP OVERALL RESULTS
(after two events)

1. United Kingdom TEAM AQUA - 4
2. Slovenia TEAM CEEREF - 5
3. Monaco CHARISMA - 9
4. Russia TEAM NIKA - 9
5. Russia ATOM TAVATUY - 10
6. France ALEPH RACING -10
7. Sweden ARTEMIS RACING - 11
8. United Kingdom PENINSULA RACING - 14