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44Cup set for debut regatta in Baiona, Spain

Yacht Racing Podcast

While the 44Cup owners and teams have favourite locations such as Marstrand in Sweden that they visit almost annually, for three of this season’s five events the high performance owner-driver one design class will be visiting for the first time. Starting this off is the 2024 44Cup’s second event, taking place in Baiona, Spain over 8-12 May.

Situated on Spain’s Atlantic-facing west coast, just 15km north of the Portuguese boarder, Baiona is an ancient port, founded in 140BC and for centuries has been on the Portuguese branch of the ‘Camino’ pilgrimage route north to Santiago de Compostela. Part of the Rías Baixas estuary complex, its location is dramatic, situated on the south side of the mouth of the Vigo river, which has the Cíes Islands nature reserve and national park in its centre. This area of Spain, Galicia, is best known internationally for its fish and seafood Albariño wine, so the 44Cup owners and crews will be able to enjoy top quality local cuisine during their visit.

Due to its location, Baiona also has a seafaring tradition that is strong and dates back centuries. Famously, it was into its harbour in 1493 that one of Columbus’ caravels first touched European soil bringing news of the discovery of the New World. More recently nearby Vigo was from where the 2005-06 Volvo Ocean Race started.

The dominant feature of the town is the 14th century Monterreal Castle, a fortress that is also home to the Monte Real Club de Yates de Baiona (MRCYB) that will host next week’s 44Cup Baiona Cup. In Spain, the MRCYB is one of the most highly respected yacht clubs. It was under its burgee that in 1992 Spain mounted Desafio Español, its first challenge for the America’s Cup. More recently it has hosted the 52 Super Series in 2022 and the 2023 J/70 World Championship.

Image © Nico Martinez

José Luis Álvarez, President of the MRCYB welcomed the 44Cup. “At the Monte Real Yacht Club we already have everything ready to receive the excellent racing machines that are the RC44s for the first time in Galicia. For us it is an honour to be able to organise a competition of such a high level as this, with its unique race boats and some of the best sailors in the world. We are sure that the club will be, as always, up to the task and that the Rías Baixas will be shown to the RC44 owners and sailors in all its splendour. We hope that everyone who comes to participate or see this show will enjoy it like never before.”

To the Spanish sailors on Peninsula Racing and Calero Sailing Team, Baiona is a familiar venue but many of the international crews have competed here previously on just one occasion with the 52 Super Series. That event in 2022 was won by Quantum Racing, whose navigator was Michele Ivaldi, who next week will be resuming his regular duties as tactician on Aleph Racing.

“With the 52s there was high pressure, so it was light but a couple of times there was good wind,” Ivaldi recalls. “It is Atlantic and pretty exposed, so if a low pressure decides to arrive we’ll have a plenty on! If the Azores high pressure develops you can get same big wind conditions we see in Cascais. If the low pressure comes it could get very rough, but I have never seen it like that.”

Next week, depending upon conditions 44Cup Principal Race Officer María Torrijo will have the choice of racing the RC44s on two courses: One will be due west of Baiona, effectively out into the Atlantic. However if the prevailing north/northwestly wind is blowing and kicking up a swell, there is the other option of racing in the Vigo estuary using the Cíes Islands for protection. While the venue is new to the 44Cup, conditions will be similar to those the teams know well from Cascais. The long term forecast for the first part of the event shows light winds and, if this transpires, the first course option is most likely.

Team Nika’s tactician Nic Asher also visited Baiona with the TP52s. “It’s lovely there. With the marina and the castle, there’s really good scenery. Wind-wise it can be anything, racing out in the Atlantic or in the bay – it is a really cool place. And the fish is great. I think we’ll have a good time there”

(After one event)
1. 🇲🇨 Team Nika – 1
2. 🇸🇮 Team CEEREF Vaider – 2
3. 🇬🇧 Peninsula Racing – 3
4. 🇬🇧 Team Aqua – 4
5. 🇫🇷 Aleph Racing – 5
6. 🇲🇨 Charisma – 6
7. 🇨🇭 Black Star Sailing Team – 7
8. 🇸🇪 Artemis Racing – 8
9. 🇪🇸 Calero Sailing Team – 9