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Two horse race going into the final day at 44Cup Marstrand

Yacht Racing Podcast

The 44Cup Marstrand is providing the nine 44Cup teams with the full range of conditions. After a heavy day, a light day, Saturday started strongly with an additional feature: intermittent rain.

To recover the lost schedule, four races were held; rain affecting the first and last. Today the wind had flipped to the east, blowing offshore with less waves but a shifty, patchy breeze with current running left (north) across the course.

Going into today, two points separated the top five. Going into today’s fourth and final race, this was down to two with Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing and Nico Poons’ Charisma tied, nine clear of Igor Lah’s Team Ceeref Vaider. A final race win for Charisma to Aleph’s third put Poons’ team two points ahead, with event host Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing up to third, 11 points adrift. With three races scheduled for tomorrow, mathematically any of the top seven could still win.

While Charisma is the defending champion at the 44Cup Marstrand and the 2023 44Cup overall winner, Aleph Racing’s performance is exceptional as this is the first event in the last four that owner Hugues Lepic has helmed, his time away due to convalescing after back surgery.

“It is great to be back,” Lepic commented. “We all love Marstrand – it is the best event of the season.” Of their performance here the London-based Frenchman added: “Yesterday we had some very bad starts, but we ended up finding the shifts and the pressure on the downwinds so we were very glad we could get back into a decent position in those three races.

“Today we had some good starts and a few difficult positions, but we also managed to find the pressure and the shifts on the upwinds. But the good thing about the RC44 it that it is not over until the end – tomorrow it will probably come down to the last leg of the last race, which always makes it exciting.”

While Charisma’s score line includes three bullets, but has been tainted by an eighth in Friday’s first race, Aleph Racing has been more consistent, never scoring deeper than fifth, including an exceptional win in today’s third race. Rightfully this should have been Artemis Racing’s: the Swedish hosts led on to the run, but a split at the gate brought some interest encounters with Charisma up the second beat.

In one Charisma luffed her rival hard, but Artemis Racing was sufficiently ahead to still lead into the second top mark. But approaching the finish, Aleph Racing came in from the left with pressure to beat Artemis Racing by less than a boatlength.

Aleph Racing Tactician Michele Ivaldi explained: “We saw the pressure and the guys and Hugues [Lepic] executed three perfect gybes with no losses. We took two shifts against the one that the others took.” Of the day’s conditions Ivaldi added: “They were pretty challenging and it was hard to read the puffs. Downwind was trickiest because it was all about being in the pressure.”

Charisma’s performance and her bullets in today’s first and last races was all the more exceptional since her crew had been most enthusiastically supporting last night’s Midsummer Eve celebrations. “Everyone rallied and had the bit between their teeth,” commented tactician Andy Horton of today’s races. Perhaps owner Nico Poons felt more at home in today’s more Netherlands-like conditions?

In the first race Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika went right and crossed the fleet coming back. However she was just short of the layline at the top mark (current was pushing boats down on to it) and in her enthusiasm picked up a penalty allowing Charisma to lead Aleph on to the run from where they hung on.

In the final race when the wind was down to 10-12 knots and the sea flatter, Team Nika looked good on the right but Charisma was stronger coming back from the left and rounded first and continued on to score her third bullet.

“The breeze was shifting back and forth and dying all day with more wind at the bottom than the top of the course,” continued Horton. “It was pretty complicated but it was just about keeping it cool.”

In today’s second race. Charisma was first to the top mark while John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing did well to get the inside berth, rounding in second and then made a good layline call into the gate while Charisma had to put in an extra gybe. Splitting at the gate, a tacking duel ensued with Charisma gaining the upper hand leading onto the second run. On this Peninsula gybed early into pressure to recover the lead which she carried to the finish.

Sadly Peninsula ended the day with an OCS. “That was very painful,” commented tactician Vasco Vascotto, adding that in today’s first race they’d had a problem with their spinnaker retrieval line. “Tomorrow we need to be ready because we are third and it is close. We want to try and finish in at least that position.”

Showing increasing confidence around the race track is Farstar, Italian Lorenzo Mondo’s ClubSwan 36 European Champions racing the 44Cup’s charter boat. After having to stand down in the first race due to a technical issue they did “three beautiful races,” recounted Portugese tactician Alvaro Marinho. “We have had good moments and then because of our inexperience we have little troubles in our manoeuvres. But Lorenzo is enjoying it. It is good to be here.”

Racing tomorrow is again scheduled for 1130.

44CUP MARSTRAND:
(After seven races)
1. 🇲🇨 Charisma – 8 1 2 1 2 3 1 – 18
2. 🇫🇷 Aleph Racing – 2 5 4 2 3 1 3 – 20
3. 🇸🇪 Artemis Racing – 5 3 5 6 6 2 4 – 31
4. 🇲🇨 Team Nika – 1 8 8 3 5 6 2 – 33
5. 🇸🇮 Team CEEREF Vaider – 4 2 7 5 4 4 8 – 34
6. 🇬🇧 Peninsula Racing – 6 7 3 7 1 5 7 – 36
7. 🇨🇭 Black Star Sailing Team – 3 6 6 4 8 7 6 – 40
8. 🇬🇧 Team Aqua – 7 4 1 8 7 8 5 (2) – 42
9. FarStar – 9 9 9 10DNS 9 9 9 – 64

Main image © Nico Martinez

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