While between themselves 44Cup teams may appear nonchalant that the annual World Championship for their high performance RC44 one designs is “just another regatta”, in fact this is far from the case with teams saving their best gear for the major event of the season. Unquestionably the 44Cup Portoroz World Championship, taking place in Slovenia next week over 12-16 October represents the ‘big one’ of the year; the world champion’s trophy the one that all eight owner-drivers would like to be admiring on their mantlepiece this winter.

But the question remains: Whose mantlepiece it will be residing on?

The scoring so far this season has been far from conventional. Going into the Slovenian stopover, the fourth and penultimate event of the 2022 44Cup, the local heroes on Igor Lah’s Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 hold a commanding five point lead in the season’s championship leaderboard. Showing their usual impeccable consistency, the team on which British ace Adrian Stead calls tactics, has posted a 2-1-1 scoreline so far in Puerto Calero, Cascais and Marstrand. However on a roll since their dire 8th place finish at the start of the season in Lanzarote is Nico Poons’ Charisma. The Dutchman’s team, led by Kiwi tactician Hamish Pepper, has finally bucked their ‘zero to hero’ trend of the last seasons and won both the last two events back-to-back, the first in Cascais by a massive 12 points.

In Marstrand Poons’ celebrations were slightly muted as his team looked forward to the ‘big one’. “I am absolutely happy that we won this one and the last one as well. We are in a good stream. But let’s wait for the Worlds…” A World Championship win for Charisma in Portoroz would be significant as it would be their very first since joining the 44Cup in 2015.

This is not the case for five of the eight teams set to be on the start line in Slovenia. Over 11 RC44 World Championships, Team Nika has won the most with three (2015, 2017 and 2018). CEEREF has claimed two but neither recent (2013 and 2016) while the biggest surprise is perhaps Chris Bake’s Team Aqua. Despite having won by far the most overall season’s championships than any other team, Team Aqua only claimed the World Championship title for the first time in 2019 in Marstrand but then, clearly having relished the experience, followed it up by winning the next edition last year in Scarlino, putting Bake’s team into the position of defending champion.

When the 44Cup was last in Portoroz at the beginning of 2021, Team Aqua finished third behind CEEREF and Team Nika. Bake would clearly like to make it the 44Cup’s first ever World Championship hat-trick but warns that “Portoroz is a difficult venue. We prefer windier venues like Marstrand or Cascais. But perhaps in October we could get wind there.”

The only other occasion the RC44 World Championship was held on the Adriatic was at the Adris 44 Worlds in Rovinj, Croatia, some 30 miles to the south of Portoroz in 2012. On that occasion it was won by John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing. With a new tactician for this season in Finn double Olympic gold medallist turned America’s Cup tactician Giles Scott, Bassadone is hoping that his Peninsula Racing will return to the podium next week, having got a slight taste of success when they won the last race in Marstrand.

Bassadone sums up: “The World Championship, the next regatta, is most important for us because of how the season is panning out. We are placing extra emphasis on the big event of the season. Hopefully we can clean up the areas [where we’ve not been doing so well] and hopefully have a good result there.”

Racing starts at 1200 Thursday, 13 October and runs until Sunday, with up to three races scheduled each day. Follow live at www.44cup.org.


Foto: Nico Martinez, 44Cup