44Cup teams to sail with female crew

In another step towards re-energising the 44Cup, the rules for the International RC44 One Design class have been revised for 2023 so that going into the 44Cup Oman, which starts out of Muscat’s Al Mouj marina tomorrow, all nine teams will race with at least one female crew.

While not a completely new development, like so many professional sailing circuits it is possible to count on one hand the number of female crew that have competed during the 44Cup’s 16 year existence. This will change for 2023.

To date 44Cup crews have only been permitted to race with four World Sailing Category 3 ‘pro’ sailors on board. Now this has been amended so that the remaining positions on board, can now not only be filled with WS Cat 1 ‘amateur’ sailors, but also each team’s boat captain, plus women and under 30-year-olds – even if they are pro sailors under World Sailing’s classification.

Racing with female crew is not mandatory, but the maximum weight limit rules have been altered making it beneficial to do so: a crew with a female or a substitute direct family member (several owners very much enjoy sailing with their children on board) can have an all-up crew weight of 730kg, whereas for a crew without it is 680kg. An all-female crew, should one ever materialise, can have a total crew weight of 760kg.

As a result there has been a strong recruiting drive for all teams with the exception of Hugues Lepic’s Aleph Racing, which had the prescience to have Slovenian sailor Lara Poljsak already racing with them. Similarly Flavia Tomiselli, who previously raced on Peninsula Racing was quickly snapped up by Nico Poons’ Charisma, the 2022 44Cup champions. Meanwhile, two time Slovenian Olympic 470 sailor (and two time European Champion) Tina Mrak joins Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860; Team Aqua has Tinka Visser from the Netherlands; Artemis Racing has Italian Elisa Mangani; Spain’s Júlia Miñana joins John Bassadone’s Peninsula Racing; another 470 Olympian Federica Salva is with Team Nika. Oman Sail’s crew will rotate Ibtisam Al Salmi and Maria Al Khaifi. Uniquely Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team has two women on board, Anina Fässler and Celia Willison as bow-woman.

One of Christian Zuerrer’s aims with his team has been to develop young sailors. His Black Star new recruits are, by coincidence, both trained nurses but otherwise have very different backgrounds. From Switzerland, Fässler has mostly raced offshore on former Volvo Ocean Race boats running corporate/charter programs. Meanwhile, a graduate of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron’s youth training program, Willison is a successful female match racing helmsman whose Edge Match Racing Team were 2019 NZ Women’s National Match Racing champions. She came to Europe in 2022 to seek her fortune as a pro-sailor and has ended up on the RC44 after spending a season racing various keelboats in the UK, including winning the UK Cape 31 Nationals. She admits she has not worked the bow for years but is pleased that the opportunity has arisen making it more possible for women to race RC44s.

Peninsula Racing's Júlia Miñana is a former Optimist European Champion
Peninsula Racing’s Júlia Miñana is a former Optimist European Champion

The increased female participation, was welcomed by 44Cup champion, Charisma’s Nico Poons: “Time will tell how it will change the dynamic on the boat. Flavia is very experienced on the RC44, but it will be an adjustment. But it will be the same across the fleet as every team will have a woman onboard. It will bring some fresh energy to the fleet.”

An issue for all the teams is that crew positions are so well defined that integrating an extra person will take time. Of her role Flavia Tomiselli says: “I am always a floater. It depends on the boat, but it is always a very similar job. I try to fit in and discover how I can be more useful.” The Palma-based Italian sailor raced for four seasons on the 44Cup before stopping after 2019. “I started working with North Sails as a sail designer and they wanted me to spend more time in the office,” she explains. However this has eased and her role now allows her also to keep abreast of RC44 sail developments. Of the increased women’s role she says: “For sure it helps people get used to having more girls around and more work to do to get everyone better distributed into more positions on the boat. I hope it will come, but it will be slow.”

She was also responsible for recruiting another Palma-based Italian, Elisa Mangani to Artemis Racing. With degrees in both yacht design and aerospace engineering, Mangani is also deeply in the marine trade, working for hardware manufacturer Ronstan but is a sought-after sailor too. Having grown up racing dinghies, she has graduated up to keelboats and recently has raced on the Swan 50 Earlybird and the Ker 46 Lisa R, on which she won last year’s Rolex Giraglia.

On board her principle role is ‘mainsail caddy’. “I am working closely with the mainsail trimmer [Iain Percy] so I have to trim and adjust the traveller car, outhaul, etc. I’m lucky – it’s a good role and I am learning a lot.” She is also part of the bow team dropping the jib and helping in gybes.

Racing off the Muscat coast comes with a unique backdrop for the 44Cup
Racing off the Muscat coast comes with a unique backdrop for the 44Cup

Italian two time Olympic 470 sailor Federica Salva was also well positioned to join Team Nika as she has already been sailing on their Melges 20 since 2020. Aside from being a two time bronze medallist at the 470 World championships during the 1990s, she has since continued her Olympic dream in the Nacra 17 as well as numerous keelboat classes including the Swan 50, RS21 and J/70.

She too admits that they are still trying to nail down her position: “We are still studying that because it is very difficult to find the right place because the guys are very used to their playbooks. You have to be very pro-active and positive and a good team player because as the only woman among a lot of men, sometimes it is not comfortable but [on Team Nika] they are all nice. If you like sailing, then this is the right place and the right boat.”

To find out more about the 44Cup visit www.44cup.org

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
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