Charisma favourite going into 44Cup Cowes World Championship

Nico Poons’ Charisma, which is the present holder of the ‘golden wheels’ as the 2023 44Cup leader, has another Solent specialist in legendary British Olympic coach and sailor David Howlett, who is supporting team coach Morgan Reeser and tactician Hamish Pepper. Pepper, from New Zealand, raced for two seasons here but admits about the current: “there is a fair bit to learn and understand. It adds another element to the racing. It will be challenging for everyone.” Being top of the 44Cup leaderboard brings its own challenges, especially since this is a World Championship. “We sailed well last year and were fortunate enough to win the Worlds, but it is hard to repeat. Everyone has us as their target, so it would be quite easy for someone else to slip through. But this is the big one – everyone will be fast and sailing well with good coaches and outside support.”

Charisma has the added benefit that helmsman Nico Poons knows these waters well. “I started sailing on the Solent more than 40 years back on various IOR boat,” he says, including with recently deceased fellow Dutchman, Piet Vroon. “I was crewing on boats until 2000, when I got my own 39ft footer and we went to Cowes in that. So I know the Solent pretty well. It is challenging. You need to have some local knowledge.”

While his Solent experience doesn’t go back as far as Poons, Peninsula Racing tactician Vasco Vascotto, along with several others of the 44Cup’s more wizened crew, also competed on these waters in the Admiral’s Cup, once the effective world championship of offshore racing. In 1999 Vascotto was steering the Sydney 40 Merit Cup for the European team, which finished second overall. Before that Merit Cup had won the Sydney 40 Worlds nearby on these waters.

“It is special because you always need to think first about the current and then about the wind,” says Vascotto of the Solent. “That is the most important thing. You can’t make any mistakes, because if you do the current will be pushing you down.” Peninsula Racing is currently ranked third overall in the 2023 44Cup.

Christian Zuerrer’s Black Star Sailing Team and Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing will both be hoping to improve upon their performances last month in Marstrand, Sweden. For this event, the RC44s will be joined by a ninth RC44, Bullet, sailed by an all-female team, led by Louise Morton.

Team Aqua’s owner, Chris Bake is hosting the 44Cup Cowes World Championship via his club, the Royal Yacht Squadron. “It is nice to have my club hosting us this week,” said Bake. “There are quite a few people coming out to watch the racing this weekend. It think there is some nice context [with the America’s Cup].” Back in 1851 the Royal Yacht Squadron ran a race for the 100 Guineas Cup, famously won by the yacht America and subsequently rechristened the America’s Cup. Bake was a backer of Britain’s challenge for the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda.

Racing starts today (Thursday) with a first warning signal at 1130. It will take place in the central Solent but will again be sent off from the Royal Yacht Squadron line on Saturday, as they were for today’s practice racing.

44CUP OVERALL RANKING 2023
(After two events)

  1. 🇲🇨 Charisma – 2 1 – 3
  2. 🇸🇮 Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 – 1 5 – 6
  3. 🇬🇧 Peninsula Racing – 4 2 – 6
  4. 🇫🇷 Aleph Racing – 3 3 – 6
  5. 🇲🇨 Team Nika – 5 4 – 9
  6. 🇨🇭 Black Star Sailing Team – 8 6 – 14
  7. 🇸🇪 Artemis Racing – 6 8 – 14
  8. 🇬🇧 Team Aqua – 7 7 -14

About the 44Cup:

Five-time America’s Cup winner Russell Coutts conceived the design of the light-displacement, high-performance one-design RC44 with naval architect Andrej Justin in 2005. Created for top level one design racing in international regattas under strictly controlled Class Rules, the concept and design features of the RC44 are aimed at the amateur helmsmen with professional crews.

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