Slovenian team leads 44Cup into Cascais

Portugal: Igor Lah, tactician Adrian Stead and their CEEREF powered by Hrastnik 1860 are the team with the biggest target on their back going into the 44Cup Cascais, which sets sail tomorrow.

In early February the Slovenian team won the opening event of the 2022 44Cup in Puerto Calero, Lanzarote by a slender margin but a margin that nonetheless sees the 44Cup leader’s golden steering wheels sparkling welcomely aboard their high performance one design keelboat. 

Fleet sailing upwind after race start.
44Cup Cascais commences tomorrow. Pic – Nico Martinez/44Cup

This is not the first time that Lah has been in pole position having won the 44Cup overall in both 2017 and 2019. However, his team’s track record racing at the Portugese sailing mecca is mixed.

“The golden wheels – they have a nice grip, and we will of course try and keep them, but it is a very competitive class,” states Lah. Does he feel more threatened when his boat has its special ‘bling’? Not especially: “Everyone is still attacking everyone – everyone is playing their own game. Maybe the last day there are some more ‘tactics’, but everyone can win races. I am happy with the crew, and I look forward to continuing what we are doing.” 

Team CEEREF had a miserable time here in 2019 and before that had a string of frustrating second placed finishes. Despite this, Lah says: “It is brilliant, incredible – I really like the scenery here. The weather is perfect. There is no more corona (fingers crossed). I really enjoyed the conditions for today’s practice race. Hopefully it will stay that way for the week.” 

Chris Bake’s Team Aqua got off to a difficult start to this 2022 season, finishing fifth in Lanzarote but is certain to be strong this week given that they are the defending champions, having won here when the 44Cup Cascais last took place in 2019. 

Crew trimming sail and pulling in kite (view of cockpit crew).
Aboard Black Star Sailing Team. Pic – Nico Martinez/44Cup

But they are not the only team present to have previously lifted the 44Cup Cascais trophy. Torbjörn Törnqvist’s Artemis Racing won in 2016 and in an attempt to try and improve his team’s chances was on board for today’s practice racing. “Cascais is definitely one of my favourites venues,” said Törnqvist. “It is nice to be here sailing. It is always warm with good breeze – what more can you ask for?”

As for today’s practicing racing, he added: “I decided that I wanted to do a bit more to get a better feel for it. We were saying that we managed to tick off all of the mistakes today – so we got stuck at the top mark, etc which in fact it is good to do, because it sharpens you up!”

While most of the RC44 crews are seasoned veterans of the class and of Cascais, one who surprisingly isn’t is Giles Scott, the double Olympic Finn gold medallist turned America’s Cup tactician. The last time he raced in Cascais was 2007, his debut year in the Finn. “I don’t know this venue so well, but it is pretty readable,” admits the Brit. “There are certainly intricacies to it. Everyone loosely knows that is going on, but it isn’t that straightforward.”

Peninsula Racing on kite reach.
Giles Scott will be crewing aboard Peninsula Racing. Pic – Nico Martinez/44Cup

Still relatively new to the RC44 and the class, Scott is still acclimatising, as demonstrated by what should have been a good result in Lanzarote but ended up a disappointing sixth. “We were pretty frustrated with that because it felt like we had clutched ‘defeat from the jaws of a good result’. We were in the mix and fighting for a podium spot in that last race and we got a penalty at the last mark and made a few errors – we were sailing well but we just came out the wrong side in this super-tight racing.”

Even newer is the Black Star Sailing Team of Christian Zuerrer. The new Swiss owner is not only racing his first 44Cup event this week (aboard the class’ own RC44 charter boat) but this is his first time ever racing in Cascais and his first time racing a yacht with wheels. Today’s practice racing was only his fifth day sailing the speedy monohull. 

“It is great sailing,” said Zuerrer. “The first two or three days we just had to get it together as a team, find out how to sail the boat and do our manoeuvres properly, etc. So, it has been great since then to race against other teams and see how close the line-up is.”

Zuerrer also campaigns a GC32 foiling catamaran, so the adrenalin rush is a little different on the RC44 monohull. “You have more time to think about things – it is not so fast. But I like the one design class with everyone having the same speed, so it then comes down to crew work.”

While Zuerrer is taking the opportunity try and help nurture young Swiss sailing talent, the majority of his crew, that includes Flavio Marazzi, the Swiss Olympic Star sailing legend on mainsheet, are new to the RC44. The exception is Kiwi tactician/coach Cameron Dunn who brings vast experience with him. “Employing him was the best choice I’ve made,” admits Zuerrer. “He has a lot of experience and is a nice guy and he can teach our young guys.”

Racing starts tomorrow with a first warning signal at 1200.  Follow the racing live at

44CUP Cascais entry list: 

ALEPH Racing (FRA17)
Alex Roepers (USA) – Guest Driver
Michele Ivaldi (ITA) – Tactician
Skip Baxter (NZL) – Main trimmer
James Dagg (NZL) – Headsail Trimmer
Lara Poljsak (SLO) – Offside Trimmer
Jaro Furlani (ITA) – Pit
Cian Guilfoyle (IRL) – Grinder
Paco Lepoutre (FRA) – Floater
Greg Gendell (USA) – Bow

Artemis Racing (SWE44)
Torbjorn Tornqvist (SWE) – Owner / Driver
Andy Horton (USA) – Tactician
Iain Percy (GBR) – Main trimmer
Maciel Cichetti (ITA) – Headsail Trimmer
Emanuele Marino (ITA) – Offside Trimmer
Stu Bettany (NZL) – Pit
Anders Ekstrom (SWE) – Grinder
Piet Van Nieuwenhuijzen (NED) – Bow

Black Star Sailing Team (SUI027)
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
Nick Zeltner (SUI) – Bow

CEEREF Powered by HRASTNIK 1860 (SLO1)
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
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
Ivan Peute (NED) – Bow

Peninsula Racing (GBR1)
John Bassadone (GBR) – Owner / Driver
Giles Scott (GBR) – Tactician
Robin Imaz (ESP) – Main trimmer
German Panei (ARG) – Headsail Trimmer
Mikel Pasabant (ESP) – Offside Trimmer
Matthew Barber (GBR) – Pit
Facundo Olezza (ARG) – Grinder
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
Juan Marcos (ARG) – Bow

Team Nika (MON10)
Vladimir Prosikhin (BUL) – Owner / Driver
Francesco Bruni (ITA) – Tactician
Sean Clarkson (NZL) – Main trimmer
Pierluigi De Felice (ITA) – Headsail Trimmer
Mitja Margon (SLO) – Offside Trimmer
Pietro Mantovani (ITA)  – Pit
Iztok Knafelc (SLO) – Grinder
Jeremy Lomas (NZL) – Bow

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