by Jessica Gray
Competition in the RC44 fleet gears up this week for the RC44 Puerto Sotogrande Cup, taking place close to Gibraltar on Spain’s Andalucian coast. Since the last event in Cascais, John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum has taken the lead in the rolling RC44 ChampionshipTour from Team Aqua, and with it the coveted ‘golden wheels’. The wheels will be taken off Chris Bake’s Team Aqua ready to be fitted to Bassadone’s RC44 for the start of the third event of the season.
Onboard with Peninsula Petroleum
However Peninsula Petroleum will have to prise them off. Thanks to her impeccably consistent performance over the last few seasons, Team Aqua has ‘owned’ the golden wheels for three consecutive years, an unbroken run, except for Katusha briefly claiming them at the opening event of the 2013 Tour.
At present the top of the 2014 fleet racing leaderboard could not be closer with Team Aqua winning in Virgin Gorda in February with Peninsula Petroleum runner-up, while these positions were reversed at the RC44 Cascais Cup in April. Both are now on three points, and hold a five-point margin over third placed Synergy Russian Sailing Team.
RC44 Cascais Cup - Vladimir Liubomirov, Vladimir Prosikhin and John Bassadone
Bassadone remains modest about his achievement: 'I am only borrowing the golden wheels from my good mate Chris Bake (Team Aqua)! They are the top team and I am sure they will have them back at the next event.
'Any success is down to a lot of hard work from the team to improve, during races as well as in between races. Vasco [Vascotto] and the guys work so hard to get the boat in the best condition and they have a fantastic attitude. Then there is always luck, which you need at this level of sailing.'
RC44 Cascais Cup - John Bassadone at the helm of Peninsula
For Peninsula Petroleum’s owner-driver, the timing is also fortuitous because he takes the golden wheels going into the RC44 Puerto Sotogrande Cup, an event being held out of his own homeport.
This is the first time the fleet has raced out of what is the largest privately owned residential development in Andalucia.
'It is a beautiful part of the world with lots to offer,' says Bassadone. 'Hopefully there will be good wind, even though it is June and it will provide fair racing. It will be fun.'
RC44 Cascais Cup - Team Aqua (GBR2041)
Sotogrande is located just inside the Mediterranean, some 25km east of Gibraltar, and conditions there can be decidedly un-Mediterranean. 'If you have a westerly, it can blow pretty hard,' Bassadone continues. 'You can have very flat water, but it can still be very gusty. Hopefully we get a westerly and if not, the easterly can also be quite good.'
The 11 team line-up for the RC44 Puerto Sotogrande Cup remains the same as it was for Cascais, with the exception of the Italian team Bombarda Racing which is standing down for this event due to prior commitments. Otherwise the only development has been the further commitment to the class of the Dutch sailor Nico Poons, who has purchased the former RC44 Puerto Calero Residence Club Black and will become a permanent fixture on the Tour, attracted by the close one design racing the fleet provides. This is the same boat Poons raced in Cascais and has now been rechristened Charisma, the same name as his previous Farr 40. His crew will once again include Oracle Team USA strategist Tom Slingsby.
Russell Coutts returns to the circuit in Sotogrande where he will be racing aboard Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika, currently lying fifth overall on the 2014 RC44 Championship leaderboard.
The RC44 Sotogrande Cup will take place over 25th-29th June, kicking off with practice racing on Tuesday 24th June, 14.00 CET.
RC44 fleet racing in Cascais
RC44 Cascais Cup - Peninsula Petroleum blasting downwind