by Jo Grindley
RC44 Championship Tour 2012 kicks off on 8th February in Puerto Calero, Lanzarote. New faces and one new team are confirmed in the line-up.
Islas Canarias Puerto Calero - RC44 World Championship 2012
Each of the 14 competing teams will be hoping to emulate the success Chris Bake’s Team Aqua (GBR) saw in 2011. Bake will be back with the same team, including longstanding tactician Cameron Appleton (NZL), and fighting to lift the trophy for the second year in a row, despite some heavy-hitters joining the Tour in 2012.
The new all-Italian team joins the fleet for the 2012 season. AFX Capital Racing Team is owned by Massimo Barranco, founder and General Manager of Eurograni SpA Company, the largest wheat and cereal trader in Italy. The team will debut at the first event in Puerto Calero.
With a strict 50-50 split between amateurs and professionals in each eight-person crew, the amateur owners take the wheel for the fleet racing while the pro tacticians get their chance to steer during the match racing phase of the RC44 Championship Tour. In 2011 some of the owners proved very successful themselves at the helm for the match racing, a trend set to continue in 2012.
New professionals such as multiple America’s Cup winner Brad Butterworth (NZL), fellow Cup winner Ed Baird (USA) and Olympic medallist Ross Macdonald (CAN) are listed on the crew lists for first event of the season in Lanzarote.
Butterworth is perhaps best known for his role in the America’s Cup as tactician and skipper for Team New Zealand and Swiss team Alinghi. The New Zealander is no stranger to the RC44 fleet, having last season coached the David Murphy’s Ironbound in Austria. For 2012, he will be tactician for Gennadi Timchenko’s Russian entry Katusha, replacing long-time tactician Paul Cayard who will focus on his 34th America’s Cup commitments as CEO of Artemis Racing.
American Ed Baird also has an esteemed America’s Cup career, having been a coach for the 1995 Cup winning Team New Zealand and a helmsman for the 2007 Cup winning Alinghi team. For the Lanzarote, Baird joins the Valentin Zavadnikov and the crew of the Synergy Russian Sailing Team.
Ross Macdonald is one of Canada’s most successful international sailors, having won silver at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Macdonald will be aiming to help owner Pieter Heerema and the crew of No Way Back (NED) find their way back to the top of the leader board after finishing seventh in the 2011 Tour.
Adding another experienced match sailor to their crew, Team AEZ (AUT) will this season welcome Germany’s Markus Wieser. His past success in numerous Dragon regattas is sure to add to the Austrians’ fighting chances as owner as owner Rene Mangold explained. 'It was Christian Binders idea to ask Markus to join the team. Christian wants to concentrate further on his role as a sailmaker/designer for our project and will be on board AEZ as a crew this season, as well as being responsible for the sails and crew management. Apart from Markus the rest of the crew will be the same as 2011. Keeping this consistency we are confident that we have a lot of potential to improve. But it’s anyone’s game and to predict a result is hard to say in a fleet with so many world class sailors.'
Absent from the 2012 season is Oracle Racing, whose crew will be fully concentrating their efforts on the defence of their title at the 34th America’s Cup.
The 14 competing teams will again be challenged by a mixture of lake, ocean and harbour racing in 2012 with new host port, Cascais in Portugal, welcoming the fleet for the second round of the Tour.
RC44 Class Association website