by Jo Grindley
Following a breezy practice race that had blown away the cobwebs after a three month break, conditions were more gentle for the commencement of the RC44 Oman Cup presented Oman Shipping Company.
Lunajets Aleph Racing and Ironbound on the line - 2013 RC44 Oman Cup
With the race course just outside of The Wave Muscat’s marina complex, it was Katusha who relished the conditions at the events only day of match racing, finishing the day unbeaten. New tactician Andy Horton took the helm and held off some tough competition including 2012 RC44 Match Race Champions, Synergy Russian Sailing team, he clearly enjoyed the day.
'It was awesome, what a day for it to all come together, the pieces of the team just seemed to fall in to place. We had 4-11 knots of breeze with six races seven flights in total, no other boat in the world would you get that many races in 4-10 knots of breeze and be on the dock by 4pm!'
Andy Horton at the helm of Katusha - 2013 RC44 Oman Cup
It wasn’t just the professional sailors who shone on the day where either the pros or owners can opt to helm; Brian Benjamin joined the class at the end of 2012 having purchased the old Oracle Racing and for the first event of the season, class founder Russell Coutts is sailing with Team Aegir. Benjamin is helming both the match and fleet racing. The team finished the day with four wins and just two losses as the newest owner in the class explained.
'Today was pretty cool, we enjoyed it a lot. We have never won a match race before so beating Ed (Baird) was very satisfying. After that we were on a bit of a roll and won three more matches before letting the last one go, but we had a really good day, the crew learnt a lot and I learnt a lot being at the helm for the entire day.'
Brian Benjamin and Russell Coutts on Aegir Racing - 2013 RC44 Oman Cup
Synergy also finished the day with a 4-2 scoreline, losing two matches to Aegir and Katusha. Out of the 13 boats, half the owners took the helm today. Another top performer was Igor Lah at the helm of Team Ceeref with Michele Ivaldi calling the shots. The Slovenian team won three of their five matches.
The French Lunajets Aleph Team match against Team Aqua proved to be the most exciting of the day. Rounding the final windward mark the French team were ahead of Aqua but a penalty down. As they approached the finish line they slowed, Aqua responded trying to match their every move. Both teams ended up the wrong side of the finish line, with Aqua then infringing Aleph as they tried to squeeze between their opposition and the finishing bouy. Their red penalty flag gave the win to Aleph.
The RC44’s crash bows, designed to take an impact and not damage the hull, also came into good effect in Team Aqua’s race against Ironbound. Chris Bake had successfully shut David Murphy’s Ironbound out at the committee boat in the pre-start, Murphy dipped to try and release himself from the situation, but just caught Team Aqua’s stern. Ironbound were deducted two points for the damage, Team Nika were also penalised and deducted three points in another incident.
Oman Sail are hosting the event at The Wave, Muscat. Although the class has raced the region before, this is their first time in Oman, and the fleet are clearly enjoying the new venue.
Thursday sees the start of four days of fleet racing for the RC44 Oman Cup presented by Oman Shipping.