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44Cup 2024: Return of the Caleros

by 44Cup 28 Feb 10:14 PST 28 February - 3 March 2024
44Cup © Nico Martinez / 44Cup

Alongside names such as Bake, Lah and Törnqvist, one of the cornerstones of the RC44 has been Caleros.

After stints in the IMS 500 and GP42 grand prix classes, Lanzarote's Calero family was lured by Russell Coutts into joining his fledgling high performance owner-driver RC44 class for its second season in 2008. But far from merely having their own team, the Caleros are also one of the leading marina operators in the Canary Islands. As a result their Puerto Calero marina on Lanzarote featured on the RC44 calendar annually from 2008 to 2013, including the first all-important RC44 World Championships in 2010, 2011 and 2013.

More recently the 2023 season concluded here while tomorrow (Thursday 29 February) 44Cup racing will resume out of Puerto Calero for the circuit's first event of 2024. Unlike last autumn's event, the line-up for this 44Cup Calero Marinas will for the first time in 11 years feature a Calero family team. Calero Sailing Team will race the class' 'black boat', that is available for aspirant RC44 teams wishing to experience the 44Cup's ultra-tight racing (or in this case others wishing to remind themselves of it).

Calero operations in the Canaries Islands began in the late 1980s, led by family patriarch José Calero. Today Calero Marinas operates two marinas in Lanzarote, plus others in La Palma and Fuerteventura, run by elder son José Juan. Younger brother Daniel runs the family's real estate company Calmar Developments. Despite their busy business and family lives, both sons are involved in the team, but as was the case when they raced previously, Daniel is skipper. He has tasked local Lanzarote sailor Alfredo Gonzalez, a seven time world champion in classes ranging from the high competitive Snipe to the J/80, Swan 42 and 45, with putting the new team together.

While none of the original Calero team is back apart from the skipper, this is due to the campaign only having been put together at the last minute. All of the original crew have other commitments, some even elsewhere in the 44Cup fleet such as Gonzalo Morales, long term bowman on Peninsula Racing or their original tactician Gustavo Martínez Doreste, now coach for John Bassadone's team. "Some of them started with us when they were very young and now they have become pro. We helped them on their way, which I'm very proud of," states Daniel Calero.

The latest Calero crew is not only from Lanzarote but from all over Spain. Among them are multiple round the world race sailor Pablo Arrarte; two time 49er Olympian Iago López; TP52 grinder Francesco Scalice; four time world champion pitman Héctor González and trimmer Jon Lazarrabal, also a four time world champion. As is now typical across the fleet, they have a female crewwomen and theirs is equally well qualified in Silvia Mas, who in 2021 became the last 470 Women's World Champion (before the Olympic doublehander became mixed for Paris 2024).

In fact their present tactician Alfredo Gonzalez did race on board their Islas Canarias Puerto Calero but only for the Cagliari event in 2011 when he was just 23. Today he is one of eight professional race boat sailors from Lanzarote. That this should be case, and Lanzarote perhaps being best known of the Canaries Islands for hosting yacht races, Gonzalez attributes to the Caleros, their sailing campaigns and their marinas which have hosted events from the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Transatlantic Race to the Mini Transat to Volvo Ocean Race and IMOCA teams looking for winter training.

"The 44 is my favourite class," says Gonzales. "The style of sailing is super-good. It is a keel boat, similar to the Snipe, but it is also a technical boat which I like a lot."

Having past experience of the RC44 class (their top result was coming fifth from 15 boats in 2011), Daniel Calero recognises his team's limitations despite coming to the circuit with past experience. He admits their one and a half days of training is not enough, but remains optimistic: "You never know what can happen. The crew is very happy, they are enjoying being here in Lanzarote. Most of them know Puerto Calero from other events. They are very happy to be here which helps."

The Calero Sailing Team is supported by Calero Marinas, Calmar Desarrollos Residenciales and Lanzarote Premium, an initiative of the island to make its tourism more exclusive. As to their 11-year hiatus, Daniel explains that the timing just wasn't right coinciding with critical times in both their business and family lives. "I've spent too many years on the bench...so I am super-excited to be back. We hope to have fun and be competitive, but we are trying to restrain our expectations."

Racing sets sail at 1200 tomorrow. After two relative light weather events here, this week conditions look to be harsh. Today's practice racing was called off due to gale force winds blowing along the southeast coast of Lanzarote.

As Michele Ivaldi, tactician on Hugues Lepic's Aleph Racing, winner of last autumn's event here, explains: "We will have good breeze all week long, with high pressure coming down and low pressure over Africa, squeezing the isobars. I think the four days of racing all will be sailable, but we'll see. Two years ago it was quite light and last time we used our J1 [headsail] quite a lot of the time. This time it looks like we will use the J3 most of the time!"

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