Team Aleph wins in Lanzarote as Team Aqua claims 2021 44Cup
Over four of the most difficult days of racing in 44Cup history, an impressive seven races were still held at the 44Cup Calero Marinas Lanzarote frequently in 5-6 knots wind, conditions, frankly, in which most other yachts would have been unable to race.
The schedule for the final day of racing, off the blackened alien landscape of Lanzarote’s south coast, was brought forward by two hours to 1000 UTC. PRO María Torrijo had made this call in order to provide the best window of opportunity to race given the forecast of a fourth day of light winds in this usually windy venue.
Ultimately just one race was successfully sailed and this produced a photofinish between Pavel Kuznetsov’s Atom Tavatuy and John Bassadone’s Peninsula Petroleum, with the Russian team taking the bullet by millimetres, from the Gibraltese on which double Olympic Finn gold medallist Giles Scott was calling tactics. This was the Russian team’s third bullet in seven races sailed and was enough to leave them ending the regatta in second place – their best result since joining the 44Cup full time in 2019. However, in typical 44Cup style, this was on a complex countback, tied on points with Igor Lah's Team Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 and Chris Bake’s Team Aqua. In turn they were just one ahead of 44Cup newbies ARTTUBE, skippered by the 44Cup’s sole female helm, Valeriya Kovalenko, who finished fifth of nine in their second ever 44Cup event.
The finish in what would be the final race of the event, and of the season, was close in typical style thanks to the boats being so even and the teams so experienced that the racing is the closest. This season for example Igor Lah's Ceeref powered by Hrastnik 1860 won their home regatta in Portorož, Slovenia by five points at the start of the season. Otherwise this year the winner has always been decided on countback or has won by just one point after 10-12 races sailed.
However here in Lanzarote, this trend has been shattered by Hugues Lepic’s Team Aleph. The winners of August’s 44Cup Cowes were racing here with Italian Alessandro Rombelli, standing in for Lepic on the helm. Incredibly the Rombelli-steered Team Aleph won this week’s 44Cup Calero Marina Lanzarote by a resounding 14 points after just seven races. Extrapolate this out to a 44Cup’s usual 12 races and Team Aleph’s win would have been by 24 points. This is perhaps less surprising given that Rombelli has in the past campaigned a Maxi 72 and is a recent Melges 20 and 32 World Champion.
But within the bigger picture of the 2021 44Cup season’s title, the competition was as usual as close as you would expect. Going into this event, Chris Bake’s World Championship winning team on Team Aqua were leading, two points ahead of Ceeref. A highly uncharacteristic last place in today’s only race dropped Team Aqua back to fourth, with Ceeref in third, but tied on points. Effectively separated now by just one point, meant some match racing between the two teams was certain going into the final race. Sadly, with the wind down to 3-4 knots and after a long wait, Mother Nature deprived them of this happening, handing the 2021 44Cup title to Team Aqua.
Team Aqua was the stand-out team in the 44Cup’s early years, winning its fleet racing championship for four consecutive years over 2011-14. Recently the team has been more success as RC44 World Champions, this year successfully defending their title from 2019. This is the first time Bake’s team has won both the 44Cup and the World Championship in one season (which Ceeref managed in 2016, a year after Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika was the first team to achieve this).
The 44Cup resumes in 2022 with five events scheduled.