Report 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina 2023
44Cup Alcaidesa Marina, 18 – 22 October 2023, La Línea de la Concepción, Spain
Off to the podium!
The second-to-last regatta of the 2023 44Cup season took place in the bay off La Linea. And with it came the long-awaited moment when the Black Star Sailing RC44 team was finally allowed to climb onto the podium.
Under the famous Rock of Gibraltar, of all places, we managed the small feat of achieving a podium place in our sixth regatta on our own yacht. So our credo of not closing ourselves off to criticism and facing all challenges with an open mind paid off for us almost symbolically at the foot of the iconic “Rock of Monkeys”.
The Alcaidesa Marina, the home harbour of the Penisula Sailing Team, is located on the Spanish side just below the aforementioned “Rock of Gibraltar”. The RC44 regatta, named after its home port, was organised in an exemplary manner, and thanks to the locally based sailing team, it was also ensured that there were no cargo ships in the regatta area.
With the additional strong wind experience from Cowes in our luggage, it was clear to us that we wanted to take another step forward in the Bay of Gibraltar.
The weather forecasts on the Sunday before the regatta week would have made us a little nervous earlier on: with little to a lot of wind, and that from all directions, pretty much everything was included. However, the fact that the forecast meant that the opening day, of all days, was in doubt did not stop us from sticking to our timetable in our preparations.
On Monday evening, we held a team meeting to review the World Championships. At this meeting, we came to the decision to make a change on board. Will Ryan was to take over the position of “Main Trimmer” from Flavio Marazzi. Will brought new energy and a fresh “outside perspective” to the team.
We had already timetabled Tuesday according to the competition rhythm: after breakfast, we travelled to the marina, prepared the yacht for sailing and, after a short lunch on board, set off for training. In surprisingly summery temperatures and light winds, we were able to go through and refine the manoeuvres in the new constellation. At times, we were accompanied by whole schools of dolphins, which romped and played around our yacht. Fortunately, none of the notorious orca whales were sighted in the bay.
Wednesday marked the official start of the regatta with the practice races. We started the three scheduled races with full commitment and the will to win – and were promptly rewarded with a second place. The team worked practically without a hitch, the boat speed was right and the manoeuvres were just as we wanted them to be. Even though, as usual, all teams sail these training regattas with “old” sails, we were extremely satisfied with the day and the times we achieved. After all, better results also give us more confidence ahead of the upcoming competition days.
The wind was promptly so strong on Thursday that the race committee decided early on to cancel the whole day. There is a rule in the RC44 class that stipulates that no regatta can take place in wind speeds of more than 25 knots (45 km/h). The reason for this is that such conditions are always accompanied by strong gusts, which means that the large sail areas of an RC44 yacht often cannot be “reefed” quickly enough – which sometimes leads to dangerous situations. The aim of cancelling the event is to prevent people and equipment from being damaged.
On Friday, the conditions were better again so that we were able to start the actual regatta on time. We started the official series very successfully with a second place. Somehow everyone on the boat sensed that today was THE day – and we promptly finished the second race in first place. Even the start of this successful second race was remarkable: our tactic was to keep clear of other yachts to the left of the start boat and to start across the line from there. A massive shift in the wind shortly before the starting signal prompted us to tack spontaneously. This resulted in a so-called “port start” for us. In other words, we crossed the starting line without giving way and crossed to the right side of the regatta course in front of the entire field. It is not often that such a spectacular start is achieved. The feedback from the other teams and the attention on social media were correspondingly high.
At full speed, we could see storm clouds gathering on the horizon. Along with the rain came a strong wind front that exceeded 35 knots, prompting the race organisers to stop the race. We sailed on to the buoy in full rain without much visibility and realised that we had actually been the first team to round. But we were not discouraged.
With more moderate winds, the second race was started again and sailed to the end. We started the race well again and rounded the windward mark as the second yacht, but jibed earlier than the leading Artemis team and were therefore the first yacht to round the leeward gate. In the second lap that followed, we never relinquished the lead and were the first team to cross the finish line. Our first race win in this boat class was thus a fact.
It was pleasing to see that we were able to reach speed in strong winds and keep our mistakes in the manoeuvres to a minimum compared to the other teams.
Saturday proved that we were absolutely on the right track. We started the first race with a second place, followed by another incredible first place in the second race. Unfortunately, the last race on Saturday didn’t go our way, but we were able to hold on to second place overall. Everything was wide open again for the final day. As usual, the first four places were only a few points apart.
Coping with mistake
Sunday welcomed us again with more wind, and the cards were completely reshuffled. We started the first race full of motivation and were well on course. Unfortunately, our decision on how to round the windward buoy proved to be wrong and we found ourselves at the back of the field. As we all know, setbacks can’t discourage us and so we were able to limit the damage to some extent over the remaining races.
Of course, it wasn’t enough for the top of the podium. Nevertheless, we were rewarded for our best regatta to date with third place overall.
Needless to say, we are proud of the result. At the same time, however, the 44Cup Alcaidesa Marina has once again shown us that we still have a long way to go on our way to the top.
Once again, we would like to thank you for all the support and encouragement we receive on a daily basis. It is a huge adventure to run a campaign like Black Star and we consider it a privilege to be supported so enthusiastically and generously on our way to the top.
We will keep you up to date – and continue to count on you!
Find more pictures of the 44Cup Worlds Cowes 2023 in our RC44 picture gallery on our website: