Day three of fleet racing the RC44 Oman Cup saw the lightest conditions so far this week. There were mixed fortunes for the overall leader Katusha and Team Aqua closed the gap at the top of the leaderboard.
Racing in Muscat got underway in a light 6-8 knots, the American afterguard of Steve Howe and Andy Horton on Katusha, were quick off the blocks leading from start to finish in the day’s opener. Vladimir Prosikhin’s Team Nika continued their consistent form to finish second. Synergy then made it a Russian 1,2,3. With Artemis Racing fourth and Team Aqua seventh, the fight for the podium was getting tight.
Race eight of the series started in seven-knots and then slowly decreased. Chris Bake’s Team Aqua can never to be written off, they like a late comeback, and that’s exactly what the team did. Rounding the windward mark in the lead, it was now their main rival, Gennadi Timchenko’s Katusha, struggling back in 10th. Team Aqua continued to sail away from the fleet for an emphatic victory, behind them Valentin Zavadnikov’s Synergy were having a good day finishing second, tactician Ed Baird’s strategy of starting at the committee boat and tacking straight off to get a clean lane paying dividends. Artemis Racing added a third to their scoreline to stay in overall contention, but with Katusha picking up the maximum 13-points, Team Aqua had closed the gap to 10-points.
Katusha’s tactician Andy Horton wasn’t downbeat and is looking forward to the final day of racing. “Today was hero to zero. In the first race we sailed well, got off the start pretty quick and the guys did a good job of everything. In the second race we had a good start but didn’t go the right way and hit a few bad spots, I’ll put my hand up for a bit of that. You would never expect to be in this position at the end of a regatta, but you can always hope for it. We’re going in to the last day of sailing with a 10 point lead, were doing just fine, we will take that any day.”
As the wind faded, Russell Coutts, onboard Team Aegir this week, was already at the mouth of the marina as race officer Peter ‘Luigi’ Reggio called it a day.
Just three points separate second placed Team Aqua and Nika in fourth, it is all to play for on the final day of racing at the RC44 Oman Cup, presented by Oman Shipping. The forecasters are expecting some strong winds, known locally as the shamal, a northwesterly wind unusual in the summer months that can result in some major sandstorms.
The penultimate day of racing at the RC44 Oman Cup also saw 30 of the top Omani Youth Programme sailors and their coaches visit the event. The young Optimists, Laser Radials and Laser 4.7 sailors are in the middle of a three-week training camp and there was some fierce competition to earn one of the 13 available ninth man places.
David Graham, CEO and his team at Oman Sail have welcomed the class and provided some excellent race management and hospitality for the teams. “To have the RC44 class here is amazing for us, especially for the children they have been training so hard and to now to be sailing with the stars like Russell Coutts, Ed Baird, Paul Goodison, showing the kids what sailing is like at the top end. There are also some synergies between what Oman Sail are doing and what the class is doing. The class is a Pro Am event and our guys have got something to look forward to, to inspire them in their own personal sailing.”
10,000 young Omani’s have so far been introduced to sailing by Oman Sail since the programme started nearly five years. By the end of 2020, they plan to have eight Sailing School’s spanning the coastline of Oman and have introduced 70,000 Omanis to sailing. The ultimate aim of the programme is to win a medal for the Sultanate in the 2024 Olympic Games.
Sunday 3rd February is the final day of racing at the RC44 Oman Cup, presented by Oman Shipping. The first warning signal is due at 1130 (GST). Follow the final day of racing on the live blog at www.rc44.com.