The RC44 is a light displacement, high performance one-design racing yacht, which through its meticulous design and construction, allows the owner/drivers who contest the RC44 Championship Tour to really experience the thrill of sailing a top-end racing boat.
Co-designed by five-time America’s Cup winner Russell Coutts with naval architect Andrej Justin, the class endeavours to keep competition as fair as possible by ensuring the boats are strictly identical in terms of construction, shape of hull and appendages and weight/weight distribution as well as deck layout and equipment and sail plan.
With everything, from the keel to the tip of the mast, made entirely from carbon, and with a powerful sail plan, the RC44 is rapid downwind, commanding upwind and performs exceptionally in both light winds and heavier breezes.
So as well as presenting a mouth-watering opportunity for the amateur owner/drivers, the class also attracts the world’s top professional sailors as the RC44’s innovative and cutting-edge design features presents them with an exciting new sailing challenge to master.
“We wanted to include a degree of complexity so an owner can experience what a top-end race boat is like to sail, and it delivers on that,” explains Coutts. “I wanted to create a boat that would be exciting to sail downwind and powerful in light winds, because most of the harbour and lake sailing is staged at lighter wind venues.
“I also wanted a boat that could be sailed short-handed with a deck layout incorporating many non-standard adjustments. The trim tab on the keel is an example of that, to reduce keel area yet still achieve good upwind performance and manoeuvrability. It adds to the boat’s complexity but the racing enthusiast will enjoy trialling the different tab angles and the resulting performance benefits.”
William Douglas, guest driver on 17 during the 2010 Tour, believes the class has achieved its goal. He said: “It is a great boat for somebody who wants a big, strong, powerful boat that goes fast and really performs, and anybody that likes one-design sailing. I think they would find this a little bit more stable in terms of not getting tossed around as much.”
As well as the strict one-design class rules, one of the class’ other major concerns was ease of transportation and storage - it was important the RC44 was a non-complicated boat to own and could be raced in the summer and put away relatively easily in the winter.
The RC44 class has constantly strived to help owners by developing innovative solutions to facilitate the logistics and minimise costs.
As John Bassadone, owner of Peninsula Petroleum, enthused, “Definitely the logistics makes everything a lot easier; the whole way the boat is set-up is very clean and very easy,” while Artemis Racing head Torbjorn Tornqvist added, “The boat is exciting, there is nothing out that can compare with that while the concept of moving it around means that the budget is reasonable.”
So how do they do it?
The stern of the boat is removable to allow the transportation length to be less than 40 feet. The keel fin attachment is also easily detachable and the mast is assembled in two parts enabling all equipment to be stored and transported on a flat deck container to anywhere in the world.
To complement this, the RC44 class enjoys the benefits of a revolutionary container that not only carries the boat but serves as a cradle once the boat arrives at a regatta venue. All equipment including sails, rudder, keel fin, boom, mast and spares are stored in compartments within the container. The bulb is transported in position under the hull.
An RC44 takes just one day to reassemble when it arrives at its next port of call.
Then there is the class’ expert technical support team, who work to ensure every boat is in prime racing condition every time it ventures onto the start line and can even get a boat back on the water just an hour after a major collision.
Islas Canarias Puerto Calero enjoyed the full benefits of the technical support crew when she suffered a catastrophic mast breakage during the 2010 ORACLE RC44 Cup Miami. She returned ashore where the crew began stepping a spare mast that the class has available at each regatta for such incidents.
An impressed Jose Juan Calero, the boat’s owner, said: “We went into the yard and the class had a mast ready for us, which is unbelievable. This is one of the best things about the class and we were ready to race again the next day.”
The men behind the magic
Name: Russell Coutts
Nationality: New Zealand
Born: March 1 1962 in Wellington, New Zealand
Academic background: The University of Auckland, Bachelor of Engineering
Career highlights: Russell Coutts has won the America's Cup as a skipper four times and once as CEO of ORACLE Racing at the 34th America's Cup in 2013. His sailing record includes winning the ISAF Youth World Championships, Finn class gold at the 1984 Olympics, three World Match Racing Championships, numerous international match race wins and IOR, IMS and One Design World Championship victories. In New Zealand he has been honoured with a Commander of the British Empire and the Distinguished Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit and has twice been the ISAF World Sailor of the Year.
Name: Andrej Justin
Born: 1959 in Koper on the Adriatic coast
Academic background: Studied electronics and civil engineering in Ljubljana, Slovenia and architecture in Graz, Austria before graduating in Yacht Design from the Westlawn Institute of Marine Technology in 1993.
Career Highlights: Andrej has lived with yachts and the sea all through his life. He designed his first boats for the biggest Slovenian boat builder ELAN in the late 1980s, and has designed several racing boats from 33-foot match race one design to 80-foot carbon, canting keel Maxi Jena. He has also designed cruisers from 37 foot to the Palmer Johnson 90' in aluminium.