With its strict one-design racing format the RC44 class is as level a playing field as you could wish to find in international yacht racing.
This adds up to hugely-competitive events, where every sailor’s skills across the whole range of conditions are tested to the maximum, and a Tour series that so often goes down to the wire.
All boats are identical in terms of construction, the shape of the hull and appendages, weight and weight distribution, deck layout and equipment.
Each team is also limited to the number of sails they can use at every event meaning a boat’s performance is purely down to team work onboard.
The RC44 Championship Tour is made up of two elements – fleet racing and match racing.
With a strict 50-50 split between amateurs and professionals in each eight-person crew, the amateur owners take the wheel for the fleet racing while the pro skippers get their chance to shine at the helm during the match racing.
Chris Bake, owner of Team Aqua and current 2012 RC44 Championship Tour leaders, comments on the secret behind his teams success "We spend a lot of time on boat set up and getting the boat in good condition for racing, knowing there are no equipment issues allows us to really focus on boat speed and crew work which has been one of our priorities this year.
In 2012 racing will take place over five days, with one day of match racing followed by four days of fleet racing.
The RC44 Championship Tour 2011 comprises six events and at the end of the Tour series two champions are crowned:
1) RC44 Fleet Racing Championship Tour champion
2) RC44 Match Racing Championship Tour champion
How the scoring works
With the team owners at the helm, and the pros calling tactics, the fleet racing events are very short, intense and action-packed affairs, with boats frequently separated by just seconds at the finish line.
There are generally three to four fleet races a day, depending on weather conditions, and there is no discard meaning every single race placing really matters.
Points are allocated on the standard ISAF ‘low point system’, so the boat that comes first in a race gets one point, second gets two points etc. The team with the fewest points at the end of the fleet racing at each event is that event’s fleet racing winner.
The class also has the option to introduce a long distance race during a fleet racing series. These races are often two-three hours long, with teams sometimes given the challenge to circumnavigate nearby islands and landmarks rather than just around the cans racing.
Where a team finishes in an event fleet racing rankings equals how many points they count in the overall RC44 Championship Tour fleet racing rankings. For example the team that finishes fifth in the fleet racing at event one scores five fleet racing points for that event.
If a boat doesn’t compete at one event they score the total number of boats taking part +2 points for that event.
The final RC44 Fleet Racing Championship Tour champion is determined by adding together every team’s five best fleet racing scores from the six events, with the lowest score winning.
The fleet racing takes place on a windward-leeward course, with a dog leg at the windward mark and a gate at the leeward mark.
Match racing is compelling to watch and a race can be won or lost before the start signal has even been sounded so important and exciting is the pre-start.
With the pros at the wheel, boats go head-to-head in a rolling round robin format throughout the six events, with the rankings based on the number of victories and losses each team picks up.
The match racing contests are held on a windward-leeward course with one gate at the leeward mark.
The RC44 World Championship
The first ISAF-ratified RC44 World Championship took place at Puerto Caleros, Lanzarote in October 2010 and was won by the combined force of Anders Myralf and James Spithill on ‘17’.
This year the World Championship returns to Lanzarote where it will also double up as the final event of the Championship Tour season. Two thrilling events for the price of one!
Points scored at the World Championship count as normal towards the final Tour rankings but the overall winner of the event also walks away with the prestigious title of RC44 World Champion.