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Photo by Todd VanSickle
Photo by Todd VanSickle

RC44 Racing Series Makes a Stop in Virgin Gorda

Traveling to the Caribbean can be challenging, especially if you need to bring a 44ft boat with you to compete in a highly competitive regatta.

But if you have the money and some of the best sailors from around the world, things become a little easier.

For the first time since 2010, a leg of the RC44 Series was held in the Caribbean. During previous seasons, the closest it had come to the region was Key West, Florida. The Caribbean regatta was billed as the RC44 Virgin Gorda Cup hosted by Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in North Sound on February 12-16.

The defending champion was Team Aqua, which pulled off a come-from-behind victory to win the Virgin Gorda Cup.

“We won last season, so we set ourselves a pretty high bar,” Team Aqua grinder Ben Graham said.

Team Aqua was among the nine teams from around the world who competed in the four-day regatta.

“The concept of this fleet is to move around,” said RC44 Class Manager Betrand Favre.

On average, a team spends about $700,000 to compete in the five-race series, while a new RC44 boat with sails costs about the same. The series started with the Virgin Gorda Cup.

The fleet of RC44s start a race in North Sound, Virgin Gorda. The four-day regatta featured fleet and matching racing and a 30-mile race. Photo by Todd VanSickle
The fleet of RC44s start a race in North Sound, Virgin Gorda. The four-day regatta featured fleet and matching racing and a 30-mile race. Photo by Todd VanSickle

Christian Kamp of Team Artemis sails more than 200 days a year. He considers himself lucky to compete for Torbjorn Tornqvist, the team’s owner and driver.

“It is a huge commitment,” Kamp said. “It is a lot of money and time out of his busy schedule. We are really fortunate to have an owner who is this keen and willing to spend money and go traveling on this great circuit.”

Mr. Kamp first visited the BVI when he competed in the Melges 32 Sailing Series last February, which was also hosted by YCCS.

“That is when we actually decided to have this class here,” Kamp said.

He sat down with the organizers and lobbied to have the event in the BVI.

“It hasn’t let us down,” Kamp said.

However, there were some challenges.

A few hundred yards away from YCCS, a barge with seven containers and a large crane was anchored and held in place by a tugboat. The containers were filled with workbenches, sail racks, splicing devices and enough tools to make a small chandlery envious.

“Once you go from a 30ft boat to a 40ft boat you need that kind of set up,” Kamp said. “They are race boats; they need a lot of maintenance. They are made out of carbon. A lot of stuff breaks, they are made as light as possible. Obviously, when we push the boats, they start breaking down. It is like a race car.”

He estimates that the RC44s, designed by Russell Coutts, can reach speeds of about 25 knots.

The boat’s design allows it to be shipped easily from venue to venue.

“The RC44 actually removes a lot of the challenges from shipping from the normal boat. They are quite narrow,” Graham said. “The stern comes off and allows it to fit in an open 40ft container. They are relatively easy to ship.”

However, there were some logistics with getting the boats to the BVI.

“Bringing the fleet here was not easy,” Favre said.

He said the draft at Port Purcell on Tortola is very limited, so finding a container ship that was on its way to the territory with the proper draft was challenging.

The boats started arriving in early January and were set up at Nanny Cay Marina, just a few miles away from Port Purcell.

Three days after the regatta, the boats were disassembled and packed in containers to be shipped to the next venue — Cascais, Portugal.

The RC44 series has 12 to 13 teams, but the “trip to the BVI was a little bit expensive” so some teams opted not to compete in the Caribbean regatta, Favre said.

Currently, the organizer is working on next year’s schedule, which will be finalized in July.

“It is a great venue,” Favre said of the BVI. “We will for sure come back at some point.”

For results and information about the RC44 Circuit, visit: www.rc44.com

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