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22 June 2007

OMEGA-RC44 Championship Tour

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Omega ambassador Russell Coutts, the most successful America’s Cup skipper in history, was in Switzerland this week with Team Omega for the fourth leg of the RC44 Championship Tour.

The Russell Coutts 44 is a class of boat Coutts designed with Slovenian naval architect Andrej Justin; it had its first regattas last year and this year’s programme has so far included visits to Portugal, Croatia and Slovenia.

This week’s regatta in southern Switzerland was the first RC 44 event held on a lake. The boats themselves are more or less identical and so results depend purely on the skill of the crew rather than on technology. Four teams took part this week: Team Omega, Team Aqua (the current leaders of the RC44 Championship Tour), Mascalzone Latino and Team Magia (Light Bay).

On the first day of racing the thermal mountain breeze began to build shortly after 2pm and the teams enjoyed three fiercely competitive fleet races. Spectators lined the shore of Lake Lugano to watch the impressive high-performance RC44s manoeuvre, tacking and accelerating in the shifty conditions with ease.

 

Team Omega, with guest helmsman Ronnie Pieper, VP of the Swiss Sailing Federation and a 5.5m world champion, smoothly dominated the first of the three fleet races. With Coutts calling tactics, Team Omega swiftly passed Vincenzo Onorato’s Mascalzone Latino on the first windward leg and led the fleet around the course. Team Aqua, with owner Chris Bake driving and tactician Cameron Appleton, quickly moved into second place, leaving Mascalzone Latino to finish third.

The event was also marked by the presence of Coutts’s fellow America’s Cup veteran Paul Cayard (five America’s Cups, two Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Races, one Olympic Games), who sailed with the Mascalzone Latino team.

Following the racing on Thursday Coutts, an Omega ambassador for the past two years, paid a visit to the Tourbillion boutique in Lugano, gave interviews and joined a cocktail party organised for a select group of Omega guests. The next round of the RC44 Championship takes place in Malcesine, Italy, in mid-July.

 

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