We just came home from Sweden where we joined HYT watches to witness the RC44 Marstrand Cup. The RC44 is a sailing class on its own with a one-design racing yacht. As all ships are strictly identical it all comes down to the crew and their skills. With a lot of ‘big names’ in the sailing world on deck you won’t be surprised we witnessed some fast paced action on board. On board we hear you think? Yes! The RC44 Cup offers the unique experience to enjoy the race, during the last heat, right from the spartan deck.
So back to last Thursday in Marstrand. After arriving at the stand we were welcomed by HYT and the people from RC44. Daily instructions for the teams are followed by a presentation about sailing, the RC44 Cup and program of the day.
Afterwards HYT presents us with their H1 Air RC44 timpiece. Created as part of the partnership as official timekeeper of the RC44 Championship Tour. Some of the biggest alterations of the HYT H1 is the use of an aluminium composite for the case and a sapphire dial with applied carbon fibre, leaving details underneath visible. The RC logo is applied at the 4 0’clock position, the 44 can be found on the seconds disc. On the caseback you will notice a 4 that is shaped as the steering wheels of the yachts. The H1 Air RC44 is limited to 22 pieces only.
We learn that the 44 feet yachts are all identical and constructed for performance. These ships weigh roughly 3500kg of which 2200kg is in the keel. This low weight is a result of using carbon exclusively for the construction of the yacht. They are specially designed for easy transport as the annual 5 events are held on various locations in the world. After breaking down the ship it can be transported without oversize restrictions. The hightech ships make the link with HYT clear. High-end and precision are key words for both just as the liquid they need to perform properly.
After the last instructions (“don’t talk to the crew and follow them from left to right”) we go on board of the hospitality ship and follow the yachts to the circuit. Five minutes before the start of the first fleet race, a sound signal is given and all yachts prepare for the start. They all line up and try to cross the starting line precisely when the starting flag drops. During the roughly 40 minutes of the first race our hospitality ship sails alongside the racing yachts.
Half way during the second fleet race we transfer from the comfortable boat to a small rib boat, and once again follow the yachts up and down the race track. With moderate waves this is an exciting experience as the rib slams into the waves and water splashes in all directions. As the second race finishes we join the RC44 yachts and all go on board of one. I would join the Bronenosec Sailing Team who won the championship in 2014.
After getting on board I made my way to the back of the ship as instructed. Following a short talk with the crew (they wanted to make sure I listened at the presentation) it’s time for the 3rd race. From the start onwards the crew take their position and runs the ship like a well oiled machine, constantly checking out weather conditions, waves and the competition.
“Listening carefully to the instructions earlier I learned that only photographers had fallen off the yachts so far.”
It was amazing to see how concentrated everybody was and the speed of minor adjustments being made the whole time. Honestly I didn’t expect to see this much action and intense racing. While going upwind you had to hold on tight as the ship was almost at an 45 degree angle. Listening carefully to the instructions earlier I learned that only photographers had fallen off the yachts so far. Downwind was somewhat more comfortable and left more room for some pictures.
During the race the yachts come close, very close! At some point there even was some minor contact between yachts. To give you an impression of how precise and close the ships are raced, here’s a photo of yachts crossing paths just meters apart.