An outsider going into the decisive regatta of the 2012 tour, the eight-man keelboat owned and steered by John Bassadone was not really in contention after the first two days in Rovinj, only to storm to five race wins out of seven and leapfrog their fellow British-run rival.
Peninsula had trailed Aqua by nine points going into the final day after cutting the deficit with three victories on the penultimate day, but two wins from three races on Sunday proved enough, despite a thrilling last race in which Chris Bake’s boat narrowly failed to overhaul what was a five-point margin going into the decider.
The day’s sailing saw winner Peninsula claim two firsts and a ninth to total 65 points, while Aqua managed a fourth, seventh and 12th to finish on 68.
Slovenia’s Team Ceerif placed third on 76, while the likes of Torbjorn Torqvist’s Artemis (Sweden), Russia’s Katusha and all-French boat Aleph Racing failed to replicate the season’s form and were not in contention.
The final season standings made good reading for Aqua though, having won two regattas, placed second in two and fourth in another, with the worst result discarded to leave a year-winning total of just six points. Katusha was second on 13 points, with Artemis one behind in third.
In surprisingly light and sunny conditions on the Adriatic off Istria, Peninsula’s victory was certainly a surprise, although the signs were there after Saturday.
“We couldn’t see ourselves wining this title a few days ago,” Gibraltar-based Bassadone told Eurosport afterwards. “We definitely have the ability on the boat, the crew is fantastic and the tactician Vasco (Vascotto) is world class.
“It’s such a difficult class, despite the ability. We were hoping for a top five, which would have been a fantastic result, but to win it was incredible.”
Peninsula’s turnaround owed a lot to their speed, which Vascotto and the crew used to build on some superb starts. Decision-making, trimming and communication all play their part, but Bassadone feels a relaxed mentality helps get the best out of the boat.
“You don’t go out there trying to win all your races – you look to get a clean start, sail your own race and have confidence in your boat speed.
“The worst thing would have been to set that sort of goal. When you sail a relaxed race, and sail to your ability, you get some good results.”
The majority of the top boats have multi-national crews, and Bassadone’s Peninsula is no different. However, with the exception of Italian Vascotti, some dialect of Spanish is the first language, with English spoken fluently. And with communication and decision-making key, they reaped the rewards.
“The fact that everyone is fluent in Spanish and English helps – because whenever someone says something, everyone understands.
“It doesn’t matter whether I’m speaking Gibraltarian, which is a mix of both, or if Vasco is speaking a mixture of English, Italian and Spanish, we all understand and can act quickly.
“We’ll be back next year, we’ll work even harder next year, we’re super dedicated, we’re enjoying it massively. It’s the best class in the world in my opinion and we’ll give it our best shot.”
There was an obvious air of disappointment within Aqua, whose tactician Cameron Appleton – an America’s Cup winner from New Zealand – was subdued but positive in defeat.
The key incident on Sunday came during race two, which saw Aqua lose speed after a risky tack after the first mark. Initially the move saw Aqua edge ahead, but things went wrong soon afterwards to result in a fourth. But Appleton was keen to point out that Peninsula’s ability to win so many races at the crunch made for a deserving winner.
“In the second race we went out of phase on the second beat and we lost four or five boats,” Appleton admitted.
“In the final race we needed six boats to win and we got three. We did what we could but it wasn’t enough.
“It was a tough day and Peninsula Petroleum turned it on yesterday and they turned it on today. We didn’t have anything to match their performances. They sailed really well and are deserved winners and we can only congratulate them.
“We come out with a season win this year, and our worst result was a fourth.
“The guys on board are unbelievable pleasure to sail with and Chris as our owner has been phenomenal for six years. Without the guys we can’t be as strong as we are, and we consider ourselves one of the strongest of the teams.”
RC44 World Championship 2012 final standings:
1. Peninsula Petroleum (GBR) - 65
2. Team Aqua (GBR) - 68
3. TEAM CEEREF (Slo) - 76
4. Synergy (Rus) - 86
5. Katusha (Rus) - 87
6. Nika (Rus) - 92
7. Artemis Racing (Swe) - 95
8. AEZ (Aut) -105
9. No Way Back (Ned) - 118
10. Aleph (Fra) - 122
11. AFX Capital (Ita) -123
12. Ironbound (USA) - 124
13. Aegir (GBR) - 127
14. RUS-7 (Rus) - 130
15. MAG Racing (Pol) - 149
RC44 2012 Year Rankings:
1. Aqua - 6
2. Katusha - 13
3. Artemis - 14
4. Peninsula - 15
5. Ceeref - 18
6. Synergy - 19
7. AEZ - 24
8. Aleph - 24
9. Nika - 30
10. No Way Back - 33
11. Ironbound - 41
12. AFX - 44
13. Puerto Calero - 47
14. RUS-7 - 47
15. Aegir - 53
16. MAG - 75