The biggest event of the RS21 Calendar has begun in the stunning surrounds of Porto Rotondo in Sardinia, Italy. The RS21 World Championship 2023 is the second edition of the International Class Association’s Worlds, following on from their inaugural event in Croatia, 2022. This year, a record-breaking 55 boats from 11 countries have entered and the excitement on the water is only just beginning.
The RS21 is the ultimate one-design racing class. Sticking to the Corinthian ethos, sailors compete in identical RS21 keelboats; levelling the playing field and intensifying the competition. Success on the racecourse is determined by the skill and strategy of the crew rather than the difference in equipment.
Michiel Geerling, Commercial Director at RS Sailing and competitor in the NED’s ‘Rafiki’, has relished the close competition: “Racing is at a super-high tier on basically EVERY skill level. Even the boat that came last in Race 1 had tough competition – with at least five boats around them. It’s a really good event!”
Porto Rotondo is a beautiful town in Sardinia well known for hosting prestigious regattas. The Porto Rotondo Yacht Club has gone above and beyond to transform itself into an RS21 hub for the World Championship. The bright hulls of the RS21s glitter along the shoreline and a guest village has been erected alongside the racing paddock. There is also a huge marquee and stage – which was already graced by the Opening Ceremony on the first night.
The RS21 International Class Association ensures events are curated with a winning three-part formula: great venues, prestigious race areas and enjoyable socials. With stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife and a wealth of welcoming restaurants, Porto Rotundo ticks every box.
But what about the racing? The boats are designed to be handled by sailors of varying skill levels. Everyone has a role to play and ease-of-use is part of the attraction. The class encourages camaraderie among sailors. Shared equipment equals share opportunities; individuals and teams learn from each other throughout the events.
The ones to watch on the course are defending champions ITA’s Gianluca Grisoli, Federica Salvà, Gabriele Benussi and Giorgio Tortarolo on their boat ‘Beyond Freedom 2.0’. Not only are their tactics and skills enviable on the water, but they are racing on their brand-new RS21, hoping to up their game. Coming full circle, they are supporting the growth of the class with their original, barely-used boat also racing this week under new ownership.
AUS team ‘Nutcracker’ is top of the leader board after Day 1. Helmed by Robert Davis, the crew put in a dedicated season of racing in the lead-up to the Worlds, to really nail their crew work. Robert and his team of David Chapman, Matilda Davis and Finn Alexander look like a well-oiled machine on the racecourse and they’ll be defending their strong starting position fiercely over the next few days.
International Class President Martin Reintjes, racing on ‘Caipirinha’, and his ITA crew Francesco Rubagotti, Daniele Cassinari and Giulio Desiderato, are also firm favourites. Currently in second place after Day 1 of racing, Reintjes is an RS21 legend. He has been at the forefront of the class since it’s inception and his super-consistent helming skills puts him top of the game. With the week’s forecast shaping up to be a light but steady-wind event, his consistency could pay off. When 55 boats are racing, building a consistent overall series is more important that winning each individual race.
The RS21 is rapidly gaining in popularity thanks to its emphasis on close, tactical racing. This fresh approach engages seasoned sailors with a dynamic racing experience while, at the same time, attracting a new generation to the sport. UAE’s ‘P&O Marinas Sailing Academy’ boat is a testament to this sentiment. Fahim Al Qasimi, is racing for the first ever time as a helm in the event, supported by his teammates Hamad Almutawaa, Mitchell Webb and European Championship 2022 J70 gold medallist James Peters – also the former World No. 1 in the 49er Class and Paris 2024 campaigner.
Other firsts for the 2023 Championship include the first Spanish team entry on ‘Patakin’, the first all-female team ‘Magique et Terrible’ from Italy. This is also the first sailing event since London 2012 that is ISO 20121 Certified.
The Sustainable Event Management Standard Certification has been awarded to the RS21 World Championship 2023 as recognition of a sustainable management system and certifies the sustainability of the event and organisation. Partners for sustainability include the One Ocean Foundation and Up2You. Robotic racing marks, provided by MarkSetBot are being used on the racecourse. These anchorless marks are controlled remotely, reducing the need for course-laying ribs and damage to the seabed. Guglielmi are also supporting the event with the Pura Point water station in the Blue Village, where crews are refilling their water bottles each day before leaving the dock.
“The ISO 20121 certification is a great achievement for the RS21 Class. Sustainability is a key driver for us moving forwards. It’s great to have these partners on board and we welcome more of them for the future of our sport.” Nick Redding, RS21 Class Manager.
With the RS21 International Class Association already covering four continents, the 2023 World Championship is a celebration of how far the class has grown in the last five years. Fleets are continuing to build across the globe; just last weekend the inaugural RS21 Canadian Class Championship was held at Bedford Basin Yacht Club in Canada.
Partnering with RS Sailing and its worldwide network, the class is well-supported to deliver fantastic racing event. The 2023 Worlds are championing not just the racing but the social sportsmanship off the water too. You can watch the action unfold by following the event on Facebook and Instagram and results can be found here. Anticipate closely contested racing among a vibrant community that puts the joy back into keelboat sailing.
Pictures by Code Zero Digital & Studios