The RC44 yachts are simplistically referred to as the Formula 1 of sailing because of their use of high-tech materials to create high-performance sailing vessels. But there the similarity ends. The entire philosophy behind the class, whose name is a combination of the initials of its founder (Russell Coutts, four-times America’s Cup winner) and the length of the yachts in feet, is geared towards gentlemen racing, offering the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires a chance to pit their wits against each other on five rare weekends out of their busy schedules each year.
Unlike Formula 1, the boats are all identical, so success depends on the combined skills and experience of the team on board, which must be split equally between amateurs and professionals (with the team owners obliged to take the helm for the fleet racing events). The annual team budget is nothing like that of a Formula 1 team either, with the yacht costing $500,000 and an additional $500,000 required to cover expenses for the entire season. There is also only a modest level of commercial interest, with HYT being the notable exception: its fluorescent green logo stands out perfectly against the matt black background on the boom of every yacht.
How do you fit a 44-foot yacht into a 40-foot shipping container?
Surprisingly, the entire series is managed by just two individuals, who are assisted by two technicians and a handful of race officials. The two technicians are on hand to perform running repairs on all twelve yachts at each event – another example of the dissimilarity with Formula 1 when you consider the swarm of people around a Formula 1 car as soon as it comes to a halt in the pits.
An innovative solution to the problem of inevitable collisions in match and fleet racing is that both the bow and stern are made up of removable sections that can be replaced simply by unscrewing a couple of screws. Removing these sections also magically reduces the yacht’s length, allowing it to be transported in a standard 40-foot shipping container, along with its separate keel with its 2-tonne keel bulb, helping to keep costs down. The yachts are even fitted with a retractable diesel power unit so they can head out to the inshore regatta courses under their own power.
HYT – fluid in its partnership
HYT’s role as official timekeeper of the RC44 series is the brand’s first sponsorship agreement and shows that the Neuchâtel-based hydro-mechanical horologists have reached a certain level of maturity in their development. This new partnership is perfect for the brand as a means of offering original VIP hospitality programmes for its customers and access to the world’s super-rich (not just the team owners but also visitors to the jet-set playgrounds where the regattas are held – it’s not by coincidence that the brand is opening a pop-up store in Porto Cervo for two months this summer).
Naturally, such relationships have to be celebrated with a watch. HYT’s offering is one of three models in the new H1 Air series. Fittingly, it has the blue Alun316b case and a black sail canvas strap. The brand’s unique fluidic module for displaying the hours needs no introduction, but it’s worth noting a great attention to detail with the RC44 logo on the dial and a seconds disc that replaces the 45 indication with a 44. The minute and seconds time indicators are both visible through clear apertures in a smoked sapphire crystal dial.
HYT presented two other models in the series at the same time: one with a more traditional dial arrangement with numerals and another one with a pixelated dial design. We are looking forward to getting our hands on both, but especially the latter.
Click on the cover image to see a photo gallery of the RC44 event in Porto Cervo.