Saturday 11 September 2010

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup: Crunch Time

ALEGRE, Andres Soriano. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

by Jill Campbell

More often than not yacht races are won by minutes and seconds; today feet and inches played a part in the results on day four of the 2010 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Two yachts touched hard unforgiving rocks that have caught out so many time and again on this seemingly benignly named emerald coast of Sardinia. Cutting corners when you draw close to five-metres is a game of chance involving the finest of margins. Whilst the campaigns of Rán (GBR) and Container (GER) ground to a jarring, gut-twisting halt, others continued to push onwards to their destiny. For those with aspirations of glory the penultimate day of racing was crunch time in more ways than one.

TITAN 15, SHOCKWAVE and RAN. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

Today’s skipping stones were: Y3K (GER) and Indio (ITA) in Wally, both scoring five points over their two windward-leeward races; OPS 5 (ITA) took advantage of a confused situation to scoop a first win in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds for a Racer/Cruiser yacht; Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) made use of her waterline length and mast-height to cruise to victory in Maxi. The Supermaxi match was secured by Gliss (SUI) and, in the J’s, Velsheda (GBR) finally showed her true colours getting the better of Ranger (CAY).

ESIMIT EUROPA 2 and BELLAMENTE. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

Going into the final race day, those in control of their fate are: Claus Peter Offen’s Y3K in Wally, with a three-point lead over Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet 2 (GBR); Igor Simcic’s Esimit in Maxi with cushion of two-points over Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling (MON); Hetairos (CAY) in Supermaxi is looking down on Hasso Plattner’s Visione (GER), one point back; John Williams and Ranger leads Ronald de Waal and Velsheda (GBR) by a whopping nine-points; and, in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, Andy Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) has a five-point margin over Niklas Zennstrom’s Rán, whilst Brian Benjamin’s Aegir (GBR) looks most promising for the Racer/Cruiser title with a twelve-point gap to Massimo Violati’s OPS 5.

RANGER. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

The Wallys undertook two windward-leeward races of 8 and 8.8 nautical miles in light breeze. The piece of knotted string that had to be unwound by the Mini Maxis, Maxis, Supermaxi and J-Class was a convoluted 38 nautical-mile course, which ended being shortened for two of the classes after the wind in the middle part refused to entertain the biggest boats in the yacht racing world.

The long course comprised a short beat to a windward-mark, followed by a close reach down to the channel between Isola delle Bisce and Capo Ferro, a fetch to Secca di Tre Monti and then a sharp right turn to Monaci. Wind for this period was difficult, but by comparison to what lay ahead it was an easy piece of the puzzle. At Monaci everyone hardened up to take on a beat to Barrettinelli di Fuori in a dwindling supply of wind. The left turn into the archipelago and run down to Spargi, which was left to port, looked even worse. Thankfully, from Spargi onwards it was downwind, but not downhill in wind strength, all the way home to Porto Cervo.

TITAN 15, William I Koch past Barrettinelli di Fuori. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

If the beat to Barrettinelli was a head scratcher for the strategists, the rounding of Spargi may have led to a number jumping ship as the island formed a sponge sucking in the yachts, as a slow-moving tail back was established off its western shore. There was sufficient gas in the tank to keep boats moving, but painfully, painfully slowly for yachts more accustomed to having it all their own way. Esimit escaped the trap. Her time around the full course a staggering forty minutes faster than Highland Fling. The Mini Maxis and Supermaxis will be thankful that there were no yachts fast enough to beat the rapidly set shortened-course finish line at Secca di Tre Monti. In the Maxi class, Singularity (GBR), Farewell (ITA) and DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA) were forced to sail the complete distance.

Shockwave (NZL) was the first Mini Maxi to cross the line. Owner Neville Crichton viewed this as positive, but his overall result as a disappointment after a promising start. Shockwave was the only boat to reach Monaci before the 30.5 metre Esimit, no doubt a satisfying achievement for the blue boat’s former owner. Had she not been stymied subsequently by the wind, Shockwave would have been odds on favourite to reach the next turning mark in the lead too, so much was she in control.

Racing past Capo d'Orso. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

Crichton described his day, “we were leading all the way to Monaci. Then the boats behind carried the breeze up and three passed us. We had to fight our way back through coming down Bomb Alley. We got back in the lead, but only marginally, about ten lengths on Alegre, I guess. We needed the racetrack to keep going, but it did not work that way. It was a good day, though. At least we led from the beginning! With Rán hitting the rock, I’d say we’re back in for a crack at second (overall) tomorrow. Not first; Alegre just needs one good race to close it out.”

Licking their wounds in Mini Maxi are Container and Rán. At press time Udo Schutz’s Container is the worse off. Her racing series is definitely over after her encounter with the rocks off Isola del Bisce. According to the crew it was a total surprise to strike the hard stuff, the chart showed them to be in at least 10-metres of water. Perched on the mystery outcrop, the German mini maxi formed a temporary mark warning the passing fleet of the perils of Porto Cervo in a graphic manner.

For Rán the extent of the damage has yet to be determined and she is headed to Palau to be lifted and inspected. Tommaso Chieffi, who is as familiar with these waters as anyone, explained what happened, “going round Spargiotto, it was very light. We had just done a peel from Code Zero to A2 and were coasting past the island in a good puff. The navigator felt we had room to hold our course, but there is a little rock that sticks out a long way from the shore. We came to a sudden halt and it was that rock. It is fairly big but with the swell left over from the south-easterly we hoped we might lift over it. After hitting the ground three or four times, we decided to motor off in reverse. We’re not sure how bad it is, but we are hoping it can be fixed overnight and we can go sailing tomorrow.”

ALLSMOKE and WHISPER. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

The Racer/Cruisers certainly benefited from the travails of the Racing mini maxis, as Aegir’s owner, Brian Benjamin, confirmed, “we had a difficult start today as we were hit by Whisper. It was very patchy and the winds were difficult, so it was a long but beautiful day. It was strange for Porto Cervo because towards the back end the winds picked up. We were able to finish with quite good speed and had a really good result. We came third overall. Maybe we’ll be reclassified as a racing boat!”

Velsheda’s win in Supermaxi has done little to influence the outcome of the J Class battle. Ranger’s commanding position will have cheered the crew who, according to bowman Geordie Shaver, had the A1 up and down so many times it started to look like a venetian blind. Hasso Plattner has cause to be disappointed with today’s efforts on Visione (GER), which finished third. Hetairos pulled a superb victory out of the hat and now leads the division.

AEGIR, Brian Benjamin. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

With the struggles with wind and rocks unfolding elsewhere, the Wallys will have appreciated their decision to put a couple of short-course races into their programme. Y3K and Indio both accumulated five points over the two races, although the German yacht included a win in her scoreline. Her compatriot yacht Thomas Bscher’s Open Season took the other win.

On Indio, afterguard member, Jono Swain’s view was that they could have done better, “it was a tough day for us. We had a couple of opportunities to do better, but we did not capitalize on those opportunities. The wind didn’t pick up as much as we wanted; we go a little bit better when the wind is above 9 or 10 knots. The breeze was quite shifty as well, going through probably 15 or 20 degrees and up and down between 9 knots and 11.5 knots. You had to concentrate really hard, with everyone working together on the boat. We lost points to the leaders and the guys behind caught up a bit on us.”

Swain says they have not given up and will come out fighting tomorrow, “five points behind, anything can happen but it is going to be tough. We’re not pessimistic about it but we are trying to be realistic. We’ll go out there and just try to do our best. Hopefully the other guys can make some mistakes. We like both windward-leeward and the coastals, but you certainly make more gains or losses with two short races!”

Maxis beat upwind behind Tahiti beach. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

Tomorrow sees the final manoeuvres for the fleet. The Mini Maxis will hope to get in two windward-leewards, whilst the remaining classes will undertake a coastal course. Nothing is over until it’s over and, with the risks associated with sailing these waters brought home with clarity today, even those leading overnight face an uncertain future.

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association (IMA). From the most luxurious, through the most traditional, to the most advanced monohulls afloat today, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is nothing if not an astonishing line up of sailing power.

Place, Boat, Skipper, Races 1-2-3-4, Total Points

Maxi Racing & Racing/Cruising
1) Esimit Europa 2, Igor Simcic, 1-2-1-1, 5.0 points
2) Highland Fling, Irvine Laidlaw, 2-1-2-2, 7.0
3) DSK Pioneer Investments, Danilo Salsi, 3-4-4-3, 14.0

Place, Boat, Skipper, Races 1-2-3-4-5, Total Points

1) Y3k, Claus Peter Offen, 2-2-2-1-(4), 7.0
2) Magic Carpet 2, Lindsay Owen Jones, (5)-1-3-4-2, 10.0
3) Indio, Andrea Recordati, (4)-3-4-2-3, 12.0

SuperMaxi/J Boats
1) Ranger, R.S.V. Ltd, 1-1-1-2, 5.0
2) Velsheda, Tarbat Investment, 2-3-7-1, 13.0
3) Hetairos, Rockport Ltd, 8-2-3-3, 16.0

Place, Boat, Country, Skipper, Races 1-2-3-4-5-6-7, Total Points

Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship
1) Alegre (GBR), Andy Soriano, 1-1-(4)-1-1-4-2, 10.0
2) Ran, Niklas Zennstrom (GBR), 6-2-1-2-2-2-DNF(25), 15.0
3) Shockwave (NZL), Neville Crichton, 2-3-2-(5)-5-3-4, 19.0

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup