by Rolex media
N over A on Saturday at Rolex Swan Cup, Porto Cervo, Sardinia, ITA
You have to hand it to the Costa Smeralda, when the wind blows it blows. The breeze desert of yesterday morning is well and truly forgotten today, with over 25 knots in the harbour setting the rigging and halyards of the assembled Swan fleet a rattlin' and a whistlin'.
'One of the easiest decisions I've made,' said Peter Craig stepping off the Committee Boat as he returned from the race area. Few on shore would envy the Race Committee's trip outside this morning. The Mistral settled in last night. Gusts in the Straits of Bonifacio were already exceeding 40 knots at sunrise and whilst it was lighter round the corner off Porto Cervo, it was only relatively so.
At 11:30hrs, Peter Lawson, from the Committee, relayed the message from the course that the general situation was not expected to improve. Moments after giving three short blasts on the horn and hoisting the November flag over the Alpha flag to signify the curtailment of any racing, Lawson described the conditions leading to the decision,
'In the course area the winds are 27 - 28 knots, gusting to 30 plus and conditions will continue to deteriorate during the next few hours. Gusts are expected to increase to the mid-30s or higher.' So that was that. Game over for the day.
Looking at the fleet standings there are a number of crews just that bit closer to the ultimate goal of winning their Division at the Rolex Swan Cup.
Rolex Swan Cup 2008 - The Mistral arrives Friday - PLENTY, USA, Swan 45
In the Swan 45s, Christian Nagel and Earlybird (GER) hold a seemingly unassailable lead of 14 points. Earlybird has not finished lower than fifth in the six races so far sailed. And, with the Swan 45 Gold Cup, the Class world championship, as well as the Rolex Swan Cup at stake, this is a tournament winning performance given the variety of conditions experienced to date.
Nagel knows that it is not yet over. If conditions comply there could be up to three races tomorrow and a discard will come into play that might just favour one of the chasing pack if Earlybird slips up,
'it's great to be in the lead after 6 races, 14-points ahead but there are still some races to go, so let's wait until the event finishes. Of course we would prefer to sail today but we entirely understand the decision of the race committee to abandon today's racing - too much material could have been broken in such strong winds and gusts, combined with a heavy sea.'
In the Classic Division, John Bainbridge's Swan 48 Zen (GBR) holds an equally commanding lead of 8-points after three races. With two firsts and a sixth, the future looks bright for Zen. Only one race may be scheduled for tomorrow, whatever the conditions. So it will take a serious reversal of the formbook for the top of the leaderboard to change.
Helm John Greenland, who was part of this year's British Rolex Commodores' Cup winning team, is understandably as cautious as Nagel about his team's chances and agreed that the right decision had been taken, 'It's blowing dogs off chains out there. I woke up this morning and it seemed to be already blowing 30 knots. According to the Race Officer who's been out on station it's blowing 35 up to 45, so too windy to go out and sail. We're leading the event at the moment and it would make life easier if we didn't race tomorrow, but we came here to race and it would be good to get out on the water again.'
In the Club Swan 42 Division, Enrico Scerni's Kora (ITA) has been virtually untouchable all week. In the five races to date she has posted three bullets and two seconds and has a five-point cushion between herself and Austin Fragomen's Interlodge USA. PRO Peter Craig advises that if conditions are suitable he plans to run up to three windward/leeward races for the Club Swan 42s. So it is not over yet in this division either.
For the Swan Maxis, with one race left, it is going to take a miracle for anyone to overturn the mighty Swan 80 Favonius (BVI). Owner Roel Pieper and tactician Roy Heiner have been in imperious form this week, punching above their weight and waterline length on more than one occasion.
Highlight of the three races so far was Day 2, when the Dutch crew brought Favonius home first on the water and handicap. Her lead over the jet-black Swan 601, Spirit of Jethou, is a mere three points, but Sir Peter Ogden's crew has not yet managed to finish ahead of Favonius on handicap and with one race to go it would be a brave man not to bet on Pieper taking the main prize in the Swan Maxi Division. The Swan Maxi Circuit 2008 will also be decided tomorrow and with it another Rolex chronometer.
Tomorrow is another day and, for the time-being at least, it remains game on in all Divisions. Tonight Owners and Crews will enjoy yet more lavish entertainment with the Rolex Crew Party on the Piazza Azzurra. The theme is 'Fiesta Latina' and with plenty of food, drink and live music on the programme, the 3,000 or so event participants may expect another special night in Porto Cervo.
For more information about the Rolex Swan Cup 2008 including entry lists and results please visit www.yccsswancup.com