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Four early leaders at Rolex Swan Cup

'Swan 45 fleet in close racing at the offset mark - Rolex Swan Cup 2008'    © Rolex/Daniel Forster

Racing started at the Rolex Swan Cup 2008 bright and breezy, and bang on time at 11:35. Conditions for a first day could not have been gentler. All four divisions will have come off the water having had a very satisfactory day's racing in winds that peaked in the early-teens in the channel, but stayed below ten knots elsewhere on the various courses.

Some will be delighted with proceedings and some will not, but that is yacht racing and tomorrow is another day. The standings at the end of Day One, see Favonius heading the Swan Maxi Division, Zen leading the Classics and Earlybird and Kora respectively top guns in the Swan 45s and Club Swan 42s. One day down. Plenty left to play for.

The Swan Maxis were first off, undertaking a 35 nm course that will have stretched their legs and shaken out any cobwebs. A beat to a windward mark was followed by a colourful run down to Monaci, where the fleet gybed and reached into the channel towards Secca di Tre Monti. From here they continued up the passage all the way to Barettinelli di Fuori, before an upwind leg back to Pevero and the finish off Porto Cervo. Their smaller sisters in the Classics raced a shorter course of 24 nm that saw them follow the Swan Maxis to Monaci. At this point the smaller yachts turned the corner much more sharply, hardening up and heading back upwind to Mortoriotto. From here they enjoyed another run to the finish.

In the battle of the big boys, the consistently well-sailed Favonius (BVI) of Roel Pieper, with round the world racer Roy Heiner in the afterguard, led the Swan Maxi fleet to the initial windward mark. Not bad given she is not the scratch boat, and, gives waterline length to two of the yachts above her. The start was intriguing with a lot of bunching at the Committee Boat, despite the huge line laid. Only one boat was over early, and the majority of the thirty-two boat Division hit the line at speed.

Pieper and crew held on to the lead until just before Secca di Tre Monti, which is all the more impressive given two of the preceding legs were drag races under spinnaker. Eventually, the 90-feet of Roberto Galperti's White Lie (ITA) proved too much and she took the lead on the water. The Swan 90 White Lie held on until the finish, stopping the clock four minutes ahead of Favonius and eleven ahead of Rainer Wilhelm's Swan 80 Astro.

Roy Heiner commented soon after arriving home, 'we're very happy. I'm sure we've won today. We took the left on the first beat, which paid. It took White Lie a long time to catch us; we knew they would do because of their extra length, but no one else came close.' Favonius' closest competitor in the Swan Maxi Circuit is no doubt cursing her luck. With three Swan 601s participating, Sir Peter Ogden's Spirit of Jethou has her work cut out to find clear air, particularly in the confines of the channel where she was in close combat with Leslie Green's Ginger (AUS). So tight was the racing that according to Ian Budgen, tactician on Spirit, the two boats were matching each other peel for peel at one point.

Favonius corrected out six-minutes ahead of Spirit. Ginger lies third. Adding spice to an increasingly hot recipe springs to mind.

In the Classic Division, the spectator fleet was treated to another exciting start. The start line was given the length promised yesterday, but once again there must have been some perceived bias towards the Committee Boat end since not one of the fleet strayed beyond the midboat. As with the larger yachts, the Division separated out into private battles on the water between yachts of similar size; a huge distraction when deep down you know your eye should remain on the main prize, the handicap win. At the front of the fleet two Swan 56s match-raced from start to finish. The Italian crewed Vanish II (USA) is top-rated boat and managed to win the on-the-water battle against the Jaime Olazabal Fourquet's Clem (ESP). Clem was previously named Aqua Equinox and in that guise won here in 2006, so the boat at least has some form. The new crew proved it does too by finishing second on handicap, 15 seconds behind the Swan 48 Zen (GBR) of John Bainbridge.

Varnish II corrected out into fourth, but owner Alvise Zanetti was not disappointed, 'We only bought the boat in June this year with the aim to come to this regatta because this was our goal. So, we are pretty satisfied today because this has been the first race at all that we sail with this boat - the very first one!' Zanetti is sailing with friends from the Venice area - a delivery trip of 1000 nm, so they got to the know the boat well en route and Zanetti is positive about the remainder of the week, 'we are a strong group of good friends, good sailors but non-professional, all amateurs. We should have been faster today, but we are happy anyway. The weather was fine and the wind was fine, light, so it helped us to start and to learn about racing this new boat.'

The Swan 45s are sailing their World Championship this week and the Sailing Instructions show twelve races planned, including the Long Island Race on Thursday that is non-discardable. Three windward/leeward courses were the order of the day: 8, 6.8 and 7.2 nm in length respectively. The races were conducted in a light easterly wind that tracked right throughout the day, starting out around 8-9 knots, but finishing around 6-7 knots. More onerous on the thinking, than the physical although the Sardinian sun has a way of making even the lightest of wind days tiring. One boat stood out, Hendrik Brandis and Christian Nagel's Earlybird. She had a poor start in the first race finishing third. Suitably annoyed by this slip, she went onto win the second and third races to leave her comfortably at the top of the heap going into tomorrow.

Andrea Masi's Ulika (ITA) lies in second having posted a 5,3,3 an identical trend to her German counterpart even if not so good. Ominously, and unsurprisingly, the third boat in the standings is Marco Salvi's Vertigo. Vasco Vascotto's stage for the week. Salvi's crew were not on fire today, but a 4,7,4 keeps them well in the hunt with a possible nine more races to come. The only other race winner was Tea Ekengren-Sauren's Blue Nights (FIN). Two less promising results leave Ekengren lying in eighth place overnight.

Earlybird's tactician is Sten Mohr, his thoughts on the day were as follows, 'we had a very nice day today, we decided to go out early and lined up with another boat just to get comfortable with the speed. We had two weather forecasts so we could just watch and see what was developing. We were able to pull off three really good starts, shoot ahead of the fleet. With the 3rd in the first race we were very happy and two wins to follow up that is just incredible.'

With that kind of sailing you might think Mohr has lots of experience sailing on the Costa Smeralda and on Swan 45s in particular, not so, 'it is my first time on the boat and my first time in Porto Cervo, so I am enjoying the surroundings and the race-course and just learning myself.' Ouch. That must hurt some of the more experienced tacticians out there today despite Mohr being an experienced America's Cup sailor.

Nautor Swan's latest one-design project is the Club Swan 42, a joint operation with the New York Yacht Club. Seven of these club racers were on the water today, and the Division undertook two windward/leewards on the same course as the Swan 45s. The two races threw up symmetrical results with the placings being identical in each race. Kora (ITA) was today's pacesetter, posting two bullets. Leonardo Ferragamo will be pleased that his Cuordileone (ITA) kept in touch with two seconds. Austin Fragomen's Interlodge (USA) flew the flag for the overseas contingent and lies in third with two third places.

Diogo Cayolla is tactician on Enrico Scerni's Kora and explained how it was done, 'in the first race we had a bad start, so the first up-wind was difficult but we m

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