Playing water polo in the still waters off Porto Cervo was an odd way to prepare for the winds to come. But no one had predicted the speed and severity of the conditions that would end the day, prematurely for some. For some of the Swan 45s this was a day to tell the grandchildren about - The aborted second race started in twenty-five knots and it was not until halfway down the first run that the alarm bells really started to ring as the breeze built in an instant to probably 40 knots at the masthead.
The scheduled earlier start of 10 AM came and went without any sign of the wind that had been forecast yesterday. The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda Race Committee kept everyone ashore for an hour and a half, before heading out in the hope of finding the promised breeze. It came, eventually, at three o'clock. A gentle 10 knots from the north-northwest stirring a ripple in the calm. Nothing too special and certainly no great warning.
The Swan Maxi Division started first and raced a 25 nm course that took them to a windward mark, before heading into the channel and a right turn north at Secca di Tre Monti off to the rocks at Monaci. Here they swung southeast for a fast reach down to Mortoriotto, where they turned back on themselves, upwind, to the finish off Porto Cervo.
The Classics and Club Swan 42s raced 17 nm and, roughly speaking, a shorter version of the Swan Maxi course, returning direct to Pevero Bay and the finish after the turn at Monaci.
The Swan 45s had elected to race windward/leewards today, and managed to complete one race of 8 nm that started in 15 knots and finished in a steady 25 - great conditions. They attempted to complete a second that started in 25 knots and ended, abandoned, in 40 - not so great conditions, especially when driving rain, thunder and lightening were thrown in. Very un-PC.
Winners today were the Swan 112 Highland Breeze in the Swan Maxis, WISC in the Swan 45s, Kora in the Club Swan 42s and the Swan 53 Crilia in the Classics. For some of the Swan 45s this will be a day about which to tell the grandchildren. The first race was as perfect as it gets. Good strong breeze that shifted direction as it built during the race, demanding a course change after the first leeward leg.
Glynn Williams WISC (GBR) led the fleet from start to finish, putting on a demonstration of big wind sailing. Skills no doubt honed on The Solent. Another Northern European crew, the Dutch No Limits of R.W. Bol chose today to show its heavy weather ability posting a second. The Mediterranean representatives were not to be outdone as Marco Salvi and tactician Vasco Vascotto brought Vertigo (ITA) home in third.
The aborted second race started in twenty-five knots and it was not until halfway down the first run that the alarm bells really started to ring as the breeze built in an instant to probably 40 knots at the masthead.
It did not take long for the Race Committee to realize that this was more than a passing shower and, as the Swan 45s headed upwind for a second time some flying orange storm jibs and navigation lights shining in the gloom, the call was made to abandon. Not a moment too soon. Within minutes it was lights out as visibility went from poor to pitiful. Twenty minutes later visibility returned and the drenched Swan 45s were glad to return to safe haven.
Carlo Perrone's Atalantica Racing finished fourth in the one completed race and now lies second overall, some fourteen points behind Division leaders Earlybird (GER) who came home fifth. The Swan Maxi fleet was given its extended line again today and a number made full use of it.
The all-black Swan 601, Spirit of Jethou (GBR), was menacing around the pin end of the line before the gun and made an all but perfect port-tack start only slightly overstanding the weather mark.
According to Ian Budgen, the tactician, this 'was to make sure none of the bigger boats were above them and able to roll down on top'. Owner, Sir Peter Ogden, credited Budgen with another tactically perfect race. 'we can't do much more than that' he said referring to the contest with Roel Pieper's Swan 80 Favonius.
Favonius had a poor start by comparison and did not feature at the front of the pack at the initial weather mark, but she went on to finish third on the water and second on handicap, 45 seconds ahead of Spirit. Not good news for Spirit in terms of the overall standings at the Rolex Swan Cup or the Swan Maxi Circuit. Favonius now leads by three points from Spirit of Jethou. It was Will Apold's Swan 78, Valkyrie (CAN), that truly nailed the start, mid-line in a clear lane and she blitzed up the course to round the windward mark ahead of Highland Breeze, the largest yacht in the fleet.
Breeze is sailing with Dee Smith on tactics this week and it showed at the start. She hit the line with speed on starboard tack, before neatly flopping over onto port as though she was a dinghy.
The brand new Swan 90 of Roberto Galperti, White Lie, was another to have a good day at last using her waterline length and power to bring the Swan Maxi Division home to secure her first bullet.
Roberto Sacetti, tactician on White Lie summed up the day,
'We had to wait for the wind, but we were patient and the Race Committee did a good job. The wind was pretty strong at times, going up to 25 knots during the race. It was tough but very enjoyable.'
This was an excellent race for the Swan Maxis with the bulk of the fleet staying together throughout; Highland Breeze and Favonius crossed the finish line within forty seconds of each other. From Secca di Tre Monti, Spirit of Jethou even found time for a spot of tailgating on the stern wave of Rainer Wilhelm's Swan 82 Astro (AUT). With the Austrian crew waving them on, Spirit caught a tow all the way to Monaci. You only had to glance at the faces of the Swan Maxi crews to know this had been a good day. The same was true for the Club Swan 42s racing on the shorter course.
The most wind they saw during the race was 26 -27 knots. The truly big stuff did not hit until they reached the harbour entrance. Giuseppe Monella the navigator of Leonardo Ferragamo's Cour di Leone (ITA) was another to enjoy himself, 'it was good racing today. We had a great start in 14 knots of wind and then it increased to between 22 and 25 knots during the race.
The first windward mark we were tight with Baraka GP and Interlodge.' Cour di Leone chose to use the spinnaker from Monaci back into Pevero. According to its crew, Baraka GP (NED) chose not to.
The Italians were rewarded for their showmanship and came third. The Dutch crew came fifth. John Hele's Daring's (USA) took second. Enrico Scerni's Kora (ITA) finished first and leads the Division by seven points from Austin Fragomen's Interlodge (USA).
The Classic fleet also raced the shorter course and the slower boats would have seen the squall approaching with some trepidation on their way down to Pevero.
The faster boats in the Division just squeezed home before it hit at around six o'clock. The Swan 53, Crilia (GER), of Heinz-Gerd Stein was one of those to finish as the black cloud burst onto the scene.
But Stein's day will not have been dampened by a bit of rain.
Finishing third on the water a nail-biting two seconds behind Jochen Oplaender's Swan 53 Katima (GER), Crilia corrected out into first place a mere seven seconds ahead of Katima and ten seconds ahead Michael Huyghe's Swan 44 Twilight (BEL). John Bainbridge's Swan 48 Zen (GBR) came home fourth on the water after another mighty performance.
She corrected out to sixth, and leads the Classic Division overnight by eight points from Nick Oundjian's Swan 40 Christina (GBR), with Varnish II a further four points back in third overall.