Alfa's date with the horizon

A report from day one of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo PLUS top photos from Carlo Borlenghi

Monday September 8th 2003, Author: Marcus Hutchinson, Location: Italy
On the button of noon the start sequence commenced for the 2003 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo today. Organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda the 34 boat fleet was sent on the longest course available to the race committee and in the fresh conditions quick work was made of the 40-mile distance.

Divided into three groups on the water, the fresh 20-25 knot northwesterly winds gave exciting conditions for this most impressive fleet of boats. The first start saw the IMS and IRC race machines line up in the one metre swell and head off upwind to be followed just 10 minutes later by the eleven boats of the Wally Class. Small class sizes shouldn’t be underestimated as the sheer volume and scale of the boats present never ceases to be remarkable, even to the crews on board.

The first two groups were sent on the same course which meant a 20 mile upwind leg through the inside passage of the Maddalena Archipelago, one of the most spectacular race courses anywhere in the world. As the fleet of maxi yachts short-tacked upwind through the narrow gaps between Palau, Santo Stefano and Spargi Islands, navigators on board were wary of the hazards along the rocky coastlines and the traps that are easy to fall into.

With a wind driven current running against the fleet, the shores were the favoured place to be and with the harsh gusts of wind blowing straight over the hilly islands, sail trimmers and helmsman had to be on their guard.

Marking the southern most tip of Corsica is a rocky outcrop called Lavezzi, and the navigation buoy positioned over the top became the half way point and the turn for home. Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo rounded first, two minutes short of two hours after the start and set a running spinnaker at the same time as emptying her water ballast tanks. Ten minutes later the grey-hulled boat was just a speck on the horizon as the rest of the fleet made they way to the turn.

The route back to the finish was outside the islands in rougher water and crews enjoyed some good surfing conditions. Much of the fleet had boat handling problems and several spinnakers were destroyed. What had taken the leader two hours upwind took one hour downwind and the 40 mile course took just three hours to complete.

"We started well at the pin and sailed clean from there," commented Alfa Romeo's owner'skipper Neville Crichton. "This is the first time we have had good wind in a race all the way round the course. We couldn’t fault the race track, I don’t know how we could have sailed any better or any faster, we were constantly over 20 knots on the downwind leg.” Alfa Romeo was first home and third on corrected time in IRC Class.

"Pushing the corners was my biggest worry today," described navigator Adrienne Cahalan, navigator on John Kahlbetzer's Sydney 62 Bumblebee 5, today's IMS class winner. "The toughest part was picking the shifts up the Sound, we had to really keep our cool as the geography of the islands made it all a bit random at times. We sailed hard like Australians can on the run home. We got some good waves and really worked it hard. The crew work was faultless and we knew the result would be close. It turns out we won by just over a minute.”

The last group to start was the combined classes of Spirit of Tradition and the Jongert Class. They were given a shorter course and didn’t have to sail all the way to Corsica. George Lindemann’s 44m long Adela revelled in the conditions to take an easy victory in a class that saw two thirds of the boats retire, one with a broken mast.

North Sails boss and long term Stars & Stripes tactician Tom Whidden, has this role on board Lindsay Owen-Jones’ Wally 94 Magic Carpet2, line honours in the Wally Class, sixth on corrected time. "We had a great start on Magic Carpet, we got the left on the first beat which always pays and we had the pace to stay in front from there. Up in the Straights there were a lot of gusts to work, we missed a few but it wasn’t too bad. The boat didn’t seem to have the same edge in speed downwind but it was a good first day. I love these Wallys, I think they are a great boat to sail, and I’m surprised more American owners don’t get involved."

Provisional Results of Race One

Class IMS

Pos. Boat Type Owner Corrected Time

1st Bumblebee 5 Sydney 62 John Kahlbetzer 2:34:10
2nd Alexia Reichel/Pugh 75 Alberto Roemmers 2:35:32
3rd Idea SAI Reichel /Pugh Raffaele Raiola 2:37:48

Class IRC
Place Boat Type Owner Corrected Time

1st Virtuelle Proto C/R Carlo Perrone 2:55:46
2nd Unfurled Frers 112 Harry Macklowe 2:58:37
3rd Alfa Romeo Reichel/Pugh 90 Neville Crichton 3:00:21

Wally Class
Place Boat Type Owner Corrected Time

1st Wallyno Wally 60 Luca Bassani Antivari 5:14:24
2nd Genie of the Lamp Wally 77 Gian Luca Vacchi 5:15:50
3rd Nariida Wally 105 Morten Bergesen 5:17:49

Jongert & Spirit of Tradition Class
Place Boat Type Owner Corrected Time

1st Adela Spirit of Tradition George Lindemann 2:52:44
2nd Whitefin Spirit of Tradition Alfredo Canessa 3:04:20
3rd Danubio III Jongert Jose Figueras Mitjans 4:12:59

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