Luna Rossa excels off lumpy Porto Cervo
Day two of the 2009 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup dawned bright and clear. Early reports from the race course suggested a small change in conditions from yesterday. The wind had backed a little to the north, and was blowing a fresh 15 knots, but the sea state remained large and lumpy. Happy campers this evening were Luna Rossa (ITA) in Mini Maxi Racing; Y3K (GER) in Wally; Beau Geste (HKG) in Racing & Racing Cruising; Whisper (IRL) in Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising and Velsheda (GBR) in Cruising/Spirit of Tradition.
Peter Craig and the Race Committee had little sympathy for the crew on the Racing Mini Maxis and Wallys who might have sampled too much Sardinian hospitality last night. These two divisions were sent on a 47-nautical mile jaunt up the islet and rock strewn main channel of the Maddalena archipelago to Eceuil de Lavezzi, just off the southern tip of Corsica, followed by the now familiar open-sea reach down the back of the islands, this time extending down the Costa Smeralda to Mortoriotto before heading back up to the finish off Porto Cervo. There was much the same lack of sympathy for the remaining three divisions which raced a 39-nautical mile diet-version of the course which took them up to the vaunted Eceuil before heading home round the outside, albeit without the complication of Mortoriotto.
The Racing Mini Maxis, once again the first start pathfinders, were shorn of one of their number before the day began. Udo Schutz's Container (GER) had headed off to Olbia early this morning to be lifted out of the water to properly inspect some damage suffered yesterday. The remaining seven leapt off the start line looking alarmingly similar to a startled group of blue marlin, all threatening bowsprits to the fore. Ràn (GBR), with Tim Powell as its principal helm, shrugged off yesterday's woe and led from start to finish, delighting owner Niklas Zennström whose only complaint was having had to hike hard for most of the course. Ràn completed the route in just over three and a half hours, but corrected out a troublesome twenty-five seconds behind Luna Rossa. Once again the Brazilian double act of Torben Grael and Robert Scheidt putting one over their immediate opposition. Hap Fauth and Bella Mente (USA) won the battle of Mini Maxi owner/drivers finishing third on the water and handicap, snuffing out a sharp-looking Neville Crichton and Alfa Romeo (NZL), which had trailed Ràn around the course.
In the Racing & Racing/Cruising Group, Karl Kwok's Beau Geste (HKG) with Gavin Brady and Francesco de Angelis masterminding the control centre seared round the shorter of the two tracks in just under three hours, roasting the opposition in the process to correct out ahead of Filippo Faruffini's Roma-Aniene (ITA) and Danilo Salsi's Swan 90 DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA). This is only Kwok's second venture into Sardinian waters and the first on his own boat. He is certainly enjoying the sailing experience, "today's conditions were similar to yesterday's, but there were some patches of stronger breeze. Much of the time we were at 16-17 knots which was good. The boat loves long reaching legs and we were given some of these today. We're happy in big seas and the crew work has been no problem. We're looking forward to the rest of the week. I'm sure the weather will stay the same, but we're hoping that so will the wind!"
In the Wallys, Magic Carpet (GBR) strode imperiously up the initial windward leg to lead Y3K and Open Season (GER) into the top mark. At one point, all three were line abreast looking more akin to battle cruisers steaming purposefully towards a fray. Certainly the foredeck crews could be forgiven for assimilating their situation to a war zone, getting a royal hosing as these powerful craft took on the still indecently sized seas just off Porto Cervo. Y3K won through in the end, both on the water and handicap converting a four-minute lead over Magic Carpet to a narrow one-minute victory over the much smaller J One (FRA), which had finished the race some forty minutes astern. Open Season looked to have lost out to Magic Carpet by a mere four seconds for the final podium slot, until a port/starboard protest between these two led to Magic Carpet's disqualification rounding off a difficult two days for Lindsay Owen Jones and crew.
In the Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising, Idea might have taken the line honours gun, but it was Mick Cotter who must have kissed the Blarney Stone again this morning. According to Brian Benjamin on Aegir (GBR), the crew of Whisper put on another eloquent display of big-sea sailing through the Straits of Bonifacio where the fleet faced a stiff beat following a significant right-hand swing in the wind direction. Benjamin was home some twenty minutes after his Irish counterpart and just three and bit minutes shy on handicap, apparently Aegir's best performance in four years to date. Sailing with Benjamin was Royal Ocean Racing Club Commodore Andrew Mcirvine, a newcomer to yachting's Xanadu; "I've sailed in most bits of the world but never here. It's absolutely stunning. Absolutely perfect conditions and the hardware out there is incredible. It's wonderful watching huge boats go past you and, for me, we're on a pretty huge boat already."
The last start of the day was by no means the least spectacular, being reserved for yachts over 100-feet. The jousting giants include not just the largest yachts at the event, but some of the prettiest with examples appealing equally to those drawn by classic looks and those by ultra-modern. The purists will be pleased by Velsheda's second victory in as many races and, even more so by Hetairos' (CAY) second place on handicap despite finishing almost an hour behind first-home Visione (GER).
Visione is a gargantuan 45 metres or just a few euros short of 150 feet. By no means the biggest sailing yacht in the world, she still grabs the spotlight here this week. Big does not necessarily mean beautiful, but underway Visione is as graceful as she is potent. From the water she is a commanding presence. From the air she is spectacular. Vast swathes of deck patrolled by ants, handling massive areas of sail. Another eye-catching yacht is the strikingly turquoise-hulled Gliss (SUI), owned by Marco Vögele. Vögele has turned to Ireland for one of his professional talent this week, hoping that Harold Cudmore - a stalwart of the grand-prix America's and Admiral's Cup racing scenes for some decades - would add a touch of Irish luck to his campaign. Cudmore has seen it all and more, but still finds the racing here special; "today was a cracking day, just as yesterday. Up amongst the islands with these magnificent yachts in close company; into the Strait, the wind came up a bit, we're all under a bit of pressure, there are things happening all around and it makes for a wonderful time."
And he's right. Listening to Cudmore's lilting brogue it's easy to imagine you "are sliding along at maximum hull speed or a little faster even, this land with lots of light on it passing under your sails." As he says, "it really is something special."
Racing continues, tomorrow, Wednesday at with the first start scheduled for 11.30 CEST.
Current provisional standings
Place, Boat Name, Owner, Nation, R1-R2, Points
Mini Maxi Racing
1. Luna Rossa, Maestrale Holding, ITA, 1- 1, 2.0 points
2. Bella Mente, Hap Fauth, USA, 2- 3, 5.0
3. Ran, Niklas Zennstrom, GBR, 4-2, 6.0
Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising
1. Whisper, Michael Cotter, IRL, 1-1, 2.0 points
2. Aegir, Brian Benjamin, GBR, 6-2, 8.0
3. Grande Orazio, Massimiliano Florio, ITA, 2-6, 8.0
Racing - Racing/Cruising
1. Beau Geste, Karl Kwok, HKG, 1-1, 2.0 points
2. Roma - Aniene, C.C. Aniene/F. Faruffini, ITA, 2-2, 4.0
3. DSK Pioneer Investments, Danilo Salsi, ITA, 3-3, 6.0
1. J One, Jean-Charles Decaux, FRA, 1-2, 3.0 points
2. Y3K, Claus-Peter Offen, GER, 3-1, 4.0
3. Open Season, Thomas Bscher, GER, 2-4, 6.0
Cruising/Spirit of Tradition
1. Velsheda, Tarbat Investment Ltd, GBR, 1-1, 2.0 points
2. Hamilton II, Lockstock Ltd, GBR, 2-4, 6.0
3. Visione, Hasso Plattner, GER, 5-3, 8.0