Light day on the bay
Light conditions were again the order of the day at the Giraglia Rolex Cup, as the race committee repeated yesterday’s 17.1 nautical mile course for the final day of the inshore series. Proceedings commenced with five to six knots of breeze just after 12:30 CEST.
It proved to be another successful day for Alegre, which has dominated her opposition. “Conditions today in a way were easier than yesterday except for one section of the race,” explained owner and skipper Andres Soriano. “We are very pleased with the crew work in these light conditions. It is important that everyone is in tune with the boat and that the crew gave their all under hot and uncomfortable conditions.” Tactician Chris Main was equally delighted with the yacht’s performance: “We had a really good race today, the wind played into the leaders’ hands as it shifted and followed us around. Last year we dominated the inshore series and finished second in the long race and we are now hoping to go one better this year.”
Today’s winners were: Alegre (GBR) in Group 0 IRC, Imagine (GER) in Group A IRC, Tchin Tchin (FRA) in Group B IRC and Manida (ITA) in Group B ORC.
After two races, Alegre (GBR) won their class in Group 0 IRC, Early Bird (GER) were winners of Group A IRC and a Rolex Submariner, Tchin Tchin (FRA) took Group B IRC and Manida (ITA), Group B ORC.
With the inshore race series now having concluded, the near 200 crews competing in the offshore competition are busy preparing their yachts for tomorrow’s race.
Lucio Crispo, owner of the 60ft Mini Maxi Maya (ITA), is an experienced hand at preparing for the Giraglia Rolex Cup offshore race: “I am here for the ninth time and looking forward to this great competition. We’re focused on the adventure and enjoying ourselves. This regatta has its own appeal, especially for me as I arrived late to the world of sailing.”
Crispo continues: “We’re busy putting together the finishing touches to the boat and also removing what we don’t need. The prediction of light winds may be a problem but you never know how things will change.”
Sergey Grishin, owner of the Vrolijk 57 Pheonix (RUS), is hoping for better luck at this year’s Giraglia Rolex Cup after the crew were forced to retire during the 2010 edition. Grishin will have a particular help at hand as his wife Olga is the team’s navigator. “I led her into sailing,” explains Grishin, “and she joined me for several regattas before becoming a navigator, a very difficult position to fill.”
“The crew was put together two years ago,” continues Grishin “and consists of both professional sailors and amateurs. We’re introducing a brand new generation of Russian sailors.”
For Olga, the transition to sailing came naturally: “Sailing is in my blood as my grandfather was an Admiral,” she explains. “I love analysing and processing information, and communicating the weather patterns with the afterguard. And of course, I couldn’t miss the chance to compete on board with my husband!”
Cedric Pouligny calls the tactics for Hans-Juergen Riegel’s Marten 49 Speedy (GER) and the crew are set for their second Giraglia Rolex Cup: “Conditions seem to be soft at the moment, but hopefully we can have a good race and aim to come in the top ten in our category. The crew will busy preparing this evening with the logistics including putting the food on board – we will be taking on lots of energy bars and coffee!”
Renowned navigator Juan Vila is the fastest man to have sailed non-stop around the planet, has won both the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race, yet the historic Giraglia Rolex Cup is a significant omission from his proud sailing résumé. A key component of the afterguard onboard the mighty 100ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO), Vila is beaming at the opportunity of competing in tomorrow’s offshore marathon: “The Giraglia is one of the mythical races in the Mediterranean. I’ve been looking forward to ticking this off as it is a race I’ve always wanted to do.”
Vila has been taking a close interest in tomorrow’s potential conditions: “We are expecting light air and some frustrating times at the beginning on the way to the Giraglia. Fortunately, after which a south easterly breeze should start to develop on the eastern side of Corsica, of around 10-15 knots, allowing us to sail in medium conditions to Genoa. We will try to get as quickly as we can to the stronger breeze.”
“This is a fast boat even in light conditions,” continues Vila, “so we have to anticipate everything in a boat with these characteristics, planning ahead and giving the team the time to go through the manoeuvres.’ The team onboard pairs Vila with renowned sailors such as Jochen Schümann, Sidney Gavignet and Grant Simmer. After claiming the line honours title at the Giraglia Rolex Cup last year, Esimit’s 28-man crew is even more potent this time around.
“The collaboration is going very well,” continues Vila. “I’ve sailed with Jochen many times and now for the first time with Grant and Sidney - we all seem to be on the same page.” This evening the crew will make their final preparations before their departure. “We will keep checking the weather, and get as much sleep and rest as possible before the race,” closes Vila.
With the eagerly anticipated offshore race commencing tomorrow, predictions regarding who will take the line honours and overall title, are as hard to make as ever. One thing is for sure, the crews battling for the line honours title will harbour secret ambitions that the weather conditions are favourable enough for a stab at the record time which currently stands at 18 hours, three minutes and fifteen seconds. This was set by Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo II (NZL) in 2008, now Esimit Europa 2. Crichton and Shockwave (NZL) crew took the overall title last year and their absence this time around will ensure that the field is even more open.
Crichton has twice broken the line honours time, the previous occasion coming back in 2003 when Riviera di Rimini’s (ITA) five-year record was smashed. In doing so, the New Zealander skippered the first foreign yacht to break the course record after a near half century of Italian domination.
Exactly 50 years ago, Gianni Lancia’s Xingu (ITA) set a benchmark 30 hour, 57 minute and 45 second record for the 243-nautical mile course. Lancia – who once ran the Italian car company created by his father Vincenzo – was one of the first of many businessmen drawn to the attraction of the Giraglia Rolex Cup. Xingu’s record lasted five years before Stella Polare (ITA) came in with a time of exactly 29 hours in 1966. It was a record that stood for a staggering 18 years. During this time span, the course length remained almost exactly the same although the start and finish areas chopped and changed, commencing either in Toulon or Saint-Tropez, and largely finishing in San Remo.
It was not until Enrico Recchi’s famed Benbow (ITA) chipped about an hour and a half off the time in 1984 that Stella Polare was knocked from her lofty perch. Benbow was a seasoned Giraglia campaigner having competed at every edition since her construction in 1974. This record-breaking year was noted for its perfect wind and sea conditions, with the winning yacht maintaining an average of nine knots.
Although technology progressed significantly during the 1990s with yachts becoming lighter, faster and more agile, it was not until Giorgio Benvenuti’s Riveira di Rimini won in 1998, taking almost three hours off the record, that Benbow’s crown was lifted. Record-breaking has become a more habitual occurrence in recent years, given the ever-changing and rapid advancements made in yacht technology. The question is: Will history be made in 2011, 50 years after Xingu’s triumph?