Mistral strikes Porto Cervo
During yesterday’s skippers’ briefing, Claus-Peter Offen, President of the International Maxi Association and owner of the 100ft Wally Y3K (GER), jested about the possibility of the wind being too strong during the first day of scheduled racing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Rather than a whimsy, it proved to be a sharp prediction. At 09:30 this morning, Principal Race Officer Peter Craig announced the flying of the AP flag. With 20 knots circulating in the marina and a menacing 25-28 knots recorded out on the course, the Race Committee made the wise decision to postpone sailing until midday. Crews waited patiently, and a little anxiously, to discover if the scheduled coastal racing for all classes would take place. The inevitable was put off until 13:30 CEST when the abandonment of today’s racing was confirmed: the anticipated drop in wind, forecast for this afternoon, showed no signs of arriving.
The Race Committee has made the pro-active decision to commence proceedings earlier tomorrow. The strong breeze experienced today is predicted to drop off overnight, but build again in the afternoon. Accordingly, a prompt 10:30 CEST start and coastal courses are on the agenda for all four classes. Hotels across Porto Cervo will be preparing early breakfasts. In the meantime, the crews have the unexpected pleasure of sampling the Costa Smeralda’s many spectacular beaches.
Weathermen’s wind verdict
Mike Broughton, navigator on the 78ft Mini Maxi Whisper (IRL), had been expecting a brash start to the week. “It is a real shame that we have lost racing on the first day,” he reveals. “We have a Mistral arriving from France which is curling down the mountains in a Venturi effect between Sardinia and Corsica. It keeps on pumping between the two islands, so we’ve got winds in the high twenty, low thirty knots out there. It is on the edge and a little on the wrong side.”
The forecast is equally challenging for tomorrow. “Unfortunately it could be even windier,” admits Broughton. “We’ve got a stronger pressure gradient which means it is looking heavier. There’s a bit of a mix later in the week, strong on Thursday and potentially lighter on Saturday.”
Standing on the dockside, the wind may not have seemed so dramatic. A deceptive notion. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Porto Cervo and on hold,” explains Broughton. “Often in the harbour it doesn’t seem so bad because it is sheltered, but if you get a mile or two offshore, you can face quite a big increase in wind, often 30-40% more. It is a really good decision [by the Race Committee], because you don’t want to break anything so early in the competition. It can also be a bit tricky, in these conditions, getting the boats back to moor in the harbour.”
The forecast has also been fixed on the mind of Nacho Postigo, acclaimed Spanish navigator on the Wally 93 Open Season (GBR). “The Mistral is a normal ingredient of Porto Cervo, and it is a regular visitor of this regatta,” explains the former America’s Cup sailor and Audi MedCup co-founder. “Often you have days when the wind stays between 20-25 and it makes for tricky but very enjoyable racing but days like today when wind conditions are well above 25 knots makes for extreme and dangerous sailing, considering size of the boats. The difference of just three knots can be really big. It is a very good decision to postpone.”
“Tomorrow is still tricky,” warns Postigo, “The Mistral is an unpredictable animal and is still dominating the panorama. Today’s waiting game was difficult, it is important for the crews to keep their attention, concentration and avoid relaxing.”
The imposing Mistral is not the only thing fixed on Postigo’s mind. Other challenges lie ahead once out on the water. “There are so many rocks in this area, that you sometimes have to forget about the wind,” jokes the Spaniard, “as navigator, there are many tasks. We have to manage the power for the electrical systems for the winches which determine the manoeuvres, continually update the crew on what we are doing, as well as stay as close as possible to rocks without being too close.” Like the other 46 navigators in attendance at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Postigo will be hoping to put his forensic planning into action tomorrow.
Racing is now scheduled to start tomorrow, Wednesday 7 September and concludes on Saturday 10 September. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, along with the International Maxi Association (IMA) and title sponsor Rolex, will provide a lavish array of first class social events including Saturday's final Prize Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup trophies and Rolex timepieces will be awarded.