Ran back on form

Defending champions regain their mojo at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Friday September 7th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Italy

A long day characterised by light air and soaring temperatures faced the  Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup fleet today. The 34 competing yachts endured a frustrating waiting game as insufficient breeze played havoc with the Race Committee’s best laid plans.After this morning’s racing was abandoned, conditions improved sufficiently by 14:45 CEST for all five classes to engage in a short coastal course through the islands of the La Maddalena archipelago. At the conclusion of this, Bella Mente's overall lead in the Mini Maxi class - competing for their annual World Championship - was drastically reduced leaving her on equal points with second-placed Rán 2.

Esimit Europa 2 moved to the head of the Racing fleet while Magic Carpet 2 (Wally), Aegir (Racing/Cruising) and Nilaya (Super Maxi) maintain their hold on the top spots in their respective divisions. 

After a long wait and one race abandoned shortly after the start, the Race Committee managed to get the fleet under at 1500 local on a 13 mile coastal course. From the start the fleet headed west towards the coast and the Secca Tre Monti before heading through the strait between Capo Ferro and the Isola delle Bisce islet. The 8 knots of breeze from 330° on the starting line would later fade and force PRO Peter Craig to shorten the course for the Wally and Racing divisions to 12 miles and for the Racing/Cruising and Mini Maxi divisions to 9 miles.

In the Mini Maxi class Niklas Zennström's Rán 2, winner of the previous two editions of the class World Championship, was back on form after two difficult days, leading the fleet out of the blocks to finish well ahead of the other 11 boats in her division. American boat Caol Ila R (the former Alegre) took second place with George Sakellaris' Shockwave in third. Caol Ila R (the former Alegre) now sits in third place overall, 9 points behind leader Bella Mente and second place Rán.

Rán enjoyed some luck today as navigator Steve Hayles explained: “It was a long day for a short race. Conditions were very light and only just raceable even in the race that was finished. We had a little fortune today as we didn’t start the first race very well although there was some way to go when the Race Committee abandoned that race as the wind dropped away to unsailable conditions.”

The respite served Rán well. “We were grateful for that discussion, sat down, had a good chat and made sure we were up for the second race which was short and the key was leading at the first windward mark. From there we managed to extend away.” Bella Mente eventually finished in fourth place.

“It comes down to tomorrow,” admitted Hayles. “Bella Mente has sailed a really good week.” However, Rán’s extra experience in holding its nerve on the final day will undoubtedly be crucial. “We are a team that has sailed together now for five years. It’s a tight group, we work for each other and have been in these situations before. It is a hard to be definitive about it. You see it across all sport, a little bit of experience can make the difference. The guys on (Bella Mente) individually are fantastic but the team doesn’t have the experience we do. Hopefully, that will be the difference.”

Bella Mente's tactican Dee Smith is not overly worried by today's turn of events: "We were okay at the top mark, but Shockwave did well and just got by us at the second mark, we then had a few sail handling problems and we ended up fourth. Ran sailed very well and we always knew it would all come down to the last day, that's what makes it so much fun."

Magic Carpet2, owned by Lindsay Owen Jones and with veteran US America's Cup sailor and North Sails bossTom Whidden on board, continues to dominate the Wally Class despite today's fifth place, thanks to a discard coming into play. Charles Dunstone's new WallyCento Hamilton claimed her first win of the series, but still sits in fourth place overall behind Thomas Bscher's Open Season and J One, owned by Jean Charles Decaux.

Among the Racing yachts Brian Benjamin's Aegir claimed a second bullet today and continues to hold the lead she gained from day one. With just a three-point delta over Altair, however, and a discard coming into play after tomorrow's scheduled race five, Benjamin will need to keep his eye on the ball right to the finish. Marco Rodolfi's Swan 90 Berenice Bis is in third place overall.

With four consecutive wins, Filip Balcaen's 34m Nilaya, the smallest yacht in the Super Maxi division, is already assured victory in her category. The battle will be on for silver, meanwhile, between the 45m Wally Saudade, sitting in second place, and Peter Harrison's Farr 115 ketch Sojana, which each have 23 points.

Niyala, the defending class champion claimed her fourth straight bullet. Former Volvo Ocean Race skipper, Bouwe Bekking who is Nilaya’s tactician said: “The week has been above expectations, we’ve won all the races very easily. We’ve made a lot of changes since last year and they have paid off. It’s gone really well for us.

“The main competition for us was Saudade and the new Hetairos. They are significantly bigger than us so we perform manoeuvres a lot quicker. This is a class of massive boats: our biggest spinnaker is 1,100m² and Hetairos has one measuring 2,000m².”

Another epic battle will be played out in the Racing division between the 100ft grand prix racer Esimit Europa 2 owned by Igor Simcic, currently heading the scorings, and the classic J Velsheda. The two have been alternating at the top of the leaderboard since day one and every decision will count tomorrow as each sit on 8 points. Irvine Laidlaw's 80ft Highland Fling, with former America's Cup helmsman Peter Holmberg calling tactics, lies in third place, also on 8 points after coming second in each of the four races held.

Racing is scheduled to conclude tomorrow, with the first signal at 11.30. A light northerly breeze is forecast.

Mini maxi results:

Pos Boat Skipper/owner Sail No. R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 Tot
1 BELLA MENTE  Hap Fauth USA 45 3 1 1 1 2 6 12
2 RAN 2  Niklas Zennstrom GBR 7236R 1.5 4 4 5 1 1.5 12
3 CAOL ILA R  Ocean Racing III USA 60669 6 5 2 6 5 3 21
4 JETHOU  Sir Peter Ogden GBR 74R 4.5 8 6 2 3 7.5 23
5 STIG  Alessandro Rombelli ITA 65000 9 3 5 3 7 9 29
6 SHOCKWAVE  Artemis Ltd / G. Sakellaris USA 60272 19.5 2 3 4 6 4.5 33
7 BRONENOSEC  Vladimir Liubomirov RUS 2460 7.5 7 7 8 4 13.5 39
8 H2O  Riccardo de Michele ITA 15668 10.5 6 11 7 8 16.5 48
9 WILD JOE  Chemimpex Int. Ltd HUN 7002 13.5 11 9 9 10 10.5 52
10 TWIN SOUL 6 - MONSIEUR  Luciano Gandini ITA 19951 15 9 8 11 11 12 55
11 @ROBAS  Gerard Logel FRA 60107 12 10 10 10 9 15 56
12 B2 NATALI  Michele Galli ITA 88888 16.5 12 12 12 12 18 70.5




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