Stark Raving Mad on the charge
Heading into tomorrow’s final day of racing at the 2012 Rolex Swan Cup, the competition is finely poised with the main prizes in all four classes still up for grabs. Conditions during today’s day 4 may have been sedate but the contest on the water proved as intense as the glare of the scorching sun on the Costa Smeralda.
The Maxi, Grand Prix and Classic divisions attacked coastal courses through the Maddalena archipelago, 36 miles set for the Maxis, a slightly shorter distance for the other classes. Light breezes of 6-7 knots heralded the race starts. Meanwhile, the Swan 45 One Design yachts enjoyed three windward-leeward races of approximately 5.6 miles.
Today’s winners were: Stark Raving Mad (USA) in Maxi; Natalia (ROU) in Grand Prix; Ondine (ITA) in Classic while Earlybird (GER), by virtue of a first place and two seconds, was top performer in the in the Rolex Swan 45 World Championship.
The overall competition leaders going into the final day are: Bronenosec (RUS) in Maxi; Natalia in Grand Prix; Ondine in Classic and Earlybird in the Rolex Swan 45 World Championship.
Bronenosec has enjoyed a firm grip on the Maxi class all week and heads into tomorrow’s final day with a healthy, yet beatable, four-point lead. Despite a fifth place today, her nearest rivals – the Swan 80 Berenice Bis (ITA) and Highland Breeze (NED), a Swan 112, – were unable to fair any better. In fact, the stand-out performer proved to be James Madden’s Swan 601 Stark Raving Mad (USA), a crew who have caught the eye this week and not only for their fluorescent shirts.
“Today was an important regatta for us because the conditions forecast for tomorrow are worryingly light and not ideal for our boat,” explained Bronenosec’s expert tactician Tommaso Chieffi. “We started today with a significant margin over the nearest boats, consequently our tactic was to wait and make sure we didn’t lose too much ground. We are happy to be going into the final day in this position.”
Bronenosec has enjoyed an active season comprising appearances at the Giraglia Rolex Cup and Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. “The team have made some gigantic steps since the beginning of the season and with each regatta the communication onboard has improved,” continued Chieffi. “It will be fantastic to win this competition as it is something we have worked for all year.” Stark Raving Mad now lies in second, some four points behind the leader. Berenice Bis occupies third spot.
At the business end of Grand Prix class, competition has been dominated by three boats: the Swan 42s Magical Mystery Tour (GBR) and Natalia (ROU), and the larger Swan 56 Clem (ESP). Natalia proved to be today’s most agile performer surpassing Clem on the downwind leg from Monaci to snatch first place. The final day is tantalisingly set-up, as Natalia seeks to defend a one-point lead from Magical Mystery Tour. Barring an upset in form, Clem seems to be out of the running. “The key to success in Porto Cervo is knowing the area, its islands, and having some local knowledge. Our crew is very well-honed and today we sailed a great race,” explained Natalia co-skipper Diego Cayolla.
The Classic division has been the most clear-cut with the Swan 53 Ondine claiming three victories from four races. She prevailed again today and enjoys a five-point lead over only rival Shirlaf (ITA) heading into the final day.
Defending champion Earlybird has flown to the top of the standings in the Rolex Swan 45 World Championship. Three demanding windward-leeward races were set today by the Race Committee. Earlybird took the first race coming from behind to overcome Andrea Masi’s Ulika (ITA), eventual winner of race two. Former competition leader TalJ (ITA) endured a more frustrating day notching two fourth places ahead of race three. Victory for TalJ though in the final race sets up a dramatic last day.
“It was not an easy day since racing between TalJ and us is very close. We had to concentrate on trying to cover TalJ and at the same time not to loose contact with the other boats. Tactically it was not easy,” explained Earlybird co-owner Christian Nagel. “The crew is very important and most of us have been sailing together for the last couple of years. The experience is vital as we don’t have the possibility to practice together very often. It is great to be in the lead and have this opportunity to win here for the third time in a row.” Earlybird’s lead over TalJ stands at three points.
The final day sees a relatively short coastal race scheduled for all classes and two windward-leeward races in the Rolex Swan 45 World Championship.