Big wind finale
“At this time of year the only place you can sail is Monaco!” Commented Frenchman Nicolas Bérenger, four-time winner in the Longtze Premier at the conclusion of the 30th Primo Cup-Trophée Credit Suisse.
In other classes Stephen Molle (Grun) led the German armada in the well-represented Platu 25 series, and in the J/70s Frenchman Ludovic Sénéchal (Lulu la Nantaise) won three races. Italian Ferdinando Battistella (Diva) won the SB20 class, as did his compatriot Manfredi Vianini Tolomei (Maolca) in the Melges 20s. Honours too go to the women in the Smeralda 888 class with victory going to Blandine Medecin and her cre won Bear Essentials.
Conditions were tough for the finale of the Primo Cup-Trophée Credit Suisse, which this year lived up to its reputation as a demanding winter regatta, attracting a high level among the 800 sailors who come from all over the world to compete in February each year. In total, there were 160 entries, representing 17 nationalities over the two weekends of racing.
“It’s great to come across and race against America’s Cup helmsmen who got us dreaming in the first place,” commented young Yacht Club de Monaco Laser sailor Edward Albert-Davie, competing in the SB20 class.
After a first weekend that brought together five series (Dragon, Star, J/24, Surprise and IRC), the Bay of Monaco hosted another fine weekend of racing for six more one-design classes: SB20, Smeralda 888, J/70, Melges 20, Platu 25 and Longtze Premier.
Having got their boats out of the water and onto their trailers for the trip home, competitors returned to the Clubhouse late afternoon for the prize-giving hosted by Bernard d'Alessandri. It provided an opportunity for the YCM’s Secretary General to recall that “it is not without emotion that this was not only the 30th anniversary of the Primo Cup, but also the last to be held on this side of the harbour. The meeting in 2015 will be out of the new Norman Foster-designed building that will be inaugurated on 20 June 2014.”.
Loyal to the event for nearly 30 years, the sportswear brand SLAM again presented all crew members in the top three boats in each class with Advanced Technology Sportswear garments. The highly anticipated draw for the gold ingot donated by Credit Suisse was won by a young sailor on the SB20 Aramis, a stroke of luck as it might help pay for repairs to their one-design following a collision during the weekend.
SB20: With 28 boats registered, this was the biggest class and put on a great show with a hard-fought battle between the first seven all of whom shared the leading positions. They produced a fine spectacle surfing on waves with spinnakers up, accelerating from 13 to 20 knots in under two seconds, particularly in the gusty conditions on the last day. The stakes were high as the Primo Cup is the first leg of four stages in the first Challenge de la Méditerranée SB20.
Discovering for the first time what this popular one-design is all about was Italian Ferdinando Battistella (Diva), more used to the Melges 32 fleet, and it was his team that clinched victory. In his wake, only two points behind, was the class President Ed Russo (Black Magic), a regular at the big regattas, and assisted like last year by Sébastien Col and Gilles Favennec. Italian Carlo Brenco (Un’Altra Claudia) completed the podium, relegating to 4th place one of the favourites, Piscine Desjoyaux's team, crewed by Laurent Bernaz, Xavier Leclair and Mathieu Bouchet, a young 470 sailor from Monaco.
“It’s a very quick boat. It gives you a feeling of just slipping through the water, especially today with 17 knots on the harbour. The podium wasn’t decided till the very last race - it was a real battle,” commented Mathieu Bouchet, whose next goal is to compete in the Grand Prix Slam SB20 in Hyères early May with a young crew from the PACA league.
Melges 20: Since early autumn, the Melges 20 fleet has made the principality its winter headquarters for the Monaco Sportsboat Winter Series of five regattas, one a month. International Class President Manfredi Vianini Tolomei (Maolca) dominated the weekend, always among the frontrunner with two wins and two second. Overall he won ahead of the American Robert Wilber (Cinghiale) and the YCM’s Matteo Marenghi Vaselli (Matteo).
Congratulations also go to long term Farr 40 skipper Nico Poons (Carissima), who finished a creditable 6th although the Primo Cup was only his second regatta in the Melges 20, after less than a month being on the helm. The next and final stage of the Monaco Sportsboat Winter Series is over 6-9 March.
Longtze Premier: Powerful and always spectacular, the Longzte Premiers again lit up the course with their multi-coloured sails.
Pierre Mas, Director of Longtze Yachts commented: “A lively start as always to the season in Monaco, which enables new teams to pit their wits against the more experienced ones, producing some surprises like for example Imhotep which on only its fourth day of sailing won a race ahead of the prince of Longztes.”
With three race wins, Nicolas Berenger (Beijaflore), assisted for the first time by Bertrand Pacé, was eight points clear of his immediate rivals, the team of Switzerland's Jarmo Wieland (Shensu) and German Eckhard Kaller (Wetfeet), who finished tied on equal points.
Four student teams competed, although they did not make the podium. For example Arts et Métiers Groupe Atlantic, finished 6th and was first crew in the student division. As 22 year old skipper Benoit Morane observed: “A good start to the season for a brand new crew which only came together this year, an opportunity to synchronise as a team and hone our skills for the Atlantic Group Longtze Student Cup which will start in Marseille.”
J/70: Introduced only last year into the Principality, this new series has won many YCM members over. There was much anticipation therefore surrounding the new boats, which demonstrated just how manoeuvrable and easy to handle they are in big conditions.
Frenchman Ludovic Sénéchal (Lulu la Nantaise), a regular in the series, demonstrated his supremacy with three race wins. He beat Monaco's Jacopo Carrain (Carpe Diem), who was still discovering what his boat could do having only christened it on Thursday evening, the day before the event.
Former America's Cup skipper Marc Pajot (Jump Around) and his daughter Zoé reproduced their performance of last weekend in the IRC category to come third.
Smeralda 888: In this series, so dear to owners at the YCM, there was a tie on points between the first team skippered by Blandine Medecin (Bear Essentials) and the second, the doyen in this fleet, Adalberto Miani (Botta Dritta), Sailing Commissaire at the YCM. Today’s tough conditions took their toll on some crews and their boats, and on the last spinnaker run Pobeda, helmed by Vasily Sukhotin, dismasted, sinking any hopes her skipper had of a podium finish. Class President Prince Charles de Bourbon-Siciles (Vamos mi Amor), finished third. After a break of two years in this class his return to competition was impressive and bodes well for the championship that continues over 28-30 March.
Platu 25: After a second place in Monaco last year, German Stephen Molle (Grun) had set his heart on winning this year, which he did in style with three bullets ahead of his compatriot Morten Nickel (Kamlade) and Swiss skipper Martin Sigrist on Aramis. Loyal to the Primo Cup, this series has many fans in Nordic countries, the best of which are in the Principality to prepare for the season’s big regattas.
More photos from Carlo Borlenghi/www.borlenghi.com