Early lead for Germany

A report from the Sardinia Rolex Cup team racing

Tuesday June 6th 2006, Author: Key Partners, Location: Italy
A perfect setting, with bright sunshine, warm temperatures and a light northwesterly breeze greeted the seven teams competing in the first day of the 2006 Sardinia Rolex Cup and ISAF Offshore Team World Championship, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.

The Race Committee was able to complete three windward-leeward races with a breeze ranging from 8 to 13 knots and flat seas. Team Germany, which includes Michael Illbruck's TP52 Pinta, Wolfgang Stolz's Swan 45 Opus One and Wolfgang Schaefer's Farr 40 Struntje Light, currently leads on 24 points. Team Sardegna, with Stuart Robinson's TP52 Santa Ana, Stefano Polti's Swan 45 Mintaka and Vincenzo Onorato's Farr 40 Mascalzone Latino, lies second with 26 points. Team Italy is in third with 30 points, with Alessandro Pirera's TP52 Orlanda, Lorenzo Bortolotti's Swan 45 Swantastic and Alessandro Barnaba's Farr 40 Fiamma. At the time of writing, four protests were pending, three of which involve Fiamma and one involving Opus One.

Pinta's tactician John Kostecki, Olympic medallist, Volvo Ocean Race winner and America's Cup veteran, was happy with the outcome of this first day: "We got three light races in and it was a good day for us, we had a third and two firsts. The crew did a nice job of handling the boat. We had good boat speed and this makes the tactician's job easy. I lost track of how many Sardinia Cups I have done, it's a great event and so far we're off to a good start."

The competition so far has been hot. Despite fielding virtually the same team as 2004 - including crews that boast Olympic, America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race talent - defending champion Team Spain sits in fifth place after the first day. Tornado sailor and ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in 2005, Fernando Echavarri one of the trimmers onboard the TP52 Bribon Movistar summed up a difficult opening day for the Spaniards, "On the last race we had the best start of the fleet but we chose the wrong side of the leg and we ended up sailing in a patch of light air. There, we lost all our options for the day."

Race One was dominated by Team Italy, with Alessandro Pirera's Orlanda taking an early lead among the TP52 fleet and fellow team member Lorenzo Bortolotti's Swantastic winning among the Swan 45s. In the Farr 40 fleet, it was Vincenzo Onorato's Mascalzone Latino, from Team Sardegna, who took first place with America's Cup legend Russell Coutts calling the tactics. Race Two, sailed in a lighter breeze of around 9-11 knots, saw three different teams take line honours: Team Germany with Michael Illbruck's TP52 Pinta, Team Alpe Adria (competing with only two boats after the withdrawal of the TP52 A-Team) with Francesco Martino's Swan 45 T.Too, and Team Italy with Alessandro Barnaba's Farr 40 Fiamma. Race Three, sailed in a stronger 12-13 knots of breeze, once again saw Pinta and Mascalzone Latino take line honours, while among the Swan 45s it was Stefano Polti's Mintaka from Team Sardegna taking first.

Towards the end of Race One, the TP52 Orlanda had to perform an emergency crew change as bowman Stefano Gerardi dislocated his shoulder. He was transferred ashore in a rib and was replaced by the boat's rib driver. According to Orlanda's tactician Andy Green, former America's Cup helm and match racing champion, the crew change didn't really affect the boat's results: "When our bowman dislocated his shoulder, we weren't under any pressure as we were leading by a long way. In the second race we gave away one space to Stay Calm at the first beat, and in the last race I made a mistake. This is my first day of sailing the TP 52 and it's a fantastic boat, I am really enjoying it. In the last few days we did some work on the boat and it is now going better in the light winds. We're happy and hopefully we'll have some more good results coming. I've never been to Sardinia before, it's such a beautiful place."

Russell Coutts, at his debut in the Sardinia Rolex Cup, is enthusiastic about Porto Cervo, too: "Porto Cervo is a great place. It's one of my favourite places, I love it here," he commented, adding: "It's certainly one of the top three destinations in the world for sailing. Racing was good today, it's a small fleet so it's really important to get off the starting line in a good spot. In the second race everybody was trying to knock everybody else the wrong way and we got left behind."

At the end of this first day of sailing, the owners and their crews will have time to unwind, relax and share their racing stories at the Rolex Party in the Piazza Azzurra overlooking Porto Cervo Marina. The teams will need to be in good shape by tomorrow morning, as, according to Captain Filippo Petrucci, official meteorologist of the Sardinia Rolex Cup, "the wind will gradually shift to the right, becoming easterly and reaching 15 knots."

The Sardinia Cup has been held every two years since 1978, and in 2004 its status as a grand prix event was further enhanced when it was granted the accolade of ISAF Offshore Team World Championship. Each nation team is made up of three boats, two of which are highly successful one-designs, the Farr 40 and the Swan 45, while the third is a box-rule class, the TP52. Teams collect points by combining the scores of their three boats, with the winning team finishing with the lowest points score.

Provisional Team Standings after 3 races

Position - Team - Points

1 - Germany - 24
2 - Sardegna - 26
3 - Italy - 30

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