First Pogo 2 home
With light winds forecast for the Gran Premio d’Italia, it was always going to be more ‘3,2,1, – drift off’, than lift off. However, after five days and 17 hours of trying to fill their sails with every breath of wind, the sole British duo, Artemis Offshore Academy Mini skipper Nikki Curwen and Graduate Ollie Bond, finished the 300-mile race in Genoa, Italy among the top 10 finishers, claiming fifth place in the Series class and 9th place overall out of a field of 28.
Although there were six doublehanded crews racing Pogo 2s, not renowned for its light wind performance, Curwen and Bond were delighted to be the first boat of this design over the finish line: “This was a great result for us, as this type of boat is best surfing downwind and for the duration of the Gran Premio d’Italia we were switching between sailing upwind, downwind, across the wind and even backwards every 10 minutes! We zipped through our arsenal of sails, dropping and hoisting a new one at what felt like every two seconds – it was great practice,” Curwen enthused after the race.
The double-handed race beginning and ending in Genoa, Italy was shortened from 540 miles to 300 miles due to the light winds, taking the fleet north after passing the island of Giglio and Giannutri towards Pianosa, instead of south to Sardinia. Curwen and Bond crossed the finish line in Genoa at around 02:20 UTC on Thursday and, as expected, the light winds combined with the shadowing islands of the Mediterranean made for a challenging race: “The wind was very light and very shifty with just the odd gust of up to 10 knots. On average we saw between two and five knots daily and spent most of our time setting up the Mini in everyway we could to try and catch a breeze,” explained Curwen. “Even after managing to catch a breeze and get slightly ahead of the other boats, before you knew it you’d be back in a hole.”
“Although at times frustrating, the light conditions meant we could stay well rested and fed, taking the driving in two hour shifts,” recounted Bond. “We even managed to do a bit of wildlife spotting, seeing dolphins, three or four whales, two turtles – and a tractor tyre!”
For Bond, who competed in the 2009 Mini Transat and previous owner of the Artemis Offshore Academy Mini, the Gran Premio d’Italia was his first race back aboard the boat in four years: “I really enjoyed the race, it was a lot of fun. I don’t know how many times I said to Nikki on the way round, I’m buying a Mini.”
“To finish top ten in what were difficult conditions, demanding the full concentration of the sailors in such light and variable winds, is a great achievement for both sailors and the Academy,” added Academy Performance Director John Thorn. “The result will come as another big confidence boost for Nikki, who is working towards qualifying and racing in the 4,020 mile Mini Transat 6.50 in October, and looks to have perhaps converted an already accomplished UK Mini sailor, Ollie, back to an exciting class.”
With two races down Curwen now has one to go, the 290 nm Fuel Cell Systems UK Solent 6.50 starting 5 May, before she will have accumulated the full 1000 race miles required to qualify for October's Mini Transat 6.50, a race colourfully described by the Italian Classe Mini as ’a fleet of walnut shells crossing the Atlantic.’
After giving up her home, job and life in the UK to make her mark on the Mini circuit, it is Curwen’s dream to compete in the Mini's biennial transatlantic race and follow in the footsteps of her father, Simon, still the highest ranked finisher (2nd in the Proto class in 2001) and the most famous female sailor in the world, Ellen MacArthur, who as started her solo offshore racing career in the class.
Top ten results
Position/Skipper&co-skipper/Boat no./Boat name/Class
1. L.Mechin&S.Duculty/5/Paris Texas/Proto
4. C.Lizancos&S.Manuard/431/Reyno de Navarra/Proto
5. P.Braud&C.Segard/502/13 Au Large/Series
6. P.Loulier&M.Claveau/746/Colibrì-Chevaux du/Series
7. A.Pendibene&G.Valsecchi/520/Marina Militare/Series
8. P.Pasanau&F.Carbonell/519/Peter Punk/Series