The owner and crew of Escapade underlined the fact that an army of rock star professionals and this year's Superyacht design technology are not necessarily prerequisites for winning at the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta 2017. The event is organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in collaboration with Boat International Media and the Title Sponsor Loro Piana.
As the slowest rated yacht in the seven strong Superyacht fleet the crew of the 38m Dubois design took full advantage of the steadily strengthening southerly breeze which blessed the first of four planned coastal races.
The crew lead by tactician Dave Ridley of Hall Spars NZ made sure they capitalised by sailing smart downwind angles on the 24 nautical miles course to be rewarded by Escapade's first ever win on the Costa Smeralda, so denying a maiden race victory for the new McKeon designed 33m Ribelle by a margin of just over one minute on corrected time.
For the Escapade owner, Christophe Albin, the win was a pleasant surprise and an inspirational first foray on to a race course in Europe at the conclusion of three leisurely years of world cruising.
Swiss owner Albin was delighted, joking: "I asked twice to my team to check that they were not reading the result in the reverse order!"
"We have an excellent crew all coming from different parts of the world, but we integrated the crew very well on our first training day and that meant we could train well on the second and third day. We have done very few regattas, we did the Raja Muda regatta in Malaysia where we were third on one of the passage races and then we did the Saint Barths Bucket when we came third in our class, so it is a nice surprise today. It is a huge motivation to win to carry on competing and to try and do it again tomorrow, and after tomorrow."
Francesco de Angelis, helmsman, double Olympic gold medal winning tactician Luis Doreste and the crew of Ribelle appeared not to put a foot wrong, the excellent speed and smooth boat handling on Ribelle belying their limited time practising with the slippery new McKeon design. They enjoyed a close joust with Pier Luigi Loro Piana's crew on the new My Song, the scratch boat in the fleet, which took third, 54 seconds behind Ribelle.
Ribelle's owners were pleased and excited by their first competitive outing: "We had only two days of training but today the boat was responding beautifully, it was fantastic weather and a fantastic crew, so it is a great start with our new boat. We have Francesco de Angelis on the helm who is very clever and very quiet. Second on the first day for the boat and we are very happy."
The 24 nautical miles passage took the Superyachts and the ten boat Wally fleets on a beat to a laid mark, continuing upwind as the thermal build of the SSE'ly breeze kicked steadily to round the little rocky islet Mortoriotto before running back downwind past Porto Cervo to turn left into 'bomb alley' for short reach to the Golf turning buoy at Secca di Tre Monte to the south of Caprera. With the wind peaking at 13-14kts the second reach to downwind was north to the Monaci Islets before a beat and short broad reach to the finish.
That the breeze continued to build in the afternoon seemed to ensure that both classes enjoyed reasonably even chances between the bigger, faster rated boats and those smaller armed with slower handicaps.
The bigger Wally yachts had the chance to extend away early as they worked offshore to the left of the first upwind, getting into the stronger breeze first. Magic Carpet Cubed started beautifully and were able to seize first advantage, the foundations of their Race 1 win by 1min and 24 secs over Galateia with the French crew on the Wally 80 Ryokan taking third. Open Season led around the course but retired after finishing due to an error reading the sailing instructions. They were initially credited with second place by 3 seconds before they recognised their mistake and withdrew.
Magic Carpet's Volvo Ocean Race winning tactician Ian Walker recalled, "It was a cool race because the big boats did really well early on because we got left (offshore) on the first beat and we got more breeze but then the wind filled in which helped everybody towards the back of the fleet. We are very happy. We made a really good start which enabled us to go the right way up the first beat, the speed was good in the light. We sailed a good, tidy race."
The unique mix of excellent, close racing on the waters and reliable winds of the Costa Smeralda combined with an exclusive social programme sets the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta apart, continuing to draw enthusiastic owners and crews to this unique annual event. The highlights of tonight's Loro Piana Owners' Dinner include Michelin starred Chef Carlo Cracco.
Racing continues Thursday with coastal courses planned for the Superyacht and Wally divisions and a forecast for lighter winds. The first warning signal will be at 1130hrs.