The first day of racing brought ideal wind conditions for the fleet of 50 boats competing in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, an event organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda with the support of title sponsor Rolex and the International Maxi Association which celebrates its 30th edition this year.
At 12 noon CEST the warning signal got racing underway on the two regatta courses off Porto Cervo. The starts were given with wind from the northwest that intensified from an initial 12 knots up to 22-23 knots.
For the Maxi Racer 1 class, today's programme included two windward-leeward races which were won by Vesper and Jethou respectively. In the second race the wind built from an initial 12 knots to 18 over the course of the race. These very technical racers, crewed by professional sailors supporting the owner-driver, provided spectacular racing with frequent changes of position due to small shifts in the breeze and pressure changes on the course, which covered approximately 12 miles overall. At the end of the first day Vesper, owned by American Jim Swartz and with Gavin Brady on tactics, leads the fleet on 4 points, followed by Cannonball, owned by YCCS member Dario Ferrari with tactician Ed Baird, on 5 points overall.
The other classes completed a coastal course of approximately 30 miles, which was lengthened to 34.5 miles for the Maxi Racers and the Wally division. After separate starts for the various divisions, the fleet headed upwind through the Bisce pass and Bomb Alley off La Maddalena, an island that they rounded clockwise before embarking on a reach along the coast of Caprera to the islet of Monaci. The larger and faster yachts took the outside of Spargi island, before hoisting their kites for the run and returning to Monaci island. From here the Mini Maxi Cruiser/Racers continued towards Porto Cervo, while the rest of the fleet returned on a close reach towards the Secca di Tre Monti rock, in the gulf of Le Saline, then again downwind through the Bisce pass. Between here and Porto Cervo the fleet had to deal with a windless zone caused by the transition from the mistral to the thermal breeze from the southwest that had formed off the coast.
The winners of the respective classes were: SuperNikka owned by Roberto Lacorte (Mini Maxi R2), Wallyño owned by Benoit de Froidmont, President of the IMA (Mini Maxi RC), Six Jaguar owned by Anthony Ball (Mini Maxi CR), George David's Rambler (Maxi R), the SW RP90 All Smoke (Maxi RC), the J Class Topaz (Supermaxi), the WallyCento Magic Carpet Cubed owned by YCCS member Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones (Wally Class).
Luca Bassani, President of Wally, had these words: "Today was a clear example of why the Wally Class comes to race in Porto Cervo. A magnificent route between the islands, driven by a beautiful mistral wind that allowed the WallyCentos to sail at an average of more than 12 knots, with points of 20 knots on the reach back to Porto Cervo after the downwind run to round Caprera and La Maddalena clockwise. Magic Carpet was a deserving winner, showing speed, clear manoeuvring and perfect tactics, especially in the light area near the finish line, where the transition between two different winds could have upset the rankings."
Brad Butterworth, three-time winner of the America's Cup and tactician on Rambler 88, winner in the Maxi Racer category today, had this to say: "A day of perfect Porto Cervo conditions, with a building breeze and then a transition at the end. The race course around the islands was perfect, with ideal wind conditions with a lovely beat all the way up Bomb Alley and a nice run down to Monaci. We were very fast, we had a great start on the line, extending with the rising breeze and sailing well with flat water and breeze of up to 23 knots, really wonderful conditions. Near the start we went from 22 knots to a drop in wind in front of Porto Cervo, but we were very lucky because we hit the transition and then we hit the new lighter breeze and we had the right sail up as well. We went through the transition very well and we were lucky."
Nacho Postigo, navigator on the J Class Topaz, today's winner in the Supermaxi class: "First of all it was a very fun day because we were just 4-5 lengths from the other J Class, Velsheda, for the entire race - match racing the whole time. These boats made for the America's Cup of the 1930s are not incredibly fast but they sail very well, they are balanced and beautiful! When you turn around to see the other J Class yachts you realise that, without perceiving that you are also part of the same spectacle. In the end it is not the maximum speed that matters, but the quality of your opponent, especially when you are next to such a good one. Today we had a problem on board, we broke the spinnaker pole and for the last downwind run to the Bisce island had to sail without it. But together with the tactician Ross MacDonald we saw the transition better than the other, we kept a little more out, we looked to gain some and in the end we found ourselves with three minutes to spare, a nice final surprise."
Mark Sadler, tactician on the SW-RP90 Custom All Smoke, winner in the Maxi Racer/Cruiser class: "We came out of the blocks in the first race really on fire, the boat performed well, we extended away from the fleet upwind, downwind we were safely on the target speed, and we were probably the best yacht through the difficult transition near the finish, we are very happy with the result today."
Racing will continue tomorrow, 3 September, with the warning signal at 12 CEST preceded by the daily Weather Briefing by Quantum Sails scheduled for 9.30 a.m. in Piazza Azzurra. The forecast gives light wind from the north.