Capri's Marina Piccola was the setting for the start of the 2012 Rolex Volcano Race's final act which commenced on 22 May at 18:00 CEST as the event's 15-strong Maxi fleet departed for a 300-nautical mile roundtrip through the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Conditions were uncharacteristic for the region at this time of year with heavy rain prevalent for much of the afternoon before a blue sky and a stunning rainbow ushered in the start of Leg Two of the offshore race.
Following Saturday's inshore race in Gaeta, southern Italy, and Leg One of the offshore race which concluded yesterday following a 100-nautical mile voyage from Gaeta to Capri, Leg Two pits the fleet on another challenging course. They must head south to negotiate the islands of Salina, Vulcano and Stromboli before returning to Capri.
The international fleet were eager to get going. "I think it is one of the nicest racing courses in the Mediterranean,"
explained Wild Joe (HUN) owner Márton Józsa. "I am expecting an interesting race. Strong downwind conditions would suit us."
This is what is currently forecast.
"In these conditions we could be the first boat back although you can never make big predictions before the start,"
revealed Filip Balcaen, owner of the 112-foot Nilaya (BEL), Leg One's second fastest boat.
Gordon Maguire was part of Stephen Ainsworth's winning crew onboard Loki at the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart and is currently skipper of the 67-ft Caol Ila (USA), one of the Rolex Volcano Race 's 11-strong Mini Maxi fleet. He was in expectant mood, "The interesting thing is that all the weather maps are showing contradictions which usually means the low pressure system creating the winds we are having at the moment is a lot more complex than the computers can model. We are not going out into a race where we know what is going to happen but that is always a little bit of fun. Sailing overnight to a group of islands I personally haven't been round before is quite exciting."
At 19:30 CEST, the leading yachts were travelling at approximately 10 knots with Sir Peter Ogden's 60-ft Mini Maxi Jethou (GBR) marginally ahead of Y3K (GER) and Nilaya, and some 105-nautical miles from Salina.
As the fleet head into the night, current predictions are that the first yachts will be back in Capri sometime tomorrow evening, Wednesday 23 May. The overall winner of Leg Two will be awarded the coveted Rolex Trophy and timepiece during the traditional Rolex party at the iconic La Canzone del Mare, held on Friday 25 May.
How To Follow Event??
The Rolex Volcano Race is organised by the International Maxi Association (IMA) and is open to Maxi yachts (measuring over 18.29 metres/60-ft in length). Further information on the Rolex Volcano Race, including race tracking, may be found at www.internationalmaxiassociation.com