All is set in the idyllic setting of Porto Cervo, Sardinia, for the start of the ISAF Offshore Team World Championship and 14th Sardinia Rolex Cup.
This year six teams will take on defending champions Spain, with the racing due to start in Italy today. Lining up to challenge Spain are Alpe Adria, Germany, Italy, Monaco, Sardinia and USA.
The Sardinia Rolex Cup has always been a team event where sailing nations send their finest racing yachts and crews to battle not for individual honours, but for the international prestige that comes with representing the best team on the water. 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.
The Sardinia Rolex Cup, organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, will run from 5-10 June. Racing starts today and the programme includes windward-leeward races and a distance race, set in one of the most spectacular point to point racing arenas in the world. If the legendary Mistral wind blows, the funnelling effect of the narrow channels of the archipelago of La Maddalena will demand the very best in boat handling techniques from the crews.
According to official meteorologist Captain Filippo PETRUCCI yesterday, 'The weather will gradually improve starting from tomorrow, as an area of high pressure will settle over Sardinia, driving away the cold front that since last week has brought heavy rain over Porto Cervo. Tomorrow's racing should feature a light north westerly breeze of ten to twelve knots, while from Wednesday the wind will shift to the northeast and increase to twelve to 13 knots.'
Since its first edition, the Sardinia Rolex Cup has grown and evolved with the sport of offshore keelboat racing. The three yacht designs selected for this year's Sardinia Rolex Cup represent a good cross section of state of the art, modern yacht racing design. 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.
YCCS Commodore Gianfranco ALBERINI is eager for the games to start, 'The Rolex Sardinia Cup is a biennial event that we always look forward to. Racing as part of a team is challenging and the stake is high - both the Sardinia Cup Challenge Trophy and the Rolex Offshore Team World Championship Trophy. The entry list is very impressive and the crews feature many of the top sailors from the international racing circuit. I hope that the fleet, the organizing committee and our world renowned race course will prove to be first rate ingredients for a top class event.'
The strong international fleet will provide plenty of close action. Defending champion Spain heads the line up, with HM King Juan Carlos onboard its TP52 entry Bribon Movistar. Pedro CAMPOS (ESP), who will helm Bribon and was at the helm of the IMS 50 footer Bribon Telefonica MoviStar in the 2004 Sardinia Rolex Cup, has competed so many times in this event that he cannot remember the exact number.
'I've been racing in the Sardinia Rolex Cup for at least eight or ten years,'
For the movistar crewmembers that recently had to abandon ship during the Volvo Ocean Race, the Sardinia Rolex Cup will be an interesting change of scene. 'There will be four of the movistar Volvo Ocean Race crew racing on our team here in Porto Cervo, including myself, and we will all have to get a feel for our new surroundings,' continued CAMPOS, adding, 'There is no sure favourite at this stage, all the teams are very competitive. We will have to wait and see. The only sure thing is that the Sardinia Rolex Cup is a truly great event.' The Farr 40 Nerone and the Swan 45 Vertigo complete the Spanish team.
Italians Look To Add To Successful History
Although Spain won the last event in 2004, it has been Italy who has traditionally been the strongest nation in the history of the event. It has won six of the 14 editions of the Sardinia Cup. Germany has lifted the Cup three times, whilst the USA and Spain count two wins and Great Britain one. Amongst the famous names lining up this year are the 2006 Acura Key West Farr 40 winner Mascalzone Latino of Vincenzo ONORATO (ITA) and Stefano POLTI's (ITA) Swan 45 Mintaka, current leader of the Swan 45 Mediterranean circuit. Amongst the TP52s set to compete are Michael ILLBRUCK's (GER) Pinta and John BUCHAN's (USA) Wokita.Com.
The social programme is typically impressive. Competitors at the Sardinia Rolex Cup were officially greeted last night with a welcome cocktail held in the clubhouse that overlooks Porto Cervo Marina. Today features the Rolex Party for owners and crews in the Piazza Azzurra, whilst on Friday the YCCS-Rolex Owners' Dinner will take place in the sophisticated surroundings of one of the Mediterranean's most exclusive yacht clubs. The week will end with Saturday's Prizegiving Ceremony, where the Sardinia Cup Challenge Trophy and the ISAF Rolex Offshore Team World Championship Trophy will be awarded to the winning team, together with the much coveted Rolex timepieces.
he said. 'We won it twice and we are definitely looking forward to some exciting racing, we will try our best. The level of competition is extremely high and it's going to be very difficult to defend our title, especially as we now race with the new TP52 class. However, we feel quite confident with our team - the Farr 40 and the Swan 45 are the same that we raced together with in the last Sardinia Cup. We have similar crews, same boats and same owners, only
Bribon is completely different.'