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10 December 2005, 02:17 pm
'Italian Rascals' Steal Early Lead
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Rolex Trophy 2005
Sydney, Australia

Two clear leaders emerged from the Farr 40 and Sydney 38 fleets on day one of the Rolex Trophy - One Design Series in Sydney, Australia, a key lead-up event to the Rolex Sydney Hobart 2005. Vincenzo ONORATO and his Italian crew on Mascalzone Latino (which translates as Italian Rascal) won the opening three heats of the Farr 40 division by a 30 second margin, while Lisa and Martin HILL posted scores of 1,1,2 aboard Sydney 38 Estate Master.
Back in March for the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, ONORATO had struggled in the lumpy seas outside Sydney Heads and could only manage fifth in that hotly contested regatta. The Aussie crews excelled in the big, rolling waves with Richard PERINI (AUS) and the crew of Evolution becoming the first Australians to win the World title. But today's races were held on uncharacteristically flat water, with 17 knot westerly breezes blowing off Bondi Beach under a clear blue sky, and this seemed to suit the Italians who played the Mediterranean conditions to perfection.

ONORATO led comfortably around the first mark, although a lap later Evolution had closed the gap to just ten seconds. Perhaps the World Champion could overhaul the Italian visitors? But it was not to be, as ONORATO slapped a firm cover on PERINI up the final beat. ONORATO took the winner's gun by 36 seconds from PERINI, with Don TELFORD's Rushcutter over a minute behind in third place.

The Sydney 38 division started a lap later than the Farr 40s, resulting in both fleets rounding the windward mark simultaneously. It was a very congested and difficult mark rounding, particularly for those Sydney 38s that failed to get round the spacer mark cleanly. Amid all the chaos, however, Estate Master sailed off to a majestic lead, winning by almost a minute from Tony WALLS' Acuity, with Alan and Tom QUICK's Outlaw in third.

The wind had been shifting gradually around to the south throughout the first race, and was dying as it did so. The race committee postponed the start until the wind settled in an easterly onshore direction. The breeze also rapidly picked up from ten knots and at one point gusted up to 30 knots. This did little to throw Mascalzone off her stride, however, as the Italians smoked to another comfortable victory - this time over Leon CHRISTIANAKIS's Cydon, with PERINI coming in third.

In the Sydney 38s, Estate Master posted another straightforward victory on the scoreboard, with Lisa and Martin HILL's series lead enhanced by the inconsistency of her rivals. Last place finisher in heat one, Transfusion helmed by 470 World Champion Nathan WILMOT, became runner-up in heat two, followed by Geoff BONUS's Calibre in third.

The wind softened again for the final heat of the day, but once again the Italians brought the Farr 40 fleet home, winning by another clear margin, on this occasion from TELFORD and Rushcutter, with Evolution third. Things were much closer in the third heat of the Sydney 38s, with just twelve seconds separating the top three at the finish. Acuity clinched the win from Estate Master who in turn took second place by less than a boatlength from Calibre.

So with a hat trick of wins, performance of the day went to ONORATO's team. The Italian attributed his perfect score to the long practice sessions they have put in over recent weeks. ONORATO commented, 'We have practiced in the boat very often, and that has given us the result. We love being here in Sydney, it's a beautiful city and a wonderful spot to go sailing, and that also helps us do well. We will come back, every year.'

ONORATO also said he was tempted back to Sydney by the prospect of competing against PERINI and Evolution. 'Richard is the World Champion, which means he is number one in the world, and racing against him is one of the reasons we are here.'

Now sitting in second place, five points behind Mascalzone, PERINI said it had been a difficult day. 'The day was a little bit of everything. We had very unusual weather out there, wind coming from the west and finishing up in the east, pressure from about seven knots to 29. It was the sort of day where you can have a lot of ups and downs, but Mascalzone were fantastically consistent. We've only had three out of nine races, though, so there is plenty to play for.'

Further back in the Farr 40 fleet, some teams got up close and personal with the local marine life. In the first race, a flying fish flew up out of the water and whacked Matt ALLEN, the skipper of Farr 40 Ichi Ban, square in the face. The flustered fish knocked his sunglasses off and left ALLEN with a black eye. Another Farr 40, Venom, bumped into a 700 kilo sunfish out for an afternoon stroll. Skipper Brett NEILL said the collision would have done neither party any favours, and this evening the crew will be giving the keel a thorough checkover for damage. 'The fish came off worst,' said NEILL. 'He'd have a bit of a headache, the poor old fella. We were doing about eight or nine knots, with the spinnaker up, so it was quite a thud.'

Racing resumes outside Sydney Heads tomorrow.

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Mascalzone Latino:© Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
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