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4 September 2001, 10:25 am
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Maxi Yachts pass the Monaci Light House photo:Borlenghi/Strategic

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup
Porto Cervo, Sardinia

Some big, powerful cats were chasing some very elusive mice in the first race of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup yesterday.
A $200m fleet of 25, including some of the world's most beautiful yachts, packed with no-expense spared equipment and gadgetry, were sent in search of something which costs nothing.

The prey in question was the wind, blowing patchily from the north-east in zephyrs which scurried down the early stages of the 28 mile, double triangle course.

But there was other prey, as the in-fighting saw rivals trying first to outsmart and then devour each other in sectors which include modern IMS yachts, older and more cruise-oriented boats, and a special class for the futuristic, almost floating gallery, Wally designs.

After two short delays, one to let the light, noon-day wind settle, the second as the modern maxis were recalled for being over the start line early, the first round the big, yellow and white Rolex rounding mark was the Reichel -Pugh 85-footer My Song. She was chased by the Grand Mistral 80-footer Benbow, one of eight owned by Swiss America's Cup challenger Ernesto Bertarelli, and Sagamore, Jim Dolan's sleek, dark blue conqueror from the United States East Coast.

Sagamore soon pulled to the front, but the New Yorkers knew they had a fight on their hands and Raffaele Raiola's brand new Reichel-Pugh 79-foot Idea - she took line honours in the Rolex Giraglia offshore race from St. Tropez to Genoa in June - ground them down just after the half way point.

With the breeze gradually increasing in strength to about 10 knots as the afternoon developed, she was romping home to take line honours again.

But things were much tighter in the Wally class. Their designer, German Frers, had elected to have a day at the wheel of the 180-foot Adela, which he had helped redesign when it was modernised to include not only air conditioning but a walk-in fridge.

Unexpectedly last off the start line was the class's founder, Luca Bassani in his all-bronze Tiketitoo. First round the top mark was Gianluca Vacchi in Genie of the Lamp and second was Germany's Thomas Bscher in Bassani's former boat and sister-hull, Tiketitan. Bscher held off Bassani all the way to the half-way turning mark round a buoy deep in the Golfo di Saline, where Bassani tried to squeeze inside and ride over the top of Bscher. The German would have none of it, pushed Bassani up into the wind and both lost a lot of speed.

It forced Bassani to tack away and the older boat then showed how much it loves the seven to nine know wind range. Bassani has committed himself to a bold experiment with Tiketitoo as its underwater configuration comprises not only a swinging keel and rudder but no fewer than four canard dagger boards.

It is a complex hydrodynamic combination to produce increased performance, but, on the day, in those conditions, Tiketitan looked quicker. It was tough and go whether she could stay ahead until the finish, but, on handicap, Tiketitoo had to give Titetitan time. It mattered nothing. Tiketitan beat her all the way home.

It was a gentle enough workout for the opening day of a five-race series spread over six days. But the Mistral wind which had made the journey to Sardinia a bit rougher at the end of last week is forecast to return, perhaps as early as tomorrow. Today, on the more conventional boats, when the trimmers called, the men on the coffee grinder winches spun the handles.

On the Wallys, a touch of a button activated the motor-powered winches, leaving the crew to enjoy a more relaxing time in the Mediterranean sun. Tomorrow, the more conventional may envy the more modern.

Mini Profile:

Wise heads on young shoulders are a valued commodity and being in charge of a multi-million dollar yacht is the sort of responsibility that turns hair grey even faster than it fattens bank accounts.

Being the youngest skipper of a Wally racing yacht at the Rolex Cup regatta - he is in permanent charge of Thomas Bscher's Tiketikan ( a corruption of the words teak and titanium) all the year round - is something which marks out Adam Bateman from the average, run of the mill young man making his way in the world of super yachts.

At 26, he has been in the business for eight years, as he started at 18 on Bill Whitehouse-Vaux's 72-foot Mistress Quickly, which spent most of its life in the Mediterranean. He had known him since, at the age of 14, also being responsible for towing out to and back from the race course, the International 6-Metre Thisbe. It is a job which requires concentration and control, not always the attributes of a teenager.

He did his first transatlantic crossing on Irvine Laidlaw's Swan 60, Highland Fling, under the watchful eye of Campbell Field, son of Whitbread race winner Ross Field and crewing this week for Adam.

Two sessions on the Wally IMS 60 Boabunda were followed by 18 months on another of the yachts starring in the Rolex Cup, the 180-foot Adela, and he then put in an extended assignment on the lightweight Tripp 88, Shaman. They started in the US, went to the Caribbean and Venezuela, on to England and Norway and then to Spitzbergen, reaching 80 degrees 22 mins North.

You have to be engineering-minded to run a Wally, he says, not least because of all the hydraulic systems. But he also enjoys racing. No surprises there. His father Peter, a victim of cancer last year, was a national dinghy champion in the UK before becoming Britain's Olympic coach.

"I get to go sailing, which I love, and I am paid for it," says Adam with simple clarity. His father would have approved. Quote of the day:

"We can't even go into the bits of the chart that are marked in blue." Jo Richards, tactician, on the 24-foot deep draft of the 124-foot Antonisa, when the centre board is down.

Results, top three in each division:

DIVISION IMS RACING:

BOAT NAME/ OWNER/TYPE/ CORR.TIME/POINTS
1. Edimetra VI/Ernesto Gismondi/Frers 65/03:33:56/1.00
2. Rrose Selavy/Riccardo Bonadeo/Frers 73/03:34:53/2.00
3. Alexia/Alberto Roemmers/IMS Maxi/03:37:35/3.00

DIVISION CRUISER OVER 30m:

BOAT NAME OWNER/TYPE/ CORR.TIME/POINTS
1. Antonisa/Pasquale Natuzzi/124' Sloop/03:40:24/1.00
2. Adela/John Lindeman/Schooner 180'/03:46:04/2.00
3. Unfurled/Harry Macklowe/Frers 112'/03:58:58/3.00

DIVISION CRUISER:

BOAT NAME OWNER/TYPE/ CORR.TIME/POINTS
1. Virtuelle/Carlo Perrone/03:32.30/1.00
2. Fetch 3/Filippo Faruffini/03:44:22/2.00
3. Aldabraa/Marcello Niccolini/Swan 68/03:48:01/3.00

DIVISION WALLY:

BOAT NAME OWNER/TYPE/ CORR.TIME/POINTS
1. Vae Victus/Alessandro Grande/Wally 77/03:39:01/1.00
2. Askherout/Mattia Medici/Wally 77/03:39:57/2.00
3. Genie of the Lamp/Gianluca Vacchi/Wally 77/03:44:10/3.00









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