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19 June 2001, 10:06 am
Entreprendre Steals Big Boats Thunder
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Race 1 start ©Guido Cantini

Giraglia Rolex Cup

The oldest and least glamorous boat in the big boat division won Race 1 of the Giraglia Rolex Cup offshore race from Saint-Tropez, France to Genoa, Italy, 17-24 June.
Frenchman Jean Audouin's Entreprendre, built in the 80s and using tired sails and ageing equipment, stole the thunder from the big-budget big boats competing in Saint-Tropez this week. She won her division by almost four minutes on corrected time ahead of Rrose Selavy.

Not that the 60-footer is any stranger to success, having won the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1985/86 in her former guise as L'Esprit d'Equipe. Newest boat in the fleet, the 82-foot Reichel-Pugh design called Idea, won line honours despite breaking her hydraulics and ripping her light-wind genoa in half as the breeze filled in half way through the race.

After the 40-knot Mistral winds that have torn through the Cote d'Azur for the last day and a half, the breeze dropped sufficiently to start the fleet at 2pm today in a gentle Force 2. But 45 minutes into a race, the wind disappeared completely as the leaders gybed past the harbour of Saint-Tropez. Riccardo Bonadeo's Rrose Selavy had stormed off to a commanding lead on the downwind leg, only to sit helpless as her rivals closed up on her in superior breeze.

One by one the Maxi yachts parked at the gybe mark until even the diminutive Entreprendre had caught up with the bigger boats. After almost an hour's sailing the race had effectively restarted. For the next hour the fleet in no breeze until a new wind filled in from the opposite direction. Ernesto Gismondi's Edimetra was first to pick up the new breeze leaving larger Maxis like the American yacht Sagamore and Leonardo Ferragamo's Swan 82 Solleone in her wake.

Idea picked up speed again but carried her light-wind drifter genoa too high up the wind range as the breeze filled in to around 12 knots. "That was $40,000 of sail, but we have good insurance," laughed Idea's owner Raffaele Raiola afterwards. In only the boat's second competitive outing, the Italian engineering and real estate tycoon saw plenty of potential for his sleek new racing machine despite the problems. "We broke our hydraulics and had no backstay or checkstay, so it was fantastic to cross the line first. This boat has a lot of potential." Raiola, like many owners here, has employed top Olympic and America's Cup sailors to handle his boat - with Prada mainsail trimmer Sandro Montefusco and Olympic Soling representative Dede de Luca amongst his star-studded crew.

Olympic gold medallist Thierry Peponnet steered Virtuelle to third place on corrected time behind Entreprendre and Rrose Selavy. He was delighted with the performance of the sleek Vallicelli design owned by media magnate Carlo Perrone. "We made good tactical decisions today in light conditions. We have a new keel on the boat which helps with our lighter air performance, but we need 10 knots or more before she really gets going." In the smaller boats, the Farr 39 Flash beat the BH41 Silk 2 by 21 seconds on corrected time, with an IMX40 Fare Well just three seconds further adrift in third place.

Grant Dalton is now confirmed as an entrant in the Giraglia Race towards the end of the week. He will use the 243-mile offshore race from Saint-Tropez to Genoa as the first competitive outing for his new Nautor Challenge Volvo 60. The boat, launched in Marseilles last Thursday, is expected to arrive in Saint-Tropez late on Wednesday evening.


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