The brand new Maxi yacht called Idea threw away an early lead in the second race of the Giraglia Rolex Cup when she ran aground at high speed today.
Seemingly unaware of the impending danger as she passed a navigational buoy marking the shallow waters two miles away from Saint-Tropez, the Italian 82-foot Maxi ground to a rapid halt as Jim Dolan's Sagamore cruised by her stricken rival. The Reichel-Pugh design managed to break clear from the rocks relatively quickly but by then she had dropped to third place behind Sagamore and Loro Piana, who went on to take line honours in the two-and-a-half hour race under blue skies and in perfect moderate breezes.
It has been an expensive week so far for the Italian owner of Idea, Raffaele Raiola, who yesterday saw a $40,000 sail tear in half as the breeze increased beyond its working range. Although they appeared to be on the pace after their accident, the crew took the boat over to the nearby port of Cogolin to lift Idea out of the water for a closer inspection of the damage.
Despite doing most of his racing in the USA, Jim Dolan was not phased by the sometimes treacherous waters around Saint-Tropez. The American owner of Sagamore said: "We've got such an international crew on board that we've nearly always got someone who's sailed the waters before, no matter where we might be in the world." Whilst pleased with Sagamore's performance today, a dramatic wind shift soon after the start turned the race into something of a procession. "It was a drag race all around the course but we did pretty well today," he said.
With the breeze picking up slightly towards the end of the race, it was again the smaller boats that took the glory on corrected time. Puri Negri Carlo's old C&C 61, Grampus, beat the gleaming new Maxis in Class 0, although Riccardo Bonadeo's Frers 73 Rrose Selavy is now sitting pretty with two second places. The ageing Whitbread round-the-world race winner Entreprendre proved that her race win yesterday was no flash in the pan, adding a solid third place to her score.
Whilst the big boats got away relatively cleanly on the first start off Saint-Tropez, the veering wind resulted in a very biased start line for the smaller boats in the fleet. With the 30- and 40-footers jostling for position, there were a number of collisions and one boat even smashed into the committee boat. The protest committee are likely to be in for a late evening as competitors submitted a flurry of protest forms after racing.
Flash, the Farr 39 which won yesterday's race, got away cleanly amidst all the carnage, although crew member Roberto Tamburelli said the boatspeed-oriented race did not suit them. "Our sails are very old and we needed a more tactical race to be able to keep our early position in the race." Flash could only manage 24th in the combined results of all the classes. One of the smallest boats in the whole fleet of 71, Laurent Francois's First 32 called Sietel, won today's race overall, ahead of two First 40.7s, Paul & Shark and Scacco Matto.
Tomorrow sees the last of the inshore racing take place before the main event begins on Thursday. More boats continue to arrive in Saint-Tropez for the beginning of the Giraglia Race, the offshore classic now in its 48th year.
The 2001 edition of the 243-mile race from Saint-Tropez to Genoa - via the Giraglia rock off the coast of Corsica - looks set to be the biggest ever, with over 120 yachts expected to fill the one-kilometre-long start line on Thursday at midday. A number of extreme boats such as the swing-keeled Open 60s and Mini Transat boats are entering the race, along with a brand new Volvo 60 skippered by top round-the-world sailor Grant Dalton.
The Kiwi will be racing his Nautor Challenge yacht for the first time since it was launched last Thursday in Marseille, so he will be anxious to avoid trouble on a busy start line that will see yachts ranging from 21 to almost 100 feet in length. Another boat to watch is the Wally 77 Vae Victis. Talented match racer Markus Wieser leads a crew of German America's Cup sailors aboard the luxury yacht formerly known as Carrera.