Thursday's race saw all four divisions undertake pretty much Wednesday's route in reverse. Results-wise, Morning Glory was top gun in Racing, beating Alfa Romeo on handicap by 15 seconds. In the Cruising Division, Ranger finished 15 minutes behind Ghost, but came out ahead on handicap. For the Mini Maxis, Massimo VIOLATI's (ITA) OPS 5 corrected out 16 seconds in front of Carlo PURI NEGRI's (ITA) Atalanta II and in the Wally Division, Lindsay OWEN-JONES' (GBR) Magic Carpet Squared stole the show on the water beating Claus Peter OFFEN's (GER) Y3K by 25 seconds, but it was Indio in pole on corrected time.
The 39-nautical mile race started opposite Porto Cervo into a 15 knot WNW. The fleet raced upwind to a turning mark before heading into the main channel at the gap between the southern end of Caprera & Isola delle Bisce. The yachts then beat up the length of the main passage between mainland Sardinia and the Maddalena Archipelago to Lavezzi. Here the yachts turned east and spinnaker reached back along the outside of the islands, past Monaci, to the final turning mark in the Golfo Peverro, just before the finish at Porto Cervo.
After the excitement of the first start, the Wallys set off second in more relaxed style. Come the third start - the so-called Cruising Division - and it was game on, with the professional tacticians throwing their steeds into the starting box as if it were a dinghy race, rather than one involving yachts of 100 plus feet and up to 200-tonnes displacement. At the pin, heavily favoured once again, the two J Class and Ghost fought for position, trading tacks just before the start to gain that small advantage. Once across the line, Arne GLIMCHER's Luca Brenta designed 122-foot metallic silver wraith edged ahead of the two elder states ladies - older in style terms alone in the case of Ranger, which was only launched in 2003.
Thomas BURNHAM (USA), part of the Luna Rossa team in the last two America's Cups, is calling tactics on Ghost. Although disappointed with the final result (Ghost corrected to fourth), he felt the crew had sailed well and found it hard to imagine where they could have done better; commenting on the race BURNHAM said, 'The upwind leg through the channel was not as straight-forward as Monday. Normally you know where the favourable shifts are going to be, depending where you are. Today, the wind was moving between 20 and 30 degrees, but not necessarily where and when it was expected and we had to work hard to keep on top of the shifts. Coming back was easier. The reach to the bottom was not as tight as we had expected. In fact the wind kept turning right from about 270 through to 310 as we reached back towards the finish.'
Out in front, the racing was no less strenuous. Alfa Romeo ripped up the channel in 1 hour 45 minutes (she did the whole course in 3 hours 22 minutes), reaching Lavezzi with Morning Glory hanging onto her coat tails, a touch over five minutes behind. Morgan LARSON (USA), tactician on the German maxZ86, was understandably pleased with the overall result, despite identifying some points in the race that did not go as well as they would have liked, 'Overall we did a really good job. Not the best start, but we really did a good job on the first half of the race. Then, on the downwind, Alfa Romeo stretched the lead and Rambler was catching us so we didn't do a very good job there.' For LARSON, the defining moment came right at the end, 'At the last leeward mark coming through to the finish the crew did a exceptional job making a difficult manoeuvre possible. If they didn't make that happen we could have lost there, but instead we ended up winning by 15 seconds. That really was the pivotal moment of the race and we have to hand it to the crew for today's win.'
In the Mini Maxi division, some of the best racing today was between Gunther HERZ' (GBR) All Smoke and Atalanta II. Ken READ (USA), skipper of the Puma programme for the next Volvo, described the action between two very different yachts, 'Because the boats are so close in speed, we had really great racing against them. I think they are a little bit quicker than we are upwind, and that we are a little bit quicker than they are downwind and because of that this is making for some close racing. We actually passed them downwind once and then they got a very nice shift and got well ahead of us upwind and then downwind we got a couple of nice shifts and we got ahead of them again, .so this is a fun racing. The amazing thing is they are completely different boats. They [Atalanta II] are very much a racing boat, and All Smoke is very much a cruising boat. And, it's fascinating how we both seem so different in concept but that we can actually go same speed. We enjoy racing against them and we have developed a little bit of a rivalry.'
On Thursday night the crews got the chance to unwind at the Rolex Crew Party, where they were entertained by the Ziguidum band, playing classic Brazilian music followed by the Ipanema Show - a Brazilian dance group.
The wind for today is expected to be similar to yesterday: WNW (between 280 & 305 degrees) at around 15 knots, increasing to 16-18 knots in the later afternoon.