My Song is a heavier, more cruising-oriented yacht than some of the other lightweight racers such as Black Dragon. So when she rounded the barren rock off the northern tip of Corsica just after 0800 hours local time yesterday morning, she was not expected to be leading the 189 boat fleet.
It was another 45 minutes before the lightweight Reichel/Pugh 77 Black Dragon passed the rock, with the large Wally yachts, Magic Carpet and Y3k, not far behind. Things were looking very good for My Song. However, helicopter reports from yesterday afternoon indicated that Black Dragon had taken the lead, the light airs favouring her lightweight 16 ton displacement. With 40 miles to the finish in Genoa, Italy the leader was making ten knots towards the Italian port but there was every sign that the wind would fade as she drew closer.
Before the race, navigator Simon SHAW said he had hoped they could bring Black Dragon home before the wind shut down completely after dark, as it is so often does on this Mediterranean coast. It is touch-and-go as to whether SHAW and his team mates will make it in time, but if any boat is capable of ghosting along in no wind, it is Black Dragon.
As to whether Black Dragon can emulate the achievements last year of her sistership, Nokia Enigma, it is too early to say. Charles DUNSTONE's identical Maxi-sled won the 2004 race on corrected time but the smallest yachts in Group A, the Grand Soleil 42R keelboats, have proved a tough challenge this week. Winner of the inshore racing, Roberto FERRERO's North Sails Sportswear, rounded the rock at 1430, making a very respectable seven knots boatspeed. Black Dragon will just have to hope that the wind shuts down out to sea as well as closer to the finish, otherwise the smaller boats like North Sails and her sistership Near Miss will concertina towards her.
Meanwhile, among the smaller boats of Group B, the IMX 40 Fare Well is leading the standings on corrected time. Eric PIERREJEAN won this race four years ago, and knows the vagaries and pitfalls of this 243 mile course better than most. At the Levant Gate early in the race he was lying third in class but he had taken the lead before the Giraglia rock, followed by two Grand Soleil 40R yachts, the Italian Despeinada and Russian Synergy. PIERREJEAN will be paying particular attention to Italo BORRINI's Despeinada, the very same boat that won the race last year and relegated Fare Well to the runner up spot.
'We are pleased to have taken the lead,' said PIERREJEAN, 'and currently we are moving well with ten knots of wind. But the wind is blowing from the north so we are having to sail upwind to Genoa. If the wind stayed like this we would be in Genoa tonight, but anything can happen at night here, and it usually does. The wind is full of surprises.'
Now in its 53rd year, the Giraglia Rolex Cup is established as one of the classic regattas of the Mediterranean. The regatta, sponsored by Rolex for the past eight years, comprises three days' inshore racing in the Bay of St. Tropez, France, and culminates in the 243 mile offshore race via the Giraglia Rock to the Italian port of Genoa.