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14 June 2005, 01:38 pm
Black Dragon Breathes Fire But North Sails Steals Her Thunder
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Giraglia Rolex Cup 2005
St. Tropez, France

Black Dragon managed to break in and spoil the Grand Soleil party yesterday in a light-wind race two of the Giraglia Rolex Cup. The triangular course worked out almost perfectly for the Reichel/Pugh 77 Transpac sled, and she led the fleet home comfortably to take a well deserved line honours victory.
The long leg back into St. Tropez, France had been a tight spinnaker reach on port gybe for the firebreathing Dragon, and then the wind shifted round to turn that leg into a slower run for the boats behind.

Black Dragon put on an impressive display yesterday, sometimes touching twelve knots of boat speed in just eight knots of wind. She was even proving a match for the much bigger Y3K, a 94 foot Wally. 'Y3K is a big boat,' commented Black Dragon's trimmer Rasmus WINSTON. 'There is as much weight in her keel - 16 tons - as there is in our whole boat, but that is why we are fast downwind. Black Dragon is a fun boat to sail.' Navigator Simon SHAW said, 'Our boat does not rate well under IMS, but it was all reaches for us today, which really suits us.'

The fortuitous change in wind direction looked as though it would give Black Dragon the victory on IMS corrected time to go with her winner's gun, but the Grand Soleil 42Rs are proving unstoppable on handicap. This time it was North Sails Sportswear that won the day, beating Black Dragon by just eleven seconds under IMS, with yesterday's winner Near Miss finishing just 14 seconds adrift of the 77 footer. The gap from third placed Near Miss to the fourth placed Tekno 46 Bella Donna was almost five minutes, showing just what an advantage the Grand Soleils hold on handicap.

That is not to say these IMS optimized 42 footers are not sailing well. Both North Sails Sportswear and Near Miss are impeccably handled and both got excellent starts out of the crowded line today. The difference was that North Sails started further towards the favoured lefthand end of the line, while Near Miss started right at the committee boat, sacrificing distance to enable her to get over early to the favoured St Tropez shore, but North Sails found a clear lane over to the right and soon gained the controlling position in her duel with her fellow Grand Soleil 42R. After just two races, these sisterships hold a commanding lead over the rest of Group A. North Sails Sportswear holds three points compared with four points for Near Miss, while Bella Donna is some way behind in third place overall with eleven points.

As in the big boat division, victory in the smaller boats came down to a matter of seconds. While X-40 Alpenergie-Maolca finished just over a minute behind the IMX 40 Maluba across the finish line, on corrected time victory went to the X-40 by just eleven seconds. Just three seconds behind the Swiss team on Maluba was Italo BORRINI's Grand Soleil 40R Despeinada, one of the top performing boats in the Giraglia Rolex Cup last year.

Topping the Group B leaderboard after two races is the Swiss team aboard Maluba. French tactician Philippe COMTE admitted to being quite surprised at their performance. 'I think we have been lucky so far. We are amateur sailors but so far things are going well for us.' Unfortunately work commitments may prevent Maluba from competing in the 243 mile offshore race to Genoa, Italy, on Wednesday. It would be a shame to have started the job so well and not to be able to finish it.

Cyril BAILLIE, owner of the First 40.7 DK Sayann 2, was not happy with his day. 'It was my tactician's fault,' he joked. 'We started on the wrong side and when we realized we were going the wrong way, we persisted with our decision and continued to go the wrong way. He was up too late last night, he had just two hours sleep, so tonight our tactician must go to bed before 2100.' An unlikely story, when you are in a latenight party town like St. Tropez. And in any case, most sailors would be quite happy with a seventh place finish in the 86 strong fleet of Group B. After two races, BAILLIE, along with his sleep deficient tactician and the rest of the crew on Sayann 2, hold fourth place overall. An ability to exist without sleep could be a crucial advantage when the offshore race begins.

Event Media. Image, Near Miss and North Sails battle it out in race two:© Rolex
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