For Alec TOURNIER, Secretaire General of organizing club, the Societe Nautique de Geneve, the Bol d'Or Rolex is coming of age. 'We have more and more international stars who are interested in coming and sailing here, like Ellen MACARTHUR, Russell COUTTS, Loick PEYRON, Alain GAUTIER, etc.' Tournier notes that even among non-sailing stars international numbers are growing.
One example is Britain's Ian LOFFHAGEN, racing his trimaran Shiek Yerbouti. 'It is a stunning event,' he says of the Bol d'Or Rolex. 'It is one of those things you have got to do at least once. But I suspect that once you've done it once it is something you will want to come back and do it again.'
Most of the top stars will be competing in the Decision 35 one design catamarans. This class will also see America's Cup legend COUTTS (NZL) go up against his former boss at Alinghi (SUI) Ernesto BERTARELLI.
The Bol d'Or Rolex starts today at 0900 hours local time and the first multihulls are expected to finish in the mid-afternoon, the first monohulls early evening.
While the Decision 35s first raced in the Bol d'Or Rolex last year, this year's race will see the advent of the new M2 class of 28 foot long multihulls. The multihulls will also be attempting to break the outright elapsed time record for the course of 5 hours, 1 minute and 51 seconds set eleven years ago by Peter LEUENBERGER on the trimaran Triga 4.
While the multihulls competing include some of the world's most powerful and lightweight sailing craft, the monohulls are no less extreme with four super-fast Psaros 40s, featuring not just a canting keel and water ballast, but also having six crew hanging out on trapeze wires. The boat to beat is Alex SCHNEITER's Tilt, winner of this class in the Bol d'Or Rolex last year. However also in the running is French Connection, a giant Libera class skiff where the entire crew trapeze, and the radical Full Pelt of British owner Stephen FEIN, skippered by 1984 Soling Olympic bronze medallist, Jo RICHARDS, also the boat's designer.
'The Bol d'Or Rolex is a fascinating race as much as anything else because they have real racing boats up here. They don't confuse it with having cruising boat because there is no where particularly to go cruising,' says RICHARDS of the Bol d'Or Rolex.
RICHARDS and FEIN have been racing their lengthy series of Full Pelt monohulls and multihulls at the Bol d'Or since 1989. This year will be the first they will be sailing their new canting keel yacht. They will also be up against their previous Full Pelt monohull, now called Full Speed.
The monohull record stands at 8 hours, 45 minutes and 40 seconds, set by Beat SIEGFRIED's Corum Modulo 108 in 1994. Unfortunately RICHARDS does not believe that 2005 will be a record breaking year for the event. 'The chances are it will be a light northerly or easterly,' he forecasts.
TOURNIER, another past veteran of the race, also reckons it will be light. 'We think it will be good until the end of the Petit Lac and then you will have to make choices.' For competitors such as RICHARDS, one of the attractions of the Bol d'Or Rolex are the complicated meteorological conditions due to the proximity of large mountain ranges that can result in extreme gusts.