Winner of last year's big boat division, Frank NOEL's Grand Soleil 42R Near Miss, won the 29.5 mile race in an IMS corrected time of 2 hours, 24 minutes and 31 seconds, 58 seconds in front of another Grand Soleil 42, Lorenzo BRESSANI's North Sails Sportswear. A further four minutes behind on handicap was Clive LLEWELLYN's Grand Soleil 50 Mad IV. If that were not enough, the small boat division is also led by a Grand Soleil 40C, Ubaldo SGHERRI's Mammy the Best IV. Her margin of victory was just 29 seconds on corrected time in front of Camillo CAPOZZI's Polaris 33, Ala Bianca.
If there is much that is the same about this year's Giraglia Rolex Cup, at least there will be a different winner in the long offshore race, the 243 mile classic which sets out from St. Tropez this Thursday afternoon, and takes the fleet around the Giraglia Rock on the northern tip of Corsica before finishing in the northern Italian port of Genoa. Neville CRICHTON is not back to defend his line honours title with his 90 foot Maxi Alfa Romeo, as he is busy constructing a new canting-keel Maxi for an assault on the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race this Christmas. And the handicap winner of the Giraglia Race last year, Charles DUNSTONE's Nokia Enigma, is focussed on winning the Rolex Fastnet Race at the beginning of August. So in the Maxi division it is all for the taking.
Runner up to Nokia Enigma last year was the Farr 70 IMS racer Atalanta II, whose owner Carlo PURI NEGRI could draw heart from his team's performance yesterday. Although losing out on handicap to the smaller boats like the Grand Soleil designs, he could console himself with winning Racing Class 0, the division for the over 60 footers. 'This year we have finished third in everything we have done, ' he laughed. 'So it is time for us to win something. At the moment we are very fast upwind but we still need to improve our downwind performance, certainly compared to a boat like Black Dragon.'
Black Dragon is a Reichel/Pugh 77, originally designed purely for the downwind offshore classic, the Transpac Race from California, USA, across the Pacific to Hawaii. As a sistership of the absent Nokia Enigma, the crew will be hoping they can emulate DUNSTONE's victory in the long race on Thursday. Genoa trimmer Rasmus WINSTON said, 'The boat is going well, and we certainly know what the boat is capable of, after Nokia Enigma's success last year. But Atalanta II will be hard to beat, and so will Sotto Voce.' Sotto Voce is Arien VAN WEMDE's Judel/Vrolijk 62, a boat that crops up frequently in speculation about possible winners this week, although she finished only fourth in Racing 0 yesterday, behind Atalanta II, the Wally 65 Edimetra and the Swan 601 Carbon Arrow.
On Thursday the Giraglia Race will see the spectacular 60 foot ORMA trimarans competing for the first time. Capable of breakneck speeds in just the slightest puff of wind, these lightweight flyers should put the course record under serious threat. Two years ago, Alfa Romeo made the best of a strong breeze to cover the 243 miles in a new course record of 22 hours, 13 minutes and 48 seconds, but given the right conditions the trimarans could annihilate this time.
Now in its 53rd year, the Giraglia Rolex Cup is established as one of the classic regattas of the Mediterranean. The regatta has been sponsored by Rolex for the past eight years, and the 2005 edition is set to be the largest yet, with 208 entries confirmed for the long race to Genoa this Thursday.