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16 June 2005, 11:24 am
Black Dragon Leads Maxi Charge To Genoa
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Giraglia Rolex Cup 2005

Black Dragon did the best to justify her billing as race favourite by leading the fleet out of the Bay of St. Tropez, France yesterday afternoon, at the start of the 243 mile offshore race of the Giraglia Rolex Cup.
The Reichel/Pugh 77 led fellow Maxi Damiani Ourdream past the Basse Rabiou by a minute and a half. The Basse Rabiou is the concrete marker that tells the fleet they are leaving St. Tropez and heading out into the open and uncertain waters of the Mediterranean hoping to arrive first at the finish in Genoa, Italy.

A light wind forecast will please the crew of Black Dragon, because it was in similar conditions that Charles DUNSTONE's Nokia Enigma - an identical sistership of Black Dragon - won the race on handicap a year ago. Not only that, but in the absence of Neville CRICHTON's Alfa Romeo, the 90 foot Maxi which holds the course record for the Giraglia Race, Black Dragon is holding high hopes for 'doing the double'. Two line honours victories in the inshore racing this week suggest that she should be first to Genoa sometime tomorrow afternoon.

That is if the wind plays fair, of course. Despite this being his first race as a professional navigator, Black Dragon's Simon SHAW is well aware of the vagaries of this race, particularly as they draw near to the Giraglia Rock off the northern tip of Corsica. The wind nearly always shuts down here, allowing the smaller boats to close up from behind. The race is quite capable of restarting from this point. 'The wind tends to shut down at night,' SHAW explained. 'We will go through a shut down on the first night, just like everyone else, but our aim is to make it into Genoa before the second evening. If we can avoid the second shutdown and have the smaller boats behind us run out of wind, that would be very useful.'

Aside from the yachts that have competed in the inshore racing this week, a number of new arrivals have joined the fleet, bring total entries to 189 for the long race. Lindsay OWEN JONES has signed a number of top professionals to race his Wally 95 Magic Carpet. Calling tactics is America's Cup and Whitbread veteran Adrian STEAD, along with Volvo Ocean Race sailors Miranda MERRON and Emma WESTMACOTT. Boat captain Danny GALLICHAN will be relieved to see the light weather forecast for this race, having only just reattached the top two metres of Magic Carpet's carbon mast after it inexplicably snapped off during training less than two weeks ago. It has been a race in itself, simply to have the immaculate Wally ready for this event.

Owner of Wally Yachts, Luca BASSANI is another new entry to the race, and he helmed his 77 footer Tiketitan out of the crowded start today, with former America's Cup skipper Mauro PELASCHIER offering his tactical input. PELASCHIER has lost count of the number of times he has competed in this offshore classic, although he can certainly recall winning it twice. 'Winning a race like this requires some luck,' he said today. 'When the wind disappears you have to position yourself in the best place for when it returns, but really it is for the wind gods to decide whether you will get the new wind first.'

Carlo PURI NEGRI will be hoping the luck blows his way as he bids to hold on to the lead in the big boat Class 0, following a consistent performance by his crew on his IMS optimized Farr 70 Atalanta II. 'We are learning more about our boat every day, and with some luck we can do well.' The ideal scenario for Atalanta II would be for her to arrive in Genoa and for the wind to disappear. Perhaps then PURI NEGRI could dream of overall victory in Group A as well as in Class O. Atalanta II currently lies in third place in Group A, behind the IMS blessed Grand Soleils 42R, North Sails Sportswear and Near Miss.

Roberto FERRERO's best previous placing in this regatta is third overall aboard his Swan 40 Solenia I, but with the boat and the team that he has organized for this year, he has an excellent chance of winning. His Grand Soleil 42R North Sails Sportswear is packed with Italian talent, including helmsman Lorenzo BRESSANI and tactician Matteo IVALDI. 'Actually we do not have such tightly defined roles,' explained the owner. 'We all help each other with every job, we work very much as a team.'

FERRERO will be focussed on beating sistership Near Miss, although the light winds should suit North Sails Sportswear's configuration. 'Near Miss is faster upwind in stronger winds, but with this light forecast we should be strong. We have slightly bigger sails, so light winds or downwind sailing will be good for us.'

With IMX-40 Maluba not competing in the long race, she will relinquish her overall lead of Group B. This puts Italo BORRINI's Grand Soleil 40R Despeinada in a great position to capitalize on her strong inshore performances, and if she can repeat her victory in last year's long race then she will be the clear winner of Group B. But BORRINI knows he will be pushed hard by two IMX-40s, Alpenergie-Maolca and Farewell. Owner of Farewell Eric PIERREJEAN won this race in 2001 and was runner up to Despeinada last year. He is keen to turn the tables on the Grand Soleil 40R in 2005, but admits it is a tough task. 'We are hoping for a race with many tactical options, because we cannot hope to beat Despeinada on pure speed. If it is a speed race we will have to race at 110 per cent and I think they will have to be at 80 per cent of their abilities, or less, if we are to beat them. IMS works very well for the Grand Soleil.'

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Magic Carpet and Black Dragon sailing along Ile Du Levant:© Rolex
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