A fleet of 69 yachts embarked on the 180 mile race from Buenos Aires to Punta del Este on Saturday 15 January, the first part of the Circuito Atlantico Sur Rolex Cup. A stormy forecast could make it tough going for the fleet as they battle their way out of the notoriously shallow and choppy waters of the River Plate
Favourite to reach Uruguay first is Fortuna III
, a new Frers 60-footer built for the Argentinean Navy. The recent launch of Fortuna III
continues a famous dynasty of Navy-owned racing yachts, with skipper Cesar Recalde and his crew looking to emulate the successes of Fortuna I
during the 1960s and Fortuna II
in the 1980s.
Among the crew of the 60-footer is Carlos ESPINOLA who, with three Olympic medals to his name, is Argentina's most decorated Olympian - not just in sailing, but in any sport. Espinola won silver medals on the Mistral windsurfer at both the 1996 and 2000 Games, and then proved his versatility by winning bronze in Athens last summer crewing for Santiago LANGE in the technically demanding Tornado catamaran class.
Espinola will have to prove his adaptability to new challenges once again in the race from Buenos Aires to Punta del Este. While hugely accomplished in small-boat racing on short inshore courses, he remains a relative newcomer to the demands of offshore racing. 'Competing in this race will be a great experience for me
,' commented Espinola a few hours before leaving the dock. 'This is considered a very important event in Argentina, and it would be great if we could win it. We have a very good crew so I think we have a good chance.'
The cat sailor is likely to be working in a tactical/strategic role on Fortuna III
, and the changeable weather conditions could provide him with plenty to think about. 'The weather can change very quickly here in the summer, so you have to expect everything. But I think there is a high chance of having a storm during this race.'
Once the fleet has reached Punta del Este, the yachts will then contest a series of shorter inshore races, and in the IMS division Fortuna III's
stiffest competition could come from the likes of Flash Gordon III
and Memo Memulini
. Although built eight years ago, Benjamin HAINES Biedma's Farr 49 has enjoyed an illustrious career on the US circuit when she was known as Flash Gordon
, before moving to Spain where she performed very successfully on the IMS circuit under the name of Azur de Puig. Now back to her original name but still Spanish registered, Flash Gordon
3 has the pace to upstage the newer IMS designs.
Ricardo FABINI has already proven the potential of his Grand Soleil 42R Memo Memulini
by becoming Uruguayan National Champion. Another potent challenge from Uruguay is Miguel VIDAL's recently launched First 44.7 Perla Negra
In the ORC division, favourites include Carlos CAMPOS SALVA's Corum 420 Mandala
and Toribio de ACHAVAL's Frers 50 Matrero
. There are many contenders for success in the PHRF division, but Diego CUNEO's Del Plata 31 Negra
is considered one of the strongest.
The Circuito Atlantico Sur Rolex Cup offers a testing variety of both offshore and inshore handicap racing. The regatta begins with the 180-mile offshore race from Olivos / Buenos Aires to Punta del Este; following in Punta del Este will be two days of inshore windward/leeward racing, a day race around Isla Gorriti, and the Circuito la Barra on the final day. The regatta winner will be the high points leader following the completion of all of the race disciplines.
The regatta concludes on Saturday 22 January with the official prizegiving at the Hotel Conrad in Punta del Este.