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14 July 2005, 09:32 am
A Slow But Successful Start For The Fleet
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Rolex IMS Offshore World Championship 2005
Mahòn, Minorca, Spain

The 42 crews competing in the Rolex IMS Offshore World Championship in Mahòn, Minorca, Spain, were greeted yesterday morning by glorious sun and a light northwesterly breeze of five to seven knots.
Only one race was sailed yesterday as the wind died at the end of the first race. In the Corinthian division, the GS42R Andalucia, with an all Uruguayan crew, won on handicap, followed by Italian entry Sagola and Spanish entry Puerto Calero-Hesperia. In the Non Corinthian division, the Italian GS42R Movistar won on handicap ahead of Azur de Puig and Forum Filatelico from Spain.

The Race Committee, headed by Pedro PALAY, was able to fire the first warning signal bang on time at 1230 hours local time for both divisions, Corinthian and Non Corinthian, sharing the same long starting line. With the centre of the line being slightly favoured and the light breeze not giving the boats much steering power, many boats found themselves over the line early, forcing the Race Committee to signal a general recall. In the second start, most crews kept a more conservative approach and only four boats were recalled - the Menorcan entry Jaime Mascao, the Italian GS44M Sei Una Diva, the Spanish GS42R0 Zurich and one of the top contenders, Pedro CAMPOS' (ESP) Telefonica Movistar.

During the first beat, with the breeze still light and variable, the crews had to put their tactical abilities to the test by choosing the best shifts, at the same time keeping a close eye on their opponents. As expected, the bigger boats in the fleet were the ones who benefited most in these light shifting conditions: the Spanish JV 57 Tau Ceramica, skippered by double Olympic gold medallist (1992 and 1996 in the 470 class) Theresa ZABELL rounded the first windward mark ahead of the fleet, closely followed by the Spanish Farr 54 Cam owned by Olympic medal winners Fernando LEÓN (ESP) and Kiko SÁNCHEZ LUNA (ESP). Third at the mark was the B&C Azur de Puig with America's Cup veteran Dee SMITH calling the tactics. Throughout the rest of the race, the conditions remained relatively stable, with the fleet spreading all over the racing course in search of the favorable shifts.

Azur de Puig was able to close the gap on his rivals and take the lead, rounding the second leeward mark 13 seconds ahead of TAU Ceramica.

Towards the end, the Race Committee was forced to reposition the finish line, with Tau Ceramica taking line honours one minute ahead of Cam, followed by Azur de Puig. None of the above three yachts, all racing in the Non Corinthian division, were able, however, to claim victory on handicap. It was the Italian GS42R Movistar (eighth on the finish line in elapsed time) who stole the limelight with a very experienced and talented crew: Iker MARTÍNEZ (ESP), gold medallist in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games in the 49er, and Lorenzo BRESSANI (ITA) as co-skippers, America's Cup veteran Tommaso CHIEFFI (ITA) calling the tactics and Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 2005 Tornado World Champion, as mainsail trimmer. Azur de Puig finished second in the Non Corinthian division on handicap, followed by Spanish entry Forum Filatelico skippered by Gonzalo ARAUJO (ESP).

'It's been a very difficult race especially in the start and the first beat,' commented BRESSANI at the end of the day. 'Racing on a 40 footer, in these light conditions, you struggle a lot with the bigger boats of the fleet. It's hard to make your way into clear air and often you find yourself into situations which are way too tight, no matter what you do. You need to sail smart but you also need some luck,' continued BRESSANI. 'We started at mid line but we were able to keep this position only for a couple of minutes as Cam was sailing right above us and we had to tack away. Our race started at the end of the first run, where we were finally able to put enough distance between us and the 50 plus footers and make our own tactical decisions. We decided to round the right mark, practically alone, and this proved to be a good choice as the wind shifted first to the right and then to the left enabling us to pass Forum Filatelico which was really close to us. Our goal is to win among the 40 footers and if we can beat some of the bigger boats, all the better.'

In the Corinthian division, Spanish entry Puerto Calero-Hesperia skippered by Alfredo MORALES took line honors, only 30 seconds ahead of the Spanish B&C 52 La Maison de L'Elephant skippered by David TUR ALVAREZ. Third on elapsed time finished the Uruguayan GS42R Andalucia owned by Santiago MESA. Andalucia's time was good enough for the crew to claim first place on handicap, followed by Italian entry Sagola, owned and skippered by Fausto PIEROBON, and Puerto Calora- Hesperia. Ricardo FABINI, helmsman of Andalucia, commented, 'It was a very good race, we had an excellent start and we sailed fast in the first upwind beat. We chose the left side of the course which enabled us to pick up some good wind. In the run we were again pretty fast, but in the second beat we made some mistakes that cost us a couple of positions. In the last run the boat was once again very fast and we were able to catch on our direct rivals, with a sprint-like finish.'

The wind died completely after the end of the first race, forcing the Race Committee and the competitors to a long delay on the water. Finally, at around 1630, racing was called off for the day. Racing resumes today with a coastal or offshore race depending on weather conditions. The forecast indicates light winds similar to today.

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Azur de Puig:© Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
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