The new Frers 60 Fortuna III has made an excellent start in her bid to win the Rolex Buenos Aires - Rio de Janeiro Race, as the fleet set out on the 1200-mile course at 15:00 local time on Saturday afternoon.
launched off the line in excellent shape, as she and the other yachts churned up the brown waters of the River Plate and beat upwind into winds gusting to 22 knots. Speaking just before the start, skipper Cesar RECALDE said Fortuna III
was bidding to win the race both on line honours and on handicap under IMS. "We are expected to win line honours
," he said, "but the plan is to win both
The brand new carbon-hulled race yacht made her debut less than a month ago when she won the offshore race from Buenos Aires to Punta del Este in Uruguay, during the Circuito Atlantico Sur Rolex Cup. That performance bodes well for Recalde in this race, except that he is working with a new crew. "We will have to learn how to sail together, and we are up against some well-crewed teams
Recalde believes Gaucho
will be hard to beat on handicap, and indeed Carlos BELCHOR's Soto 40 was giving the bigger boat a good run for her money as they battled their way up the southern shore of the River Plate. Others likely to make a strong bid for victory on handicap include Jorge FERNANDEZ Vina's Match 42 Camba 2
and Gonzalo HAEDO's Frers 38 Fanfarron II
, which won the previous edition of this ocean classic back in 2002.
The name Fortuna
is well represented throughout the fleet. Fortuna III
is the latest in a dynasty of yachts built for the Argentinean Navy. The previous incarnation, the Frers 54 Fortuna II
, is racing in the ORC Club division, while the original Fortuna
, a 61-foot yawl, competes in the Classic division. The yawl was locked in her own battle up the middle of the River against a Hossman 61, Esperanza
, which won the race back in 1987.
Then there is the Double-handed division, with Carlos and Nicolas CAMPORA looking to defend their title from three years ago with the same boat, the Regge 41 Manila - Biogenesis.
Recalde said the forecast conditions were unlikely to produce any record-breaking speeds, with headwinds likely to impede progress. But the main aim is to win the race, as he has the honour of the Fortuna
name to uphold. The original Fortuna
won the race in 1956 and Fortuna II
emulated that success in 1981.
Will Fortuna III
uphold tradition and do the same in 2005? The early signs are good, but Recalde and his crew have a week's hard racing up the South American coast before they reach Rio de Janeiro. The final run into Rio is traditionally very light and fluky and Fortuna III
will be looking over her shoulder at her smaller rivals coming up fast from behind. Luck, as well as sailing skill, will play a big part in the outcome of this challenging race.
First held in 1947, this is the 21st edition of the Rolex Buenos Aires - Rio de Janeiro Race, a 1200-mile race up the South American coast, organised jointly by the Yacht Club Argentino and the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro. The leading yachts are expected into Rio around 12 February, with the official prizegiving due to take place on February 17 at the Iate Clube do Rio de Janeiro.