The Rolex Capri Sailing Week ended today in a fading breeze, but with no reduction in the entertainment value or the intensity on the water.
The weekend visitors to this magical island were rewarded with fine weather and the spectacle of thirty-nine well-sailed yachts competing on the deep blue waters of the Golfo di Napoli.
Clearly those who favoured light airs had prayed harder to the wind gods overnight and were rewarded with flat water and a breeze that hardly strayed into double figures. Only one overnight leader managed to hang onto their lead, the two others tripping at the last fence. All classes sailed on a windward/leeward course; the Maxi Class sailed one 8.2-mile race, the Comets sailed one 6.5-mile race whilst the Swan 45s sailed that distance twice.
The eventual winners were: Neville CRICHTON's 30.5 metre Reichel-Pugh designed Alfa Romeo in the Maxi Class, Maurizio BISCARDI's Comet 45S Libertine in the Comet Class and Glynn WILLIAMS' WISC in the Swan 45s.
The best action was in the nineteen-boat Swan 45 owner-driver, one-design class. Three boats went into the last day with a shout at the title. Hendrik BRANDIS and Christian NAGEL's Earlybird held the advantage - a six-point cushion over WISC, which in turn had nine points on Marco SALVI's Vertigo. At the end of the first race, Earlybird was the one showing signs of nerves, arriving fifteenth at the first windward mark and never recovering. Vertigo, by contrast, had a storming race grabbing second place on the first beat and avoiding any mistakes to finish the race behind Stephano MASI's Ulika, which led from start to finish. WISC moved up from seventh place on the initial leg to finish fifth. The standings were now: WISC 42-points, Vertigo 46-points and Earlybird 48-points. Plenty still to play for. All three boats had shown themselves capable of race winning performances this series and equally all were capable of a relative shocker that would put them out of the running.
In the end, it was the British crew of WISC that came out on top. The Germans on Earlybird were not able to reignite the spark that had secured them two bullets yesterday. Fifteenth at the first windward mark on the second race was not going to be good enough, with WISC lying in third and Vertigo in seventh. Still, three legs still to go and lots of traps to fall into with a light and shifting breeze. Earlybird did manage to move up the rankings to post a tenth. The Italians on Vertigo, however, were doing even more and Vasco VASCOTTO
showed once again why he is such a sought after tactician. Outfoxing all the frontrunners, except race winner Lanfranco CIRILLO's Fantasikinaa, Vertigo shot home in second passing WISC en route. This was not enough. Despite some last-minute tribulations on the downwind leg, WILLIAMS brought his team home in fourth to win by four points from SALVI.
WILLIAMS was understandably pleased with the result, and surprised at the drop in performance from Earlybird, "We were quite relaxed going out today and I think that really helps going around the course. And at the end of yesterday some of the crew was a little bit disappointed to have only two races. Earlybird was racing so well yesterday that I was actually happy to roll the dice today and the dice rolled for us. We had two good races and Earlybird did not race well today. It was a big contrast in performance. Yesterday in about 12, 13, 14 knots they had their settings really, really good and were very, very quick. Today, we started beside them in the last race and we were just able to get away and, in fact, roll over them."
Earlier in the week, WILLIAMS had pointed to light and flat as being his favoured conditions so he was relieved with the forecast for today and felt quite calm on the way out to race. That said, the emotions began to rumble on the final leg of the first race, as WILLIAMS explained, "Recognizing that we were probably leading the regatta at this point a little tear came to my eye. I had a similar situation in 2005 when we won the Britannia Cup in Cowes, It was a little bit like that here and it was suddenly quite emotional."
Obviously, the moment did not get in the way of finishing the business in the second race and WILLIAMS was quick to praise his crew for their efforts, "We set ourselves a target and goal this year to be consistent and fast. We had a fourth at the previous event, but only three points from the leader so I think we've shown we can achieve that goal. We'll go to Sardinia [for the Rolex Swan Cup] with a degree of confidence and some new sails. We'll have the same team and I've got to really thank the team here. They are very solid and they've done a great job."
VASCOTTO kept a brave face and, while recognizing the third day as being their Nemesis is also looking forward to Sardinia, "It was tough racing today, because the wind was quite light, but we did a great job. Unfortunately yesterday we lost a lot of points, but we are happy to be second in this regatta and that we have won the Italian National Championship. We only lost by 4 points to the winning boat, so we have to be happy. We are just trying to do our best and, of course, with this result we are very motivated for the Rolex Swan Cup in September."
In the Maxi Class, the absence of CRICHTON was not so obvious today. Alfa Romeo scorched around the course in just under the hour to finish a good 12 minutes ahead of Favonius on corrected time. Unfortunately, for Roel PIEPER and tactician, Roy HEINER
, Leonardo FERRAGAMO's Cuordileone and the other Swan 601, Spirit of Jethou, also corrected out ahead of her. Fourth place was the worst of results for the Dutch crew, tying them on points with the longer, faster New Zealand supermaxi. Alfa had a considerable edge in countback with four first places, to Favonius' one. CRICHTON, who is off enjoying the Grand Prix in Monaco, was delighted to learn the result having thought it all but impossible yesterday for his team of professionals led by Grant SIMMER
to recover the ground lost over the previous two days. CRICHTON commented by phone above the noise of the practice session in Monte Carlo, that, "I am very happy. Yesterday I thought the chances of us winning overall were slim, especially after our mistake two days ago [the OCS]. I'm pleased the crew were able to make amends today and that we got some luck."
PIEPER has the consolation of winning the Swan Maxi Class this week, leg two of the Circuit that finishes in Sardinia in September. Next up for this inaugural circuit is the Giraglia Rolex Cup in Saint-Tropez at the beginning of June. Sir Peter OGDEN and Spirit of Jethou, who finished second in the Swan Maxi Class (and third in the overall Maxi classification), go into that event leading the Circuit.
In the Comet class, the defending champion Libertine held its nerve to win the final race of its series at Rolex Capri Sailing Week and therefore hold on to first place overall. Fra Diavolo could only finish fourth today and whilst Agora, the early event pacesetter, finished third, Libertine's fourth bullet of the week was more than enough to secure the prize. Commenting on his win, BISCARDI said, "We really enjoyed the event because it was a series of races with uncertain results until the end. The boats are all highly tuned and very competitive with all teams very much in the spirit of winning. So, winning the Rolex Capri Sailing Week for the second time is a real satisfaction."
At the prizegiving this evening, hosted by regatta organisers the Yacht Club Capri at the Marina Grande, the overall winners were presented with their laurels and a Rolex Submariner in steel and gold at the end of an intriguing and compelling four days of competition.
For more information about the Rolex Capri Sailing Week including entry lists and results visit www.yccapri.com