Rolex Capri Sailing Week returned to some sense of normality on Thursday with blue skies, warm breeze and sunshine.
On the racecourse the scene was a little different as the heat of the day seemingly affected one or two judgments. The breeze was 10-13 knots for the early racing, but dropped during the day to sub-10 knots and, with plenty of shifts, gains and losses were there for the witting and unwitting.
At the end of racing the Maxi Class added two 9.5 mile windward/leewards to its scoreline and the Swan 601 Spirit of Jethou heads the standings following an unfortunate error on Alfa Romeo that has dropped her to third. In the Comets, racing twice over seven miles, Agorà Patrimoni Immobiliare put in two solid seconds to maintain her one point advantage over Libertine. The Swan 45s, meantime, had three good races that were not as straightforward as they could have been.
On board Spirit of Jethou, owner Sir Peter OGDEN seemed relieved to have missed the miserable conditions of past few days and more than helped his crew build on their good performance of Wednesday. "Conditions were perfect today, 12-13 knots of breeze, you couldn't get better if you tried. In fact this is the first time we've sailed this year in sunshine! I did not sail yesterday and somebody said I brought the good weather with me because yesterday I believe was a bit wet."
commented OGDEN, continuing on to describe what had gone right, "We had two good starts plus we've spent a lot of time tuning the boat and she is very quick upwind now . We kept making it to the first mark first. And, if you get to the first mark first you have a good chance of winning."
In the first race of the day the blue touch paper was lit on Neville CRICHTON's Alfa Romeo, as expected, and she smoked away from the start unchallenged. Hardly surprising given her crew features a number of the Alinghi America's Cup team, including Grant SIMMER
. To put a bit of perspective on her impeccable performance, Alfa was on her second top mark rounding before the Comet fleet had made its first and then went on to finish the race before any of the others in her division had reached the second upwind mark. OGDEN probably summed up the feeling of the division musing, "We'd like to be closer to Alfa but that's just in your dreams."
But how the mighty fall. In the second race, Alfa Romeo and others fell foul of an apparently heavily biased start line; sadly for Alfa she failed to spot she was over early and did not clear the penalty. This lack of action led to a swift reaction from the Race Committee - an OCS and an unexpected nine points on the scorecard, which has livened up the Maxi Class standings putting a very happy OGDEN and Spirit of Jethou on top by one point from Favonius and two from Alfa. Whether they will be there at the end of Friday remains to be seen, but for the time being at least Ogden's dream has come true on paper.
In the competitive Comets where, for a class racing on handicap, mark roundings are sometimes surprisingly tightly packed and the fleet often bunched together both upwind and down, Agorà sits on top of the pile after a very satisfactory day for owner and President of the Comet C45 Class, Marco FRANCO. "We are happy about today's result. In a long distance race it is possible that a boat is favoured by a series of circumstances, but in technical race like the windward/leeward races today it is obviously more difficult to stay at the top, particularly if you did not really prepare for it,"
remarked FRANCO. And with two second places on Thursday on top of the first and second on Wednesday, he is showing the sort of consistency that wins overall. Closest rival Libertine with another Cup star, Francesco DE ANGELIS
, in the afterguard posted a first and third on the day to match her score of Wednesday, and, with Fra Diavolo scoring 4,1 to leave the top three separated by four points, there is plenty of racing over the next two days before this class is decided.
FRANCO is remarkably frank and down to earth about his current place at the top of the table, "Our boat is an optimized cruising boat that we sail with a group of enthusiastic friends. We decided to learn how to sail at regattas together and to improve our racing by becoming a team. Today's results showing us in lead after four races which confirms that the boat is going well and that we have become a good team."
In the Swan 45s there was the easy to anticipate cut and thrust. And, as is the way in one-design racing, consistency, consistency, consistency is the key to success - especially on a three-race day when one slip could drop you down the standings like a stone. Take Stefano MASI and Ulika. The third start was as tight and congested as the first two, and suffered a general recall just like the first race. Unlike the first race of the day when no one over anticipated the restart, five boats were over early this time and were consequently black-flagged putting them out of the race. More action and decisive reaction. One of those five was Ulika who added 20 points to her day's 1,2 scoreline and this has probably dropped her out of contention for the overall prize.
By contrast, Vertigo and Marco SALVI had a less painful, but still an up and down day, scoring a 12,1,8 that leaves them top of the pile by two points from Glynn WILLIAM's WISC, who also posted a solid scoreline of 3,9,7. WILLIAMS was certainly not expecting to be in second place after racing, "We're quite surprised how well we have done really. It was a harder day for us than yesterday when we had a cracking coastal race where we won the last leg back. We started with a good first race today with a third place and I think we are very quick downwind, which we saw that in all three races."
WILLIAMS is an experienced campaigner in the Swan 45 Class, and is quick to recognize that one has to be on top of one's game in all departments to do well, "Tomorrow is another day with the possibility of three more races and with the prospect of lighter winds that seems to suit us. We go well in flat water and light airs. Where we've got to work tomorrow is starts. We're not getting off the line with pace as we should do and we have done in the past."
One Swan 45 that might not have thought they'd be in contention on Thursday after ending Wednesday some 16 points off the pace is the German boat Earlybird. Hendrick BRANDIS and crew proved the adage and with the best scoreline of the day - 5,3,2 - trended sufficiently well to put themselves in third overnight only five points behind Vertigo.
Friday could be a tricky day for all concerned at Rolex Capri Sailing Week. The wind is forecast to go much lighter than Thursday, but hopefully not so much to curtail the action at what has so far proved an absorbing event.
At the time of writing there are a number of protests outstanding that could affect the overall standings.
For more information about the Rolex Capri Sailing Week including entry lists and results visit www.yccapri.com