Day one of the Giraglia Rolex Cup was a day for keeping a cool head in a day of ever-changing breeze in St Tropez.
With big holes in the 10-knot breeze, along with windshifts of up to 70 degrees, Sunday was what sailors like to call a 'heads-out-of-the-boat-day'. Boatspeed was less important than picking your way through the virtual minefield in the Gulf of St Tropez.
In the IMS division Carlo PURI NEGRI repeated his first-day victory from last year's event, his Farr 70 Atalanta II dominating the IMS fleet. Neville CRICHTON's SuperMaxi, Alfa Romeo, won the IRC division, and José CALERO's GP42 Canarias Puerto Calero emerged top of the GP42 Quebramar Cup leaderboard after posting three 2nd places.
The Atalanta crew are experienced with the challenging conditions that St Tropez so often present, and the 70-footer sailed an excellent first leg after a poor start. Atalanta's owner PURI NEGRI commented: "We started badly, but we made some good tacks on the windward leg, and when we reached the windward mark we were with the bigger boats in the IRC division, Alfa Romeo, Y3K and Magic Carpet. There was quite a lot of upwind sailing, and the light winds suited Atalanta. I think some of the heavier boats were suffering today."
Certainly there was a good mix of sizes at the top of the leaderboard, with Walter CALDONAZZI's Sly 47, Rocket 1, coming second to Atalanta II in IMS, with 65-foot Maxi Edimetra in third. In IRC the top two boats were 100-foot Maxis, with Alfa Romeo beating Claus-Peter OFFEN's Y3K for top honours. But below that, the leaderboard was sprinkled with boats of different sizes. Paolo SCERNI's Swan 42 Kora 4 is one of the smaller boats in the division, but it finished third ahead of Igor SIMCIC's Valicelli 60, Esimit Europa.
As usual for the Giraglia Rolex Cup, the top names from sailing are out in force, not least in the GP42 fleet, which is contesting the second leg of the GP42 Quebramar Cup with a fleet of eight boats. America's Cup legend Tom SCHNACKENBERG is taking time out of his Alinghi duties to do the navigating on Near Miss, which lies third after scores of 5,4,1 in Sunday's races. "We had a bad first race because we had to restart, a good second one and we won the third one, we were lucky,"
said SCHNACKENBERG. "The fleet is very close, you can see a boat winning one race and come sixth in another, so if you choose well you've got a good chance to win. Conversely if you find yourself in the wrong place in the first or the second beat you can lose places very quickly. It's a nice tight little fleet and we're going to have nice racing, if this continues like today."
José Maria PONCE is helmsman of the winning GP42, Canarias Puerto Calero. "It was a good day for us,"
he said. "With three second places we showed good consistency, because it was a tricky situation with many wind shifts. We were lucky and we sailed well and it's a good base for the coming days."
However PONCE is looking over his shoulder at another Spanish team crewed by sailors from the dormant America's Cup campaign, Desafio. "I believe that Desafio can be considered as the number one contender. They're experienced and trained, but we'll do our best to keep them at bay."
Laureano WIZNER's Desafio team certainly looked slick in the first two races, winning both of them, only to falter in the third with a sixth place. As SCHNACKENBERG said, consistency could be very hard to find, particularly in the ever-challenging conditions posed by St Tropez.
Monday sees the 167 boats in the IRC and IMS divisions contest the second heat of their four-day inshore series, while the GP42s will race another three of their shorter courses. On Thursday, a fleet of more than 200 yachts will start the Giraglia Race, a 243-mile marathon starting from St Tropez via the Giraglia Rock at the northern tip of Corsica to the finish in the Italian port of Genoa.
Results - click here