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8 September 2005, 09:48 am
Another Bruising Day
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Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2005
Porto Cervo, Sardinia, Italy

After Tuesday's carnage among the fleet of 37 yachts competing in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup - which included one broken mast on the Kiwi 98-foot Maximus and a number of ripped and torn sails - the crews yesterday experienced another wet and wild ride, with winds ranging from zero to 20 knots, rain and hailstones.
More breakages were reported and a number of boats retired from the race. One of the pre-event favourites, Australian Grant WHARINGTON's Skandia, was over the line early and according to the Race Committee failed to restart correctly. Skandia has filed a protest against the Race Committee and at the time of writing the outcome is unknown.

All divisions sailed on the same course: a 29-mile route leading the fleet to a windward mark opposite Porto Cervo, then Southeast towards the Island of Mortorio; downwind to the Island of Soffi and on a close reach towards a mark positioned in the Cala di Volpe bay. Here, a massive rainsquall caused havoc amongst the fleet with heavy rain, all but nil visibility and winds going up and down the scale without warning. Once through this difficult section, the crews had to tackle a long upwind stretch in choppy seas and 15-20 knots of breeze past the islet of Mortoriotto and onto the Monaci rocks. From there the fleet turned back towards the Golfo Pevero and the finish line.

The day started off with a postponement of the start due to a big rain squall hovering over Porto Cervo. Once the breeze settled to the NE, the Race Committee was able to proceed with the starting sequence. The W Class was first, with the fleet evenly spread out along the line; Kenora unfurling her genoa at the last and Open Season were very late to the line in the tricky, gusting conditions. Next to start was the Cruising A, with Whirlaway and Viriella opting for the left of the course and Ghost taking an early lead. The Cruising B and Racing Division had the most exciting start, with race favourite Skandia powering towards the pin end and crossing the line early. With another big storm brewing over Porto Cervo, the Spirit of Tradition yachts ended the day's starting sequence.

In a building breeze and quite heavy seas, the fleet rounded the windward mark with Magic Carpet Squared ahead of Alexia, followed by Kauris III in the W division. Ghost led Cruising A, followed by Viriella and Unfurled fighting a close match. Skandia recovered well from its late start and, notwithstanding the Race Committee's assessment, rounded first amongst the Racing Division while Roma led the Cruising B.

During the long reach towards the Island of Mortorio, most crews opted for mainsail and genoa, but a few risked hoisting their gennakers. It was at this point of the race that Allsmoke broke its steering cable and lost control of the boat. Struggling with the gennaker takedown, the crew had no option but retire from the race. Adam OSTENFELD, the crew boss and trimmer on Allsmoke, commented: 'Kenny (READ) had a very nice start, we really stuck to our plan. We had a very good first beat and rounded the first mark just behind Roma. At that point we were definitely winning the race. We set the spinnaker, which was the perfect sail for that leg. Everything was OK, then we broke the steering cable and lost control of the boat. We had to retire in order to get ready for our next race on Friday.'

After rounding Mortorio, the fleet headed downwind under spinnaker towards a buoy located deep inside the bay off the Cala di Volpe Hotel - venue for tomorrow night's gala dinner - not that any of the crews would have seen it. A heavy rain squall caught up with the fleet, who had to search hard for the mark in practically zero visibility and the wind shifting in all directions. Alexia rounded the mark first, followed by Nariida and Magic Carpet Squared, with Ghost still leading its division. Skandia led Black Dragon around the mark in Racing and Roma rounded first within the Cruising B.

In the next leg up to Monaci, Alexia stretched her lead and at the finish Alberto ROEMMERS' crew was first to cross the line, eventually winning her class on handicap. The Argentinean crew leads the overall standings, followed by German entry Y3K and Great Britain's Open Season. America's Cup skipper Karol JABLONSKI, helmsman on Y3K, commented: 'The series so far is going fine for us. We are pretty happy with our scoring and performances. We've had some very challenging conditions, especially today. We expected less breeze and had some problems choosing the right sails. There are still two days to go and we hope to be in the top three.' As for the leading boat, JABLONSKI added wryly, that, 'Alexia seems to be a very tough boat to beat. The guys are sailing very well and the boat is very fast compared to its rating. That's part of the game and we are enjoying the sailing here in Porto Cervo. The crew is doing a great job in these extremely challenging conditions.'

Skandia was first home in Racing, followed by Black Dragon who came eventually second on handicap - but it was Roel PIEPER's Swan 80, Favonius, that won on handicap. The overall standings sees Black Dragon leading Favonius, however the outcome of Skandia's protest against the Race Committee might shake up the scorings. Roy HEINER, tactician on Favonius, thoroughly enjoyed today's race: 'We had an interesting day. It was very special because normally it's only about other boats, wind direction and wind speed. Today it was also about rain and hailstones. So much rain that we couldn't see marks - it was actually a beautiful day of sailing!'

Arne GLIMCHER's Ghost finished first in Cruising A, followed by fellow American Harry MACKLOWE's Unfurled, which won on corrected time and has a four point lead going into the lay day. Mike TOPPA, tactician on Unfurled, commented: 'Today's race was the craziest race I've ever sailed in Porto Cervo. It hailed, we had big wind shifts - we had 22 knots of wind and we had 6 knots of wind - it was as crazy as it gets. But, it's been another day of Porto Cervo racing and a lot of fun.'

Italian Filippo FARUFFINI's Roma crossed the line first in real time amongst Class B, followed by Mister A and Charis, the latter winning on handicap. Roma also has a four point lead. 'We had a great race and the crew did an awesome job. We are very happy and hope to do even better in the next couple of days,' commented Filippo MANGIFESTA, owner and helmsman of Charis.

The four Spirit of Tradition yachts, as in the previous days, sailed their own race at a distance from the other divisions. American, gas and media tycoon, George LINDEMANN's Adela won in real and corrected time and leads her class on count back from Italian Alfredo CANESSA's Whitefin.

Despite the less than helpful weather, the crew of Maximus conducted a salvage operation to recover the mast from 42 metres of water outside the Porto Cervo harbour. The mission was successful and the mast, apparently with main and boom attached, was towed ashore supported by flotation buoys.

After three days of intense sailing, tomorrow - lay day - almost all the crews will be able to rest. Only the Racing Division yachts will be sailing as they need to re-sail Race One from Monday, with scheduled start at 11.00 am. A low pressure system will reach Porto Cervo tonight, carrying plenty of rain and tomorrow's conditions are likely to be, again, very challenging.

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association (IMA), runs from September 4 to 10.
Regatta News (As Amended by ISAF), Image: Black Dragon © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
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