After two days of practice in the event-supplied IMX 40s, competitors at the ISAF Grade 1 Toscana Elba Cup - Trofeo Locman, the sixth event on Swedish Match Tour 2002/2003, are champing at the bit for the competition to begin.
Jes GRAM-HANSEN (DEN) of Team Victory Lane tops the list of competitors this year and while he didn't helm an entry in last year's inaugural Toscana Elba Cup - Trofeo Locman, he is familiar with the boats and conditions off Elba's Portoferraio, having crewed for Chris LAW (GBR) in 2002.
"It's always good to know the sailing area and the boats,"
said Gram-Hansen. "I'm looking forward to being here with my own crew, this is one of the top events on the Swedish Match Tour, and we're well prepared and very confident."
Among the ten other competitors lining up in Elba, defending champion Ed BAIRD (USA) can't be counted out. Baird is returning to match racing after a hiatus due to his commentating duties at the America's Cup. "There are a number of challenges in this venue,"
hinted Baird. "You've got to balance the standard match racing tactics against some geographic quirks, and if last year is any indication, there may be an odd cargo ship or ferry that will come into play before the week is out."
As far as catching up with some of his peers who have been doing a bit more racing, BAIRD is unfazed. "I have some familiar faces with me this week, so we're feeling pretty good. The field this week is full of great sailors, so it should be some really exciting racing."
Another skipper to watch this week will be Paolo CIAN (ITA) of the Riviera di Rimini Sailing Team. CIAN was helmsman for the Mascalzone Latino challenge for America's Cup 2003 and is intimately familiar with the conditions around Elba as the island served as the training base for the "Latin Rascals."
"The breeze builds up after mid-day and we should have good conditions this week, 10-12 knots,"
said CIAN. "It's very patchy out on the bay however, and strategy is very important."
The 2003 Toscana Elba Cup - Trofeo Locman features a single round robin followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. The event has a total prize purse of 206,500 Euros with 77,500 Euros, as well as the specially designed event trophy, being awarded to the winner.