After light winds at the start, the 170 boat fleet are expecting fresh South Westerlies overnight.
The 243-mile long Giraglia Race, the raison d'être of the Giraglia Rolex Cup race week, started shortly after 13:15 today from a committee boat line in the middle of the Gulf of St Tropez. The 170-boat fleet started into a six-knot Easterly breeze, with flat water and bright, hot sunshine.
In contrast to earlier races this week the smallest boats were released from the starting blocks first heading, for the most part, upwind on port tack towards the favoured right hand side of the Gulf. Ten minutes later the big boats started into the same conditions. Amongst the bolstered offshore fleet Class Zero had some notable additions to its group with the appearance of three large Wallys, Marco Tronchetti Provera's 105-foot Kauris III, looming over every body making even Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo look small, Thomas Bscher's canting keel Wally 88 Tiketitan and Lindsay Owen-Jones Wally 95 Magic Carpet.
The goal of the race is to take the fleet to the Giraglia Rock off the top of Corsica before turning towards the finish line in front of Genoa. Initially the course takes the fleet 35-miles in the wrong direction, upwind to the part military base, part nudist colony island of Levant, just offshore from the French town of Le Lavandou. Once past this obstacle the fleet will rapidly leave France behind on the second leg, the 130-mile Easterly leg to the Giraglia Rock itself.
Weather forecasters all seem to agree that the fleet will experience 20-25 knots South Westerly winds the further they get from the French coast and away from the thermal effects of the extremely hot land inshore. With these anticipated conditions there are several boats that are capable of averaging mid-to-high teen speeds. The first boats would therefore be expected at the famous rock in the small hours of Friday morning. To break the race record that has been held by Riviera de Rimini since 1998, and currently stands at 24 hours 21 minutes and 47 seconds, the first boat will have to cross the finish line in Genoa before 13:45 on Friday. But to achieve this means clawing North across the Gulf of Genoa, and here again most forecasters agree that the conditions will be light, dramatically reducing the average speed potential of the fastest boats.
Ninety minutes into the race at the first significant corner of the course, Cap Camarat, amongst the leading pack could be found My Song, Alfa Romeo, Idea, Alexia, Magic Carpet2, Magic Jena and Kauris III. The ten boats of Class Zero plus the top boats of each of the other classes have all been equipped with tracking equipment. These boats' positions will be determined and displayed every 30 minutes on the Yacht Club Italiano's website.