The third day of the Rolex Farr 40 World Championships proved to be a short one with only one race being sailed in the ever windy conditions.
With 25 knots blowing across the course by late morning and more forecast for the afternoon, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda¹s Race Committee, headed by Peter REGGIO, brought the fleet to a more sheltered part of the Costa Smeralda coastline, inside Caprera Island. The highly spectacular race was won by Scott HARRIS and Alexia GEREMIA's Crocodile Rock but it is still Massimo MEZZAROMA's Nerone that leads overall.
A short delay before the start saw the 37-boat fleet make final preparations for what was going to be a physical race on a new race track area that many of the entries had not sailed before. Due to shoal water on one side and the physical extremities of the landlocked bay a course of only 1.9 miles could be set. The fleet seemed more interested in the right hand side of the course, due to the shelter offered from the current by the Southern tip of Caprera Island. The same piece of land also meant a tack back onto starboard below the final weather mark layline, meaning the beat was indeed complex.
The favoured right hand side meant plenty of congestion at the committee boat end and overall leader Nerone misjudged the approach and were blocked out to weather of the line at the gun, eventually crossing the startline in last position. Initially the left hand side looked favoured but half way up the leg when those that had chosen the right side started to feel the benefits of the tidal shelter starting last proved to be far from fatal, with Nerone moving swiftly through the fleet and back into contention. And indeed at the top mark those that were still unconvinced about the wind driven current had a sharp lesson as they saw what looked like a good layline call to the mark fall short by the time they reached the turn. Several boats in the cluster approaching the mark missed the buoy and finding no way out had to bare away and gybe around for another attempt to find the true layline, only to be confronted with a wall of starboard tack boats ultimately requiring a second go around and the loss of 20 places.
Jim RICHARDSON, owner of Barking Mad, has consistently been a leader at the first mark right through this regatta and today he rounded the top mark in the lead again. Next back was Crocodile Rock and Ernesto Bertarelli¹s Alinghi. The run was nothing other than fast with flat water and strong gusts propelling the fleet straight downwind. Gybing was an adventure for many, but the strong gusts were the real danger, boats that weren¹t already planing when the gusts hit loaded up and many broached out one way or the other. The trick was to anticipate their arrival, make sure the boat was planing fast so that the gust just meant another few knots added to the already mid-teens boatspeed.
Boathandling was key today and the leaders showed how easy it is to pull away from the pack of boats that weren't so foot sure with the various manoeuvres required. By the first leeward gate Tony DEMULDER's Victric VII had passed Alinghi and then opted for the starboard hand leeward mark leaving Barking Mad and Crocodile Rock to head for the right hand side of the course for the second weather leg. By now the top ten had broken away from the following pack, the consensus still being to work the right hand side of the course, exploiting the shifts on the way.
By the last weather mark, and with the wind building all the time, Crocodile Rock and Barking Mad were effectively overlapped, with Barking Mad to weather. Jim RICHARDSON's dark blue hull with a bit more speed on the spreader leg, rolled up beside the leader who then luffed to keep the agressor behind. Victric VII, just behind, used the opportunity to drive in to leeward and hoist the spinnaker before the others. The three way race for the lead lasted all the way down the high speed run, the boats reaching speeds of 18 knots at times in the puffs. Calling the moment for the final gybe was going to be key and once again boathandling would decide the outcome. By the finish Crocodile Rock had escaped from Barking Mad¹s clutches and was now concentrating on keeping the British boat Victric VII behind who by now had moved up to second.
Other consistent teams on the water today included Michael ILLBRUCK's Nela who with today¹s fourth place moves into third overall. The most consistent boat to date is Nerone, who goes into the final day with an eight-point buffer on the second placed boat Barking Mad. The Race Committee¹s decision to abandon hopes of further competition on Friday instigated an amendment to the race instructions which will allow three races to be held tomorrow, Saturday, the first of which will start at 10:30. The forecast is once again for fresh winds although they should moderate in the late afternoon.
Full results from today's racing will be on the event website at the address below, and be sure to click on our photo gallery from today and yesterday.