Black Dragon established herself as line honours favourite for today's Giraglia Rolex Cup Genoa Race today

Black Dragon established herself as line honours favourite for the long race to Genoa today, following her victory in the third inshore race of the Giraglia Rolex Cup yesterday.

The Reichel/Pugh 77 Transpac racer lapped up the medium airs triangular course around the Bay of St Tropez, not only crossing the line first but finally managing to break the IMS stranglehold of the Grand Soleil 42s.

A slight drop in the breeze meant that the Grand Soleils could not match the corrected time of the 77-footer, with Black Dragon winning by almost six minutes under IMS, and so North Sails Sportswear had to be satisfied with second place. Her sistership and close rival, Near Miss, finished five minutes behind North Sails on the water, and could only manage fifth on corrected time.

Other good performers were the Farr 70 Atalanta II, whose fourth place yesterday brought her up to third overall behind the two Grand Soleils, and Sotto Voce, Arien van Wemde’s Judel/Vrolijk 62 which took third in the race. These two boats often enjoy a good battle, and while Atalanta’s owner Carlo Puri Negri was pleased to have performed well he was disappointed to have relinquished third to the Dutch team on Sotto Voce. “We wrapped our spinnaker around the forestay at the last mark. It meant we had to gybe three times instead of just the once, and that was probably the difference between us and Sotto Voce.”

The course was the reverse of the previous day’s triangle, and again it had suited the lightweight Black Dragon. It has been a strange day for weather on the gulf of St Tropez, with the day dawning to gusty winds and pouring rain. The race committee postponed the start until things settled down and St Tropez started to look like its usual sunny self again. By start time the wind had abated considerably, to around 10-11 knots.

Black Dragon’s boat captain James Carroll commented: “As we headed out to sea it got lighter and lighter for a while, but in the middle of the race it got back up to 16 knots and we were making 12-13 knots boatspeed. Then as we came back in towards the finish at St Tropez, the wind started dropping out again, which I think helped us out against the smaller boats.”

Luigi Balestra’s IMX 40 Maluba consolidated her lead over the 86 boats of Group B with a first place. Tactician Philippe Comte talked through their winning strategy. “We made a good start in the middle of the line again, with clear air. We went to the left of the course as long as we could. We were in a very good battle with two other IMX-40s, Clean Energy and Fare Well.” At the first mark they rounded two boat lengths behind Clean Energy, and very little distance separated these two boats all the way to the finish. “Clean Energy crossed the line first,” said Comte, “but when we heard no finish gun for them we realised they had been over the line early at the start. So we won the race.”

With scores of 3,2,1 over the past three days of inshore racing, Maluba would have been in a prime position to win the regatta overall, but Comte said the crew would be going back to their respective homes in Antibes and Switzerland. No long race to Genoa for them, but back to work. “It makes it all the more painful leaving tonight, knowing that we are in the lead,” Comte smiled philosophically.

Their departure puts Italo Borrini’s Grand Soleil 40R Despeinada in pole position. This is the boat that dominated Group B last year, not only in the inshore races but in winning the small boat race to Genoa too. With scores of 8,3,2 over the past few days, Borrini’s crew appears to be hitting form at just the right moment, and looks in good shape to repeat 2004’s success.

The weather forecasts remain as varied and as unpredictable as ever, with winds for the 243-mile race to Genoa being forecast from anything between 2-50 knots. At 11am this morning, regardless of the forecast, the fleet of over 200 yachts and multihulls will set off out of St Tropez and take what comes their way.

Provisional Results – Race 3

Class 0-1

1 Black Dragon – Performance Yachting (GBR) – Reichel/Pugh 77 – 02:54:29 (corrected time)

2 North Sails Sportswear – Lorenzo Bressani (ITA) – Grand Soleil 42R0 – 03:00:16

3 Sotto Voce – Arien van Wemde (NED) – Judel/Vrolijk 62 – 03:00:56

Class 2-5

1 Maluba – Luigi Balestra (SUI) – IMX 40 – 04:07:36 (corrected time)

2 Despeinada – Italo Borrini (ITA) – Grand Soleil 40R – 04:08:06

3 Asell – Roberto La Corte (ITA) – Vismara 34 – 04:08:27

Provisional Results – (overall after end of inshore racing

Class 0-1

1 North Sails Sportswear – Lorenzo Bressani/ Roberto Ferrero (ITA) – Grand Soleil 42R0 – 5 points

2 Near Miss – Frank Noel (SUI) – Grand Soleil 42R – 9 points

3 Atalanta II – Carlo Puri Negri (ITA) – Farr 70 Racer – 18 points

Class 2-5

1 Maluba – Luigi Balestra (SUI) – IMX 40 – 6 points

2 Despeinada – Italo Borrini (ITA) – Grand Soleil 40R – 13 points

3 Alpenergie-Maolca – Manfredi Vianini Tolomei (ITA) – X-40 – 15 points