Team Holmatro wins multihull division at Centomiglia on Lake Garda this weekend 11/9/06

The Volvo Extreme 40 made a serious impression during its Italian debut on Lake Garda this week. Not only did Team Holmatro, skippered by Austrian Andreas Hagara, win the Trofeo Riccardo Gorla but this weekend, they won the inaugural multicento class (multihull division) of the famed 56th Centomiglia.

After more than eight hours and 100 miles of racing up and down Lake Garda, Team Holmatro were the first multihull, and third boat overall, to cross the finish line at Bogliaco. Having sailed a different and longer course, Team Holmatro finished only a few minutes behind the Libra Principessa helmed by Joschi Entner (GER). Carlo Fracassoli’s Italian Libra Clandesteam took line honours 13 minutes earlier.

Saturday’s weather conditions were unusual, so local knowledge was of little advantage. The traditional morning breeze, the ‘Peler’ from the north, held off and instead there was a light southerly wind of eight knots at the start. It was not until half-way through the afternoon that the wind shifted to the north, but it still remained light which resulted in many of the 350 competing yachts finishing late into the evening on Saturday.

Twenty-five minutes into the start, the Volvo Extreme 40 led by almost a kilometre. The four fast Libra’s with enormous kites and seven or eight people on the trapeze sailed deeper, but could not keep up with the 40ft carbonfibre multihull. Team Holmatro was in close competition with the M20 catamaran of skipper Goran Mastrom (SWE), but it was the Volvo Extreme 40, with the Italian legend Giovanni Soldini onboard, that rounded the northern mark in Riva first. They were already tacking amongst the beautiful rocky shores, whilst the majority of the fleet still had many miles to go downwind to the first mark.

At 1220 Team Holmatro crossed the gate at Bogliaco in first position in front of the M20. The crowd cheered for the crew, comprising of Andreas Hagara (AUT), Giovanni Soldini (ITA), Pablo Soldano (ITA), Alberto Sonino (ITA) and Gerd Habschli (AUT). This year was the first time in the races’ 56 year history that it included a multihull class and 19 open catamarans and trimarans entered the race, sailing a different course to the Centomiglia. Instead of going straight to the next mark at Desenzano, the multihulls had to do two extra sausage shaped loops around buoys in Bogliaco. The first Libra, Principessa from Germany, went through the gate at 1240 and from there continued directly south, while the Volvo Extreme 40 was still completing the extra sausage. By the time Team Holmatro could make its way to Desenzano, it had to catch up with three Libras.

Hagara and his team managed to overtake one Libra and battled with the other two, who match raced along the coast. Hagara went to the middle of the course in the hope of picking up some more wind and as the breeze shifted to the north, the crew hoisted the gennaker and closed the gap on the second placed Libra. Just before the mark the pressure died completely and the 40ft catamaran came to a halt as the Libra’s kept going. Clandesteam (ITA) was leading at the rounding mark, followed by the Principessa.

It was a while until the wind reached Team Holmatro again and unfortunately they lost their third position to Brokernet Winterthur (Hungarian Libra). While Holmatro’s crew was sitting on the leeward hull against the beam, crews were out on the trapezes onboard the Libras.

Hagara commented: “At the beginning of the race we looked for wind patches, but as the pressure dropped below five knots, we started to look for shifts as well.” This strategy paid off and they managed to keep in touch with the leaders. As soon as the breeze increased again, Team Holmatro gained speed and passed the Hungarian Libra. As Clandesteam crossed the finish at 16:35 surrounded by an armada of spectator boats, Team Holmatro managed to close the gap on Principessa. Team Holmatro crossed the line at 1648, just a few minutes after Principessa.

Hagara continued: “I am happy that we won the Centomiglia in our class. We were competitive against the Libras, so it was a shame that we didn’t sail the same course. You cannot compare the two races in terms of line honours.”

The final results of the Multicento class are based on two races; last week’s Trofeo Riccardo Gorla (50 miles) and the Centomiglia (100 miles). Team Holmatro was the undisputed winner having won both races.