A perfect setting, with bright sunshine, warm temperatures and a light north-easterly breeze greeted the 37 crews competing in the first day of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup at Porto Cervo, Sardinia yesterday

A perfect setting, with bright sunshine, warm temperatures and a light north-easterly breeze greeted the 37 crews competing in the first day of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup at Porto Cervo, Sardinia.

The race committee was able to fire the first start of the day – for the four Spirit of Tradition yachts – with a slight delay at 1150 due to the shifting wind that required a repositioning of the line. A 23-mile course was set which took the fleet west towards Golfo Saline, then north-east towards the Monaci rocks and back south with a last mark positioned in the Golfo Pevero and the finish line opposite Porto Cervo.

US billionaire George Lindemann’s 180ft Adela, the largest yacht of the fleet, took line honours after three hours of sailing, followed by Italian entry Whitefin of Alfredo Canessa, who was able to clinch the victory on corrected time.

For the rest of the fleet a 30-mile course was set. After an initial windward leg to a mark, the competitors paraded on a tight reach towards the Monaci rocks and then sailed on towards the Barrettinelli, still on a tight reach. After rounding this small rocky outcrop, the fleet headed south in the heart of the La Maddalena archipelago with its numerous islands and semi-submerged rocks.

This second part of the race proved to be much more tactical than the first section, as the fleet was finally able to engage into a series of tacking duels in the restricted waters, and the breeze, which had picked up to 15 knots, started shifting. After keeping the island of Santo Stefano to port, the competitors headed for the last mark in the Golfo Pevero and reached the finish line opposite Porto Cervo.

The second start saw 11 yachts evenly spread on the starting line, with Alexia choosing the pin end. Soon after the start the fleet split into two distinct groups, one heading to the right side of the course and the other half to the left, which appeared to be slightly favoured. Alexia was able to sail quickly into a comfortable lead and stay well ahead of the fleet throughout the race, taking line honours with a six-minute lead over Magic Carpet Squared. This margin was enough to enable the Argentinian crew to win on corrected time. Alberto Roemmers, owner and helmsman of Alexia, was quite happy with this first day of racing. “We finished first overall and of course we are very satisfied,” he commented. “Today we sailed the traditional around-the-islands course, but we didn’t have many surprises as is often the case. We had a good race and enjoyed ourselves. At a certain point, the fleet was quite compact, but later on we had a problem dropping the code zero and our rivals caught up on us. However, in the final part of the course where we were able to stretch again and finish first overall.”

The third group to start was the Cruising A division, with the brand-new US entry Ghost owned by Arne Glimcher opting for the pin end and sailing into clear air with an impressive speed. With America’s Cup veteran Tom Whidden calling the tactics, Ghost was able to lead its division on real time, crossing the line first with a 14-minute margin over Italian entry Viriella owned by Vittorio Moretti.

New York real estate mogul Harry Macklowe’s Unfurled came third on the line and was able to win this first race on corrected time. As he stepped on shore, Tom Whidden commented: “I think for our very first race everyone was very pleased today. We really didn’t know how strong things would be or what sails to put up at what time. We really haven’t sailed the boat very much and it’s never been sailed in any kind of racing condition. We had two days of crew practice and it seemed like it worked out okay. We were probably on the conservative side today and we probably could have pushed the boat a little harder. For instance, after the first mark we had a very long reach and we kept saying should we put our spinnaker up or not. We’ll probably push her a little harder as the days go on and hopefully it’ll live up to all of our expectations. Once again it’s beautiful sailing in Sardinia!”

The fourth and last start of the day was the one that provided most action and controversy, with a total of 15 maxi yachts on the line from the Cruising B and Racing divisions. Australian Grant Wharington’s Skandia chose the pin end of the line, clear of other boats and with good speed, while his rival Maximus was caught in the back of the fleet. Two boats, Edimetra and South Georgia were over early and had to restart.

In the Cruising B division, the star of the day was the brand-new Italian entry Roma owned by Filippo Faruffini who had a great start and was able to lead the fleet throughout the course. Paolo Semeraro, helmsman of Roma, commented: “We had a great day with a good steady breeze which I guess came in as a bit of a surprise. We had a good start, with 15 maxis all together on the line – quite spectacular – and were able to sail fast around the course. Our boat was launched one month ago and went cruising for 10 days. This is our first regatta. In five days time we managed to get her ready for this event and we worked really hard. It’s a great boat that looks very racy from the outside but is fully equipped with air conditioning, refrigerators and all the comforts. So far we are very happy and we hope to keep up the results.”

While the yachts in the Cruising B, after the windward mark, headed for the Monaci rocks, the Racing division fleet headed dead downwind as, according to their interpretation, there should have been a downwind and another windward leg before heading off towards the Monaci. After a few radio communications between the competitors and the race committee, the fleet found itself turning around and sailing directly to the Monaci.

The confusion led to a shake up of the leaderboard, with Skandia losing its edge over its rivals. Maximus took the lead and held on to take line honours, followed by Skandia five minutes later. Charles Brown, co-owner of Maximus with Bill Buckley, commented: “We had a good day and surprisingly we had a nice breeze. It came in at just the right time, but for us the major issue was that we believe there should have been a bottom mark, because there was meant to be a windward/leeward leg after the start. After rounding the top mark we sailed downwind looking for the buoy, but there was no mark. We finally got going again, went around the course and beat all the boats in our division by a long way. We went across the line first so at the end it was ok.” However, as a result of the confusion over the course, it has been decided that Race 1 for Racing Division should be resailed.

According to weather forecast, the conditions today should still be good, with a south-easterly breeze of 10-12 knots, while a low pressure system is slowly moving towards Sardinia.


CRUISING DIVISION (provisional overall)

Class A

1. UNFURLED/Harry Macklowe/1
2. GHOST/Arne Glimcher/2
3. VIRIELLA/Vittorio Moretti/3

Class B

1. ROMA/Filippo Faruffini/1
2. ALLSMOKE/Gunter Hertz/2
3. CHARIS/Fabio Mangifesta/3


1. WHITEFIN/Alfredo Canessa/1
2. ANNAGINE/C.E. Van Asbeck/2
3. ADELA/George Lindemann/3


1. ALEXIA/Alberto Roemmers/1
2. TIKETITAN/Galeazzo Pecori Giraldi/2
3. J ONE/Jean Charles Decaux/3