The Solent in February is not normally a pleasant place to race, whereas the Cote d’azur is. It was this conclusion that led the crew of Asterix to enter the Primo Cup, a regatta organised by the Yacht Club de Monaco. The event is four days racing over two weekends in early February. Neither flights (£80 return to Nice) nor hotels (£13) are expensive. The £40 entry fee is a lesson to all UK yacht clubs as it included the lift in and out, rig in and out, ten days berthing and two “all you can eat and drink” buffets at an excellent bar.
The Primo Cup is a one-design regatta that attracts entrants from all over the Mediterranean, classes include Mumm 30s, J/24s, Stars, Etchells and Melges 24. We arrived at about midnight on Friday after a full day at work. In the morning we rigged the boat quickly and with the help of the extremely efficient regatta assistants, were rapidly on the water. The races were well organised with perfectly laid three-lap windward/leeward courses.
Asterix is a Mumm 30 that races out of the Hamble, we are lucky to have a settled crew of (complete) amateurs and have been successful in domestic events. However, the competition is tougher in France where the Mumm 30 is used for the month long Tour de France a Voile. Italy also has a highly competitive fleet of 30 boats – most of which are sponsored. Both fleets attract the best sailors in their countries, many are multiple world champions and Olympians.
The fleets started at three-minute intervals – with the 21 Mumm 30s going to a separate leeward mark, which helped to keep the different classes apart. The bright sunshine, warmth and gentle to moderate breeze contrasted with the howling gale and torrential rain we left behind at Luton.
At the end of the weekend we had achieved results of 8,4,1 winning the last race by a minute. These results left us third overall. As the sun set we sat in T-shirts and shorts drinking Champagne in the white leather splendour of the yacht club.
Moderate breezes and bright sunshine greeted us as we walked (past orange tree and palms) to the yacht club on the Saturday morning, racing got underway at 1015am and two years of sailing as a team paid off as we posted results of 4,2,1. As a shattered crew came ashore we all agreed that it was some of the closest racing we had experienced with place changes on every leg and the smallest mistakes moving you down the fleet. Elation at being first overall was dashed when we realised that Vasco Vascotto – multiple world champion and tactician on a rival boat was protesting us for a leeward mark incident. Team Asterix have an unrivalled reputation in the protest room – having a 100 per cent losing record. A lucky encounter in the bar led us to an excellent and accommodating witness, with his testimony, we were able to prove our side of the story, much to Vascotto’s disappointment.
An outstanding meal in the yacht club led to a good nights sleep. Very light breezes led us to hope that the race committee might consider cancelling the racing for the day, however after a two hour postponement, we started the final race at midday.
The following day, in very light airs we led off the line and, with excellent boatspeed, we headed to the favoured left-hand side of the course, unfortunately as we got there, the wind shifted hard right and we rounded the windward mark in 18th place, several legs later, we were still in 15th . With the regatta win slipping away from us, we decided to split from the pack and went hard left on the last beat, remarkably, we were fourth round the windward mark. Soaking below the 2nd and 3rd placed boats – we caught them on starboard when they gybed and we were up to second (50 yards from the finish).
Seeing 0.00knt on the log is never a pleasant experience – particularly when watching 13 boats overtake you. As we expertly sailed into a hole, Region de Marseille came second and took the regatta. We discarded the race and took second o