The cats get off to a flying start in Rio de Janiero 22/3/06

The one-design catamarans were off to a flying start in the first of the Volvo Extreme 40 Grand Prix Series in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

After four races Team Basilica, helmed by British 49er sailor Alister Richardson, established an early lead over the fleet.

Team Basilica was quick off the starting blocks and the new addition of Jonathan Taylor to the experienced team of Richardson, Peter Greenhalgh and James Grant proved a winning formula on day one.

The British team was unbeatable in the first three races but eventually in the fourth race of the day Motorola-CHR, helmed by British Tornado sailor Leigh McMillan managed to gain the upper hand. Motorola-CHR crewed by IMOCA single-handed round the world sailor Conrad Humphreys, McMillan’s Tornado crewman Will Howden and Global challenge competitor Hamish Oliphant, managed to pass Basilica, when they decided to gybe early for the finish, to score their first victory in the series.

James Grant of Team Basilica commented: “Today we worked really well as a team on Basilica with good communication, helped along by the fact that Peter and Alister have the experience of sailing together for six years in 49ers. Our ten days winter training also seems to have paid off and Boycey (Jonathan Taylor) has proved a great addition to the team.”

The Volvo Ocean Race boat skippered by Diogo Cyolla from Portugal had mixed results on their first day out racing in the boat. With the added pressure of taking over the second placed boat in the series, Cyolla and his crew of Gregg Homann, newly crowned J24 world champion Mauricio Santa Cruz and Eduardo Perido put in a consistent performance to finish third overall after the first day of racing.

Throughout the week Cyolla will have a number of guests sailing onboard Volvo Ocean Race and tomorrow will see the addition of Australian Chris Nicholson. Nicholson, a helmsman onboard the Volvo Open 70 movistar, will be a useful addition to the team with his wealth of dinghy experience and a previous holder of both the world and European championship titles in the Olympic 49er class.

Overall series leader Tommy Hilfiger, helmed by two times Olympic silver medallist Randy Smyth, ended day one in fourth place just one point in front of Team Holmatro, helmed by class creator and Olympic medallist Mitch Booth.

Booth commented: “This breeze is exactly what these boats have been created for. It has been a great days sailing with 10-15 knots, which is the perfect range for these boats. We didn’t have a great day on Holmatro but it is the first day our team has sailed together and you learn something new about these boats every day that you sail them.”

He continued: “It is really satisfying to see the fleet together again and in these conditions you get to see the boats full potential.”

The series continues through until Sunday 26 March.

Results: Day One (four races – 10pts 1st, 8 pts 2nd etc)

1. Basilica (1,1,1,2) 38 pts
Alister Richardson (GBR), James Grant (GBR), Pete Greenhalgh (GBR), Jonathan Taylor (GBR)

2. Motorola – CHR (2,3,2,1) 32 pts
Leigh McMillan (GBR), Conrad Humphries (GBR), Will Howden (GBR), Hamish Oliphant (GBR)

3. Volvo Ocean Race (4,2,3,5) 23 pts
Diogo Cyolla (POR), Gregg Homann (AUS), Mauricio Santa Cruz (BRA), Eduardo Perido (BRA)

4. Tommy Hilfiger (3,5,4,4) 20 pts
Randy Smyth (USA), Jonathan Farrar (USA), Stan Schreyer (USA), Juliano Viana (BRA)

5. Holmatro (5,4,5,3) 19 pts
Mitch Booth (AUS), Taylor Booth (AUS), Daan Koene (NED), Herbert Dercksen (NED)

Remaining Volvo Extreme 40 Grand Prix Series Dates

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 21 – 26 March, 2006
Baltimore, USA 28 April – 3 May, 2006
Portsmouth, UK 27 May – 3 June, 2006
Rotterdam, Netherlands 9 – 14 June, 2006