The third and final day of inshore racing wrapped up in St Tropez today. The fleet of 200 boats drifted near the entrance to the bay of St. Tropez, as the race committee set the starting line. As luck would have it the wind line never quite reached them, and after a short delay, the committee picked up and moved to the wind. It was well worth the move – when racing got underway, a southwesterly sea breeze of close to 15 knots.
The IRC A and Swan 45 divisions were sent on a 19.7 mile coastal course; after a short upwind beat, the fleet sailed downwind to a mark midway along the coast between Ste Maxime and St. Raphael, and then upwind to a mark offshore of the famous Pampeleon beach, then back into the bay to the finish off St. Tropez. The IRC/ORC B division sailed a slightly shorter version of the course that was 16.7 miles.
The breeze-on day was not without drama — 26 protests were pending at press time, thus results were not finalized.
In the Mini-Maxis, Niklas Zennstroms's stunning Judel-Vrolik 72, Ran (GBR) came into it's own today in the building breeze and scored its' first win for the series. Grant Simmer, tactician onboard said, “The race committee were a bit reluctant to move the starting line offshore, but once they did we started in 15 knots, but then the breeze got up to 18-19 knots – a good pressured up race. It was quite a good course with a long beat, about seven miles, and then an interesting finish, reaching with different sail combos coming in to the finish. On Ran we like a bit more pressure, so for us we had the legs to get away, particularly on the long beat.” Ran's finish of 3-4-1 puts them provisionally in 3rd place overall.
Finishing 4th today, and 2nd overall is Bella Mente (USA). Tom Burnham, sails on board as strategist offered up his thoughts on a lively day, “we able to have a good first beat in about 12-13 kts of breeze, and around to the top mark and it just kept filling in. I guess we had 18-19 kts and we had a nice 20-minute long spinnaker run with Ran, ourselves, Luna Rossa, Container, Alegre all right next to each other, going downwind at 16-18 knots of boat speed, just flying along.”
Luna Rossa (ITA), which struggled in the lighter breezes of the first two days, reveled in the breeze today pushing hard at the head of the pack until they blew out their spinnaker and dropped back a bit. They hung in though and were able to capitalize on the final reach to the finish where they reeled in two boats and finished a respectable 3rd for the day.
Burnham continued, “The next beat in 18 kts of breeze was fun, we were hoping to go a little better against Alegre, but we missed a shift or two, rounded the mark and Ran stayed very conservative, they sailed really well and just jib-reached home.”
Bella Mente and Alegre put up code zeros and reached for a while and then went back to jib reaching when the wind angle decreased; Ran kept jib reaching along. Burnham again, “We made a fatal error when we put up a code zero again when the breeze was even tighter than before, it was a real disaster, too much sail area, too much horsepower and really hard boat handling-wise. In the end, the risk/reward ratio wasn't worth it. The boat is basically brand-new sailing in those conditions, so it's definitely a learning experience every time we get to sail in them. Since Palma Vela in mid-April, we haven't had a windy day so it was real fun for these big boats.so powerful, so much sail aream and the amount of speed we get out of them, especially that spinnaker run – it was only 20 minutes but it's the run we'll remember for the rest of the week!
In ORC A, Franck Noel's GP42 Near Miss (SUI) would seemed to have locked up 1st overall in their division. Gilles Morelle, navigator onboard attributes their success to a good crew that has sailed together for quite a while. This Near Miss, a GP42, is Noel's third boat, after a X40, and an IMS 600. Morelle said, “Today was just a great day, typically the real St. Tropez weather conditions, with a bit of all: up-wind, reaching and downwind. We had very good boat speed and enjoyed the challenge.”
In the Swan 45 class, Fever (GBR) appears to have locked up the overall win. Klaus Diederichs, co-owner and helmsman today said, “The team worked really well. We had a clean start, the left hand side paid on the first beat and we led around the first mark. It truly was champagne sailing out there today. We are looking forward to the offshore race. It is our first time racing in St Tropez and the friendly atmosphere shore side, combined with nice sailing makes this a great event.”
No Limits (NED), with four-time Olympic medalist and America's Cup sailor Jochen Schumann calling tactics had a good day, and he said, “It's great that the Giraglia Rolex Cup is open for one-design classes. With this group of boats that are participating here, it is of course better to sail the coastal races (vs windward/leeward), even if it was a bit boring the first two days with only 6 – 7 knots. But today we had just great conditions, up to 18 knots. It is exactly what the crew loves: a lot of action, good upwind parts, spinnaker work, shifting gears, and lots of manoeuvres, so one can show their performance.”
Tonight the Rolex Gala and prizegiving for the inshore racing takes place at the fabulous Citadelle de Saint-Tropez overlooking the sea. In the 15th century, the Governor of Provence de l'Epernon, decided to enclose an area within the city walls to protect from eventual attacks. Prizes are to be awarded to the best-placed yachts from the past three days of inshore racing.
Tomorrow, a fleet of close to 200 yachts will depart on the Giraglia Race, a 243-mile distance race from St Tropez to a turning mark at La Fourmigue, and onward via the Giraglia Rock at the northern tip of Corsica to the finish in the Italian port of Genoa.
Further information on the Giraglia Rolex Cup, including full race results can on the can be found at the Yacht Club Italiano's website at at www.yci.it