The most colourful spectacle today in Saint-Tropez was certainly La Bravade des Espagnols, as dark clouds and rain smothered this part of the Côte d’Azur. Normally the noisiest act in the town on the 15 June each year, the religious and military pageant celebrating the Tropézienne victory over a fleet of Spanish galleons 400 years ago had serious competition from the wind in the rigging of the fleet gathered for the 2010 Giraglia Rolex Cup. With gusts and squalls sweeping down the gulf from daybreak, the Yacht Club Italiano/Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez race committee prudently kept the yachts ashore. The majority of the yachts are here for the 241 nautical mile race starting tomorrow and the equipment breaking conditions of this morning were hardly the preparation the crews had in mind. Regular reviews of the situation eventually led to an abandonment at 13.50 CEST.
Overnight leaders in the inshore series became overall winners once racing was curtailed for the day. Even though the severity of the conditions had ameliorated by lunchtime, it was not sufficient to encourage the idea of fair and competitive racing. Inshore Class standings were confirmed as follows: Udo Schutz’s STP 65 Container (GER) in IMA, Gilles Argeilles’ Brenta 55 Imagine (GER) in IRC A, Jonty & Vicky Layfield’s Swan 44 Sleeper in IRC B and Ciro Casanova’s X-382 Brancaleone in ORC B.
The inshore victors will be added to the 2010 Giraglia Rolex Cup honour roll that, this year, began with a 58 nm feeder race from San Remo to Saint-Tropez held overnight on 11 and 12 June. In this prologue contest, Andreas Faerber’s J-122 Nikita (ITA) held off Alberto Franchella’s Comet 45 I. Nova (ITA) by 5 minutes on handicap to win IRC A. Whilst in ORC B, Giovanni Melioli’s First 33.7 Keonda II (ITA) had a substantial 24 minute margin over Brancaleone.
With the prospect of a storm tonight, the prize giving for the racing to date planned for this evening has been rescheduled for San Remo.
The forecast weather for tomorrow suggests an improvement in the general situation. The wind will swing round to the south overnight and fill in at between 10 – 15 knots by midday, the scheduled start time for the distance race.
Container had a mixed season last year, but after some modifications over the winter she has come out fighting. Helmsman Marcus Wieser arrived in Saint-Tropez fresh from winning the Dragon Europeans in Hungary. Stepping straight off the plane, into a taxi and onto Container on Sunday morning it could have been a difficult start. Wieser was quick to adapt to his new environment sneaking a two second victory over Shockwave. Yesterday, Alegre pushed Container into second, but not enough to knock the German boat from top spot in the IMA class.
“It is quite different sailing on a Dragon and then a 68-footer. The challenge is fun and Container is great. She is not strictly a Mini Maxi, since she was built to the STP65 box rule, but class is nice. Speed wise all the boats are different, but still the sailing is very close between us, Alegre and Shockwave,” explains Wieser. “We did the Giraglia Rolex Cup last year. It was a bit of a nightmare because we parked at the Giraglia for eleven hours. This year the wind conditions should be optimum. In our calculations, at the moment, we could be finished in below 20 hours if we get the fast run to the Giraglia and a tight reach back to San Remo. It looks like a cool race.”
Wieser suggests the transition for Container between inshore and offshore mode is simple, “we don’t have much to do to the yacht between Tuesday and Wednesday. We use the same sails, just put on the liferafts and go racing.” One suspects there may be other stuff going on too. In terms of crew management, the Container crew takes the view that there is no room for rotation, “it is a long inshore race. It is 240 miles; if the wind averages 14-15 knots it is a fast sail. If it is windy, we need everyone on the rail. I will need to rest occasionally down below, but if it is below 20 hours [the crew] have to do it in one.”
Unlike the Spanish fleet of 1637, Miguel Bonet and his teammates on Plis-Play have not been deterred by La Bravade. “The boat is very strong, made of carbon fibre and very easy to handle. Many of the crew have been together for five years, we know each other very well and our boat-handling is excellent,” says Bonet, the tactician.
Bonet’s crew will be making some changes for the distance race, adding an extra crewmember, fitting a double backstay and a different mainsail; decisions based on experience and expectation, “we raced the long race before finishing second in class and seventh in real time. It was strong winds and we made 100 miles in seven hours from La Fourmigue to La Giraglia. For Wednesday we are expecting 17 to 20 knots, but we’ll see what is happening. If we have these conditions the boat will be very fast. With light winds we have no chance!”
Olympic gold medallist Sofia Bekatorou-Kosmatopoulos is not doing the offshore race tomorrow, but she has been involved in an interesting sailing programme this week. Sailing onboard Stella Olympiche – Give me Five, Bekatorou’s crewmates are a mix of female Olympians past and present, not all of them from sailing. Paola Protopapa is a gold medal winner in rowing from the 2008 Paralympics, while Valentina Turisini won silver in shooting at the Olympics in 2004. “The girls are from different sports, but we have a common aim: raising funds for an organization that introduces children to sport and another that works with breast cancer victims. It is an international effort and great to be part of, especially to see how different sport stars can work together and have fun at the same time,” she explains. “I am probably the most experienced sailor, but I have realized how much I am able to learn about attitude and approach from the other athletes involved.”
The 241 nautical mile offshore component of the 58th Giraglia Rolex Cup starts on Wednesday, 16 June from Saint-Tropez. Prior to this there are three days of inshore racing on the Bay of Saint-Tropez.
Alfa Romeo II holds the Giraglia Rolex Cup offshore race record of 18 hours 3 minutes and 15 seconds. Strictly, speaking the fastest time over the 241 nm course between Saint-Tropez and San Remo is held by Riviera di Rimini, which in 1998 covered the distance in 24 hours 21 minutes 47 seconds.
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