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FIRST FLIGHT OF THE SWANS
The light conditions prevailing over Porto Cervo, Sardinia forced the postponement of this morning’s first day of racing at the 2012 Rolex Swan Cup. With the Race Committee forecasting an upsurge in breeze around midday, the 55 competing crews waited patiently in the docks in anticipation of a new start time. By 13:00 CEST, a light building breeze of around nine knots enabled the four classes to commence competition.
The Maxi (18.29 metres/60 feet and above) and Grand Prix (18.28m and below) classes tackled a coastal course of approximately 30-nautical miles, which comprised a long run through Bomb Alley and the Maddalena Archipelago before a beat back via Monaci to the finish off Porto Cervo. A slightly shorter coastal course of 20-nm was tackled by the 14-strong fleet of Classics while the Swan 45-One Design boats, engaged in the Rolex Swan 45 World Championship, completed two windward/leeward races of approximately seven-nm.
Today’s winners were: Bronenosec (RUS) in Maxi; Natalia (ROU) in Grand Prix; Ondine (ITA) in Classic while Earlybird (GER) and TalJ (ITA) shared the spoils with a first and second place each in the Rolex Swan 45 World Championship.
In the Maxi class, the first victory of the week belonged to the Swan 60 Bronenosec, expertly guided by tactician Tommaso Chieffi, ahead of two yachts from the United States: the Swan 601 Stark Raving Mad and Swan 62 Constanter. For Stark Raving Mad owner James Madden it proved to be a wonderful Rolex Swan Cup debut: “I have been here six times on vacation but never raced before,” said Madden. “It is by far the prettiest place I’ve ever sailed. We enjoyed a building breeze all the way through the Strait. It was very puffy with winds from 9-13 knots, which saw us flirting with going from an A1 to an A2. When we rounded the Maddalena on the backside it got really interesting with shifts of 60 degrees. We knew we were doing well but it was hard to assess on corrected time. The boat is great – it is seven years old, we’ve had it completely redone, and it sails really well.”
Observing as navigator onboard the sixth place finisher Nikata (GBR) – a Swan 82 – Mike Broughton added: “Looking at the week presently both Bronenosec and Stark Raving Mad are in good shape. We are not far behind. Tomorrow looks like a windier day, which means the Swan 60s won’t quite have the same advantage. If it gets over 13 knots some of the bigger boats have a chance.”
Jeroen Van Dooren’s Lot 66 (NED) is one of two Swan 66s in attendance and according to boat captain/navigator Andrew Duff, the crew are braced for the transition from cruising to racing mode. “Normally we do one racing regatta a year,” explained Duff. “Last year it was the Rolex Middle Sea Race, this year we have chosen the Rolex Swan Cup, which allows us to race against other Swans in a stunning place with changeable conditions.” The predominantly Dutch crew will hope to improve on an eleventh place finish today.
In the Grand Prix class, the Swan 42s made the early headway with Natalia, triumphing ahead of Magical Mystery Tour (GBR) and Long Echo (GBR). The competition includes the Spanish Swan 56 Clem, formerly Filip Balcaen’s Aqua Equinox, a class winner in 2008, who can count on the expertise of Olympic Gold medallist Jordi Calafat. Meanwhile, in the Classic competition, the Swan 53 Ondine took today’s first race with the event’s smallest boat Only You, a Swan 38, claiming an impressive second place.
The Rolex Swan 45 World Championship got off to a tantalizing start with two windward/leeward races. Defending champion Earlybird was pushed hard by Vittorio Ruggiero’s TalJ – both crews notching a first and a second place. “We are very happy, the wind conditions were good,” said Ruggiero. “We had an excellent first race. By a whisker in the second race we couldn’t move ahead at a key mark. Today, we made almost no mistakes – it will be an interesting duel with Earlybird.”
A more testing day is in store tomorrow. As gusts of 25-30 knots are forecast in the afternoon, the fleet are scheduled to commence racing earlier at 10:30 CEST. Coastal races are the order of the day for all classes except the Swan 45 One-Design, engaged in windward/leeward racing.