Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta: day one race report

As Day Two of the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta gets underway, the fleet of sailing superyachts is waiting patiently to see if the breeze will fill in. Conditions are light and likely to follow Day One’s pattern, creating challenging tactical problems for the owners and their crews. The race committee is currently exploring options, and having ruled out sending the fleet south it is likely they will set a custom course similar to yesterday’s race.

Blue skies, sun, a fleet of magnificent sailing superyachts, and challenging wind conditions – Day One of the 2015 Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in Sardinia had it all.

This year’s event – organised by Boat International Media and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda – has attracted a diverse fleet of sailing superyachts.

Split into three classes and racing under the new ORCsy rating rule, anticipation was high as the fleet left the YCCS dock in Porto Cervo into light and changeable wind conditions. The race committee set a custom course that would take the yachts up and back through the passage between the mainland and the islands of Caprera and La Maddalena – a stretch of water affectionately known as bomb alley.

The 45 metre Perini Navi Clan VIII got racing underway, with subsequent yachts in Class A starting at two minute intervals, the fastest rated yacht starting last. For Class B – where the 33 metre yachts WinWin and Inoui would be doing battle with Pier-Luigi Loro Piana’s regatta veteran My Song – racing was under a pure pursuit format, with the yachts starting according to their rating for the conditions and with the final positions decided on the water. The Class C division, which includes three Southern Winds and the Spirit Yachts Gaia, racing would be conducted under the time-on-distance format – a variant of the pure pursuit race.

For the tacticians, reading the conditions would prove critical, while slick crew work was essential to get through the trickiest points with the least loss of time. “There were two winds fighting each other with an inversion zone too,” explains Sime Fantela, a Croatian Olympic sailor in the 470 class who is calling tactics on Nahita. “There were plenty of opportunities to win or lose the race. It was definitely challenging!”

In Class A, the 46 metre Ganesha and 45 metre Saudade set off at pace, quickly taking the lead and enjoying a tight battle on the water all the way round the course. The new breeze at the top of the course, just southeast of the island of Spargi, gave and extra burst of speed as the conditions climbed to 12-15 knots with flat water. But at the bottom end of the course, the transition zone had all but killed the wind, and the race committee opted to shorten the course for both Class A and Class C.

It was Ganesha who chalked up Day One victory in Class A on corrected time, with Clan VIII putting in an impressive performance to take second just 1 minute and 28 seconds behind. Saudade claimed third step on the podium.

In Class C, the Oyster 825 Maegan – enjoying her first regatta – put in an impressive performance and held off the chasing pack almost to the end. However, in the dying moments and in the dying breeze it was the Southern Wind Grande Orazio who managed to claim Class C victory, while Nahita slipped under the mailand cliffs on the left side of the course out of the current to claim a well-deserved second. Gaia made a late charge, and with Maegan struggling in almost no wind it was Gaia who just grabbed third, a mere four seconds ahead of the Oyster.

The most intense action, however, was unfolding in Class B. My Song had played the first transition zone beautifully, with a slick kite drop carrying her through the dead patch and into fresh breeze, overhauling several of the Class C yachts in the process. WinWin – the fastest rated yacht in the fleet and therefore the last to start – also called the changing conditions well, and was soon hunting down My Song, closing to within 50 metres at points. “It was like we were attached by bungee chord,” smiles Clive Walker, captain of WinWin. “We’d reel them in, they’d stretch away, then we’d get it back, then they would stretch away again… But they sailed really well and managed to keep us in check with loose cover, keeping between us and the finish line. It was an incredible race, and I’m sure My Song were sweating! I think it sets up a nice regatta between us.”

After such a tense race, and having secured Class B victory by the narrowest of margins, Pier-Luigi Loro Piana was obviously both delighted and relieved. “It was a really stressy day, but that’s why we go racing – you get a lot of emotion,” he beams. “I think we got perfect conditions. WinWin is a super boat, really fast, they were catching us and that puts you under a lot of pressure. But conditions today were perfect for My Song and it shows that if you have an old boat that is well maintained and has the right rating, you can still win. I’m very happy – it was a marvellous race today.”

Last night owners and their guests were entertained on the terrace of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda at the Loro Piana Owners’ Dinner, with the dinner itself prepared by three-star Michelin chef Massimiliano Alajmo. There was also a stirring performance from acclaimed Australian singer-songwriter Delta Goodrem.

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