It was a thrilling day on the water today for the 13 superyachts competing in the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous in the turquoise waters of the British Virgin Islands. With a steady 15 knots of breeze blowing in from the east, principal race officer Peter Craig selected a counter-clockwise course from the start line off Necker Island, sending the fleet round the Dogs followed by Round Rock and a long leg along the southern side of Virgin Gorda before a final downwind sprint from Pajaros Point back to the finish.
Crews prepared to set kites as they crossed the start line on the first leg to the Dogs. ‘The downwind start was excellent,’ said Peter Harrison, owner of the Farr-designed ketch Sojana. Jim Clark’s J Class Hanuman made short work of taking the lead, having started a few minutes after the smallest yacht in the fleet, the 29.3m Altair, and from that point never looked back, extending her lead all the way round the course to secure line honours. But for the rest of the fleet, the early kite run and the subsequent white sail reach to Round Rock saw considerable compression of the fleet.
‘We had a great day, one of the best tactically and crew-wise,’ said Virgin Islander Peter Holmberg who is helming the Perini Navi P2. ‘We correctly identified the key moment, which was coming into Round Rock. Traffic management was critical, and we opted to go low to get a clear lane. It was a key move.’ It proved to be decisive, with P2 – along with Sojana and the F-Class Firefly – managing to get the inside track for the long tack along the southern side of Virgin Gorda.
The bunching of the fleet at Round Rock gave a real spectacle on the water and some close boat-on-boat action, but also dictated how the yachts approached the windward leg. ‘We were going to get gassed by Zefira, Ganesha and Sojana,’ explained Wes Cooper, captain of the 55m ketch Marie, ‘and we can’t sail as high, so we ended up well out to windward to get clear air.’ As the fleet rounded and hardened up, it was anybody’s race – for second – with the 39m Ganesha, 36.6m Bliss, 45m Salperton 49.7m Zefira and Sojana all fighting for their lanes. Slightly further back, Marie, P2, Firefly and Lady B were having another battle, while the 30.5m Wally Indio – winner of Race One on corrected time and the last yacht to start – began to press from the back.
By the time the yachts rounded Pajaro Point at the easternmost tip of Virgin Gorda, Salperton had powered through to second place on the water, with Sojana and P2 rounding in short order and setting their kites for the downwind sprint to the finish. Firefly rounded fifth, while Indio showed the great strides she had made sticking close to shore by rounding almost neck and neck with Bliss. ‘Starting last, we have to be patient and wait for our opportunity,’ said Philippe Mourniac, tactician on Indio. That opportunity proved to be in the few minutes leading up to Pajaro. ‘Just before the hoist we were close to five yachts,’ he continued, ‘and we were in the shadow of Bliss and Firefly. Our big call was whether to tack out for a clear lane or try to survive in dirty air. We tried to keep on, but in the end had to tack twice.’
As the fleet headed towards the finish, a slight drop in wind to around 11 knots saw further compression, and a nail-biting finish on the water. Hanuman was long gone, but the fight for second to fifth was intense, with Sojana, P2, Firefly and Indio all crossing the line within a couple of minutes of each other.
With all 13 yachts finished, it was Hanuman that took the win on corrected time, with Indio in second and P2 in third. With Hanuman and Indio level on points after two races, and P2 and Sojana not far behind, Race Three should prove a testing conclusion to the event.
Aside from the close racing, owners and crews alike were buzzing after today’s race. ‘The weather was nice, the wind was great, and the view was not so bad!’ quipped Indio’s Philippe Mourniac, while Marie’s captain Wes Cooper – whose onboard pianist had been playing Lohengrin as the yacht crossed the start line – was equally enthused. ‘It was a fantastic day, an awesome day,’ he said.
For Bob Eichler, owner of Altair, bringing up the rear didn’t matter. ‘The event and the racing is fantastic,’ he said once tied up on the YCCS dock. ‘The people are fantastic and the YCCS is amazing. We’ve had two wonderful starts – we’re loving it and we couldn’t be happier.’
Meanwhile naval architect Ed Dubois, who has five yachts of his design competing, spent the day racing on Salperton and summed up the event perfectly: ‘Perfect day, perfect venue, perfect company!'
This evening, owners and their guests look forward to the Gold Party at luxury resort community and beach club Oil Nut Bay, nestled on a private peninsula on the eastern tip of Virgin Gorda.
Day Three of the racing starts at 11:00 AST Saturday, 17 March.
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