Highland Fling and Ganesha take the honours on Day 1 of Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta
2012-06-04By Tim Thomas

As opening salvos go, Day One at the Loro Piana Superyacht regatta was an impressive assault on the senses. After a series of postponements thanks to a strong westerly blowing over 30 knots on the course, the fleet finally left the docks of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda ready for a 1535 start for the performance division, which rolled straight into the two minute interval start sequence for the cruising class. The performance yachts headed out on a 27-mile course which took them south to the Mortoriotti and Soffi Islands, north to Monaci and back to a finish line off Porto Cervo, while the cruising division enjoyed a similar course set at 23 miles.

With the wind still hovering around the low 20s, it was Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s 25.3m Highland Fling that set the early pace, hitting the laid windward mark first and then disappearing over the horizon on the first run. She was hotly pursued by the Cookson My Song, the 25.1m Aegir and the 24.9m Swan Alpina, but none could match the pace of the Goetz-built Highland Fling. My Song had a moment of drama when the tack of their kite blew out, but a swift recovery and a second hoist meant they reached the leeward turning marks in second.

In the cruising division, the first yacht to start was the Fitzroy-built 38.8m Ganesha and she managed to maintain her lead all the way round the course, revelling in the strong conditions. ‘They were perfect conditions for the boat,’ explained Ganesha’s tactician Jens Christensen. ‘The long beat was a fetch, and we were just cracked off on the sheets. The owner also did a really nice job. We saw 27 knots of breeze and were a little overpowered at the top, but we found a really nice groove. Everyone is really happy.’

For the rest of the cruising division, strong performances from the 37.1m Moonbird – helmed by Andy Green – and Loro Piana veteran Scorpione Dei Mari saw them take second and third places on corrected time, but there was considerable action amongst the rest of the fleet. The Southern Winds – there are five of them competing this week – had an epic battle all the way round the course, and it was the 30.2m Mrs Seven who opted to make a hero call on the last white sail reach to the finish, hoisting their gennaker in the gusty conditions. It looked to have paid off, as the yacht surged past a succession of rivals, until a hairy moment at the bottom of the course sent them running deep, losing the positions they had gained.

Last to start in the cruising division was one of the largest yachts in the fleet, the 45m Salperton, but she made steady progress around the course to finish fourth on corrected – making three of the top four Fitzroy-built yachts. In the performance division, Highland Fling was unassailable, finishing 17 minutes in elapsed time ahead of second-placed My Song, which equated to 10 minutes on corrected. Aegir took the third spot in the performance division.

There were smiles all round on the faces of the owners, their guests and their crews as the yachts berthed back at the YCCS. Martin Baum from Pantaenius Insurance was sailing on the Southern Wind Kiboko, enjoying its first ever superyacht regatta – and loaded with no less than three America’s Cup veterans. ‘We were doing 18 or 19 knots on this very exciting boat,’ enthused Baum after the finish. ‘I had an excellent time! The manoeuvres were quick on board, and there was no shouting at all – the boat was very well sailed even in the gusty conditions.’

Kiboko’s owner was no less enthused. ‘We were reaching at 12 to 13 knots, and hit 19 knots on one leg in around 25 knots of breeze,’ he beamed as the yacht tied up to the dock. ‘Fantastic!’

The forecast for Race Day Two suggests moderating winds, and racing is due to start back on schedule at 1200.