Earlier in the week, many competitors taking part in the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta – hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and co-organised by Boat International Media – were expecting a light wind regatta. The third day of racing – Fitzroy Race Day – proved just why the waters off Porto Cervo are considered one of the world's great sailing grounds.
The breeze had swung to the north overnight, and by the time the yachts were preparing to start it had built to around 12 knots. It would continue to increase as the day went on, peaking at around 27 knots in bomb alley and making for magical sailing conditions. The race committee chose to send the yachts to the east of Caprera and La Maddalena, with the Class C yachts heading to the finish off Porto Cervo through bomb alley, and Classes A and B looping around the islands of Spargi and Barrettinelli before enjoying a tight downwind leg back past Caprera and La Maddalena.
With the starting order set to send the slowest boats off first, it was Genevieve who got the racing underway as Daima chose not to race today. The 37m Genevieve nailed her start, hitting the line at pace and on time, and set off up the beat choosing to stay left. It was a tactic that most of the fleet followed – only the 45m Fitzroy-built Salperton and the 44.7m cruising ketch Timoneer (whose crew have a combined age of 1,441 years) chose to stand on or head right.
At the top of La Maddalena, the 37m Bliss had made excellent progress, rounding with Salperton, the Oysters Karibu and Sarafin, and Unfurled all within shouting distance. By the time Classes A and B had looped around and hit the northeast corner of Barrettinelli – effectively a gybe mark on the course – the faster Class A boats had caught up making for some hard-fought boat-on-boat battles. The fastest rated yacht in the fleet, 45m Visione, was first to round and head for home, with Salperton making good progress just three minutes behind. Most of the fleet were through in the space of just the next seven minutes, ready for the blast back to Porto Cervo, hard pressed in the strong breeze with kites flying.
When the results rolled in, it was clear just how close some of the racing had been. Overnight leader My Song scored her third bullet of the regatta, beating the 25m Aegir by just 17 seconds on corrected time. Salperton held on for the Class B win, with Bliss notching a creditable second and the other Fitzroy yacht – Zefira – taking third. In Class C, Bequia was finally knocked down to third after winning the first two races, and it was Genevieve that scored the bullet ahead of the 27m Oyster Karibu.
‘We did fantastic today, and had a really good day,’ beamed Tony Pullar, captain of Genevieve. ‘We got a good start, saw the shift up the track and went well inshore, managing to keep clear air. The wind hit 27 knots in bomb alley, and we had a good battle with Bequia – they overtook us at one point, then we got them back on the reach and run'
‘It was really close, and we had a really good race,’ enthused Aegir's tactician, Steve Benjamin. ‘We went left early and the wind shifted 20 or 30 degrees. The most exciting part was up at Barrettinelli – we were able to gybe inside Zefira, and we had our 4A asymetric up, which is our biggest spinnaker. We were expecting the wind to veer, and we sailed through Firefly and took the lead. On the last leg it seemed My Song just had a little better wind and they were able to stretch out the 17 seconds on corrected. The racing was terrific!’
‘We had a corker day today,’ said Andy Sheltrum, captain of Bliss. ‘Our tacking was perfect on the first leg, and it was generally down to good calls. We were umming and ahhing about holding the A2 on the last leg, but we decided to leave it up which was a good call. We hit 16.5 knots of boatspeed in 26 to 27 knots of breeze – the owner is an excellent helmsman!'
Tonight the owners and their guests will enjoy the legendary beach party at Phi Beach, although there will likely be some early nights as Saturday is the final day of racing.