HIGHLAND FLING TAKES TOP HONOURS ON DAY 3
By Tim Thomas, Editor of Boat International
Thursday 7 June, 2012 | Porto Cervo, Sardinia - Italy
Day Three of the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in Porto Cervo, hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and organised by Boat International Media, was a lay day for the Cruising division superyachts, but for those competing in the Performance class there was still all to play for.
Conditions at midday were changeable. Initially, a 9-knot breeze from the northeast meant the race committee chose a course that would send the fleet out to a windward mark, up to Mortoriotto and Soffi Islands, down to Monaci and out to the entrance to ‘bomb alley’ before returning to finish off Porto Cervo. A slight shift delayed the start, and with the wind swinging and settling at around 125 degrees, the start sequence got underway at 1230.
For the performance division, racing under conventional ISAF rules, the fleet start is always a key moment. As the superyachts lined up in the final seconds, Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s 25.3m Highland Fling took the pin end of the line, while the 25.4m My Song and the 25.1m Aegir battled for a slot in the middle of the line. The 24.9m Swan Alpina scored their best start of the week so far, crossing at the committee boat end pretty much as the gun went.
While Highland Fling headed out to the left of the beat and Alpina stayed right, there was some strong boat-on-boat action between My Song and Aegir. Aegir, who started to weather of My Song, tacked onto port and looked to have the advantage, but when they tacked back to starboard, My Song managed to cross ahead, tacking immediately and forcing Aegir to tack back. This time My Song did not cover, and it was a move that perhaps had a knock-on effect further down the track. As the first beat progressed the wind continued to build, and as the fleet neared the first major mark of the course at Mortoriotto, the wind was blowing 20 knots plus from the southeast.
As the fleet rounded Mortoriotto Island and cracked sheets, Highland Fling had built a two minutes and 15 seconds advantage. My Song turned second, with a 45 second delta over Aegir. Alpina rounded four minutes adrift, but showing good speed for what is essentially a performance cruiser in this pretty racy fleet.
As the yachts sailed down the back of Soffi Island, Aegir pulled a key move, hoisting a kite and gaining rapidly on My Song. Aegir managed to get the inside line, and although My Song responded with a hoist the move was already made. As they gybed onto a reach round Soffi, both tried to hold their kites; Aegir was first to drop, running deep to get the sail on board. My Song tried to hold canvas for more of the leg, but when it came to furl the sail the move was slow, and Aegir pulled out a short gap.
After the run down to Monaci, Highland Fling’s lead had built to nine minutes. Behind, My Song opted to head inshore with a couple of gybes and also opted for an early drop at the Monaci rocks. It was enough to gain a few lengths back on Aegir, and as they rounded the rocks the delta was just one minute 30 seconds. Competition was fierce all the way to the finish, with My Song crossing the line just one minute and 16 seconds behind Aegir on corrected.
The big story of the day though was that although Highland Fling appeared to do her usual disappearing act, the corrected times showed that Aegir had finished just 13 seconds behind – an incredibly close finish after two and a half hours racing at average speeds around 15 knots.
‘My Song is probably quicker than us, although we share the same handicap,’ said Aegir’s owner Brian Benjamin after the race. ‘We had to be patient and out-think them; I was just told to go fast on the inside up by Soffi – it was my favourite moment of the race! We had the chance to get My Song and we took it. Conditions were good today – we like it here, racing round the islands. In fact, if God invented sailing, then he made Sardinia especially for it! As for Fling beating us by just 13 seconds, we’re well happy with that! It’s probably about as close as we’re ever going to get. It was a perfect race today, and we didn’t make any mistakes.’
For Alpina, bringing up the rear of the fleet doesn’t seem to matter. ‘Today was our favourite race so far,’ said Alpina’s Peter Stas. ‘We’re just getting better and better, and the crew is a new team. Our Swan is really a cruiser if you compare it to the competition in the performance class, and we could have entered the cruising division but we didn’t want a lay day! It’s really beautiful here - all the islands means flatter water which makes racing more controllable, and the scenery is fantastic.’
For the rest of the competitors, today was a day to relax and enjoy those beautiful surroundings. Some owners and crews headed to the beach, others went out for a sail. Tonight a pizza party in the Piazza Azzurra should give everyone a further dose of fun before racing starts again in earnest tomorrow.
For media inquiries and further information about the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta, please contact:
Holly Lunn | Events & Marketing Executive
Boat International Media
Tel: +44 (0) 208 545 9336 | Cell: +44 (0) 7432 082 933