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Tuesday 27th March 2012

Written by Tim Thomas, Editor of Boat International

Brand new sailing yacht, Firefly.  Photo by Carlo Borlenghi.

Saturday at the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous dawned with the breeze down from the prior days of racing, and for the 13 superyachts taking part, all the prizes were in play. Not only were the J Class Hanuman and 30.5m Wally Indio tied at the top of the leaderboard, but the final fleet standings would be decided in this make-or-break last hurrah. The shorter course piled on the pressure.
With approximately 10 knots of easterly breeze, race officer Peter Craig opted for a laid mark course, making for a technical and tactical challenge. From the start in Virgin Sound, the fleet would be sent east to a windward mark, then out on a reach to a gybe mark before heading west to the Dog Islands, and back up to a finish line set in Sir Francis Drake Channel roughly between Seal Dog and Nail Bay.
Tacticians were divided on whether to head left or in toward Necker Island on the first tack. The first two yachts over the line – 29.3m Altair and the 34.25m Billy Budd – both crossed the line on the starboard board and headed left, as did the J Class Hanuman, but the third yacht to start – the 38.9m Ganesha – stormed the pin end on port tack and sailed right up the beat. The rest of the fleet also split tactics, with Bliss, Salperton, P2 and Indio opting to go right, while Lady B, Zefira, Sojana, Firefly and Marie all went left.
Hanuman rounded the windward mark before Indio – last in the start sequence – even crossed the start line, but while the big J appeared to be stretching out her lead for much of the race, some key calls and great crew work aboard Indio meant the trophy fight would go down to the wire. Meanwhile, the yachts that went right up the beat booked big gains. ‘Going right at the start really paid off,’ said Andrea Recordati, owner of Indio, which had managed to haul in P2 to a delta of just 30 seconds at the mark. Further up the fleet, Billy Budd, Ganesha, Bliss and Lady B rounded the mark in quick succession, with Salperton rounding next after crossing the similarly rated Zefira on the beat. Firefly picked a perfect lay and managed to overhaul Sojana.
The reach to the second mark north in the Anegada Passage saw a similar split, with the majority of yachts opting to run out on a starboard gybe. Ganesha and Firefly, however, quickly gybed onto port. ‘The first run went very well,’ said Firefly’s navigator Koen de Smedt. ‘We went left, and we gained a lot.’ Ganesha and Firefly both picked a perfect lay into the mark, approaching almost side by side and gybing on the mark to run down to the Dogs third and fourth behind Bliss and the rapidly disappearing Hanuman. Salperton was next to the mark, closely followed by Sojana and Indio which had soaked down well in the shifty conditions.
Once on the second leg of the run, positioning and clear air were key, particularly with several mini battles unfurling. Indio climbed over the top of Salperton in a quest for clear air, which then also headed up for a better lane. ‘The gybe mark was a key moment for Indio,’ said Recordati. ‘We played hard to get to windward and sailed very hot for quite a while, which was a challenge with the A2. But it paid off and we made really good speed at the end of the leg.’
P2, who approached the gybe mark on starboard just as Marie was coming down on port, suffered a problem and rounded the mark bare-headed. ‘There were little micro-bursts of wind all over the course,’ said P2’s captain Jonathan Kline, ‘so if you were in a cell, you tried to stay in it. Coming to the mark in light air, we sailed right through the kite due to the momentum of the yacht and got it on the wrong side, which we couldn’t correct until we gybed, so we rounded under mainsail alone.’
The wind continued to drop as the fleet rounded the Dog Islands, not only creating a further tactical challenge for the afterguards, but also stalling Hanuman. ‘The breeze filled in from behind, which let the fleet catch up,’ said Hanuman’s tactician Kevin Burnham. ‘We got a wild shift of around 70 degrees, and the wind to the right died completely but Indio was able to ghost through. However, I don’t think we could have made up the four minutes that Indio beat us by on corrected.’ For Andrea Recordati, it was the last beat that proved decisive. ‘We had perfect shifts,’ he said, ‘and that last leg was where we won the race.’ Not only the race, in fact, but the Boat International Media trophy for the overall regatta win.
Fifth over the finish line – behind Firefly and Sojana – was Bliss, competing in her very first regatta. ‘Key today was being able to shoot the top mark, and also being able to stop Firefly coming over us at the gybe mark,’ said her captain, Ross Haerle. ‘At the Dogs we couldn’t have done the drop any better, and going out to the left for one tack into the finish wasgood. The wind was shifting around all over the place and was very light in spots. The owner has had a lot of fun this week and seems to be thoroughly enjoying it.’
With Indio pipping Hanuman in this last race and the top two overall places set, the fight for the final piece of silver was between old rivals P2 and the ketch Sojana. For the first time this week, Sojana beat P2 on corrected, but it was not enough to steal third place overall from the Perini Navi. ‘We expected them to beat us today as we don’t like light airs on this boat, but it turned out well,’ said Sojana’s captain, Marc Fitzgerald. ‘It’s a fantastic event – a beautiful place with a beautiful clubhouse, and the YCCS is relaxed, professional, friendly and competent. The Italian feel is unique in the Caribbean and I think this regatta will become a fixture on the superyacht calendar.’
This sentiment was echoed by all who took part. ‘It was a wonderful event,’ said Kevin Burnham on Hanuman. ‘We can’t wait to come back next year.’
‘The organisation of the racing, the dock and the social events was superb, and it was a really friendly regatta,’ enthused Bliss’s captain Ross Haerle, while winning owner Andrea Recordati laid down the challenge for the 2013 edition. ‘It was a lot of fun,’ he smiled, ‘and even if we hadn’t won, it was a fantastic regatta. I’m very happy, and very happy for all the crew, and we will definitely be back next year to defend our title.’
For media enquiries and further information about the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous, please contact:
Holly Lunn | Events & Marketing Executive
Boat International Media
Tel:             +44 (0) 208 545 9336       | Cell:             +44 (0) 7432 082 933      

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