The 2014 edition of the renowned Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta has seen an exciting start, as Costa Smeralda, also a fabulous Sardinia yacht charter destination, provided almost ideal conditions for the first day of racing. Beautiful blue skies and northwesterly breeze that started at 12 knots and built to 22 knots meant that the fleet of 21 sailing superyachts racing in the event, organised by Boat International Media and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, were in for a fantastic experience.
Principle Race Officer Peter Craig chose a course that would make the most of the conditions, sending the yachts anticlockwise around the islands of Caprera and La Maddalena before giving them a long run home through bomb alley and past Capo Ferro.
The fleet, comprising 19 superyachts, was divided into three divisions and the start sequence sent the yachts over the line in staggered starts, with the slowest rated yacht crossing first. The line-up includes a wide variety of the world’s finest sailing superyachts, ranging from the 24m Bloemsma van Breemen-built sailing yacht Drumfire to the 46m Vitters yacht Ganesha. Notable names include the latest WallyCento Magic Carpet 3 superyacht , the 33m Vitters yacht Inoui, Claasen Shipyards’ F Class Firefly, Loro Piana Caribbean division winner charter yacht Moonbird, the beautiful 30.6m Spirit Yachts Gaia yacht and the Royal Huisman-built regatta regular yacht Unfurled. In addition, a fleet of Southern Wind yachts scattered throughout Classes B and C – including the 28.6m Windfall, new 24.7m Grande Orazio yacht and 30.26m Cape Arrow, chartered for this event by Lord Irvine Laidlaw – will be battling for additional honours as the event incorporates the 2014 Southern Wind Trophy.
As Drumfire got the first race underway, it was clear that the beat to the top of La Maddalena would be critical, and so it proved. Moonbird, with Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson at the helm – managed to claim an overlap on the 27m Oyster yacht Karibu as the two yachts approached the famous Monaci rocks, and from there Moonbird never looked back, soon after hauling in Drumfire and holding her lead on the water almost to the finish.
‘The first day at the Loro Piana was beautiful,’ smiled Cameron Appleton, who is calling the shots on Moonbird. ‘As we sailed towards the top end of La Maddalena the wind built up into the early 20-knot range and provided a nice beat. From Monaci we were able to sail in clear air and enjoy the lead part of the race. As the wind freed up round the top of La Maddalena we had a nice power reach, then hoisted the chute for the run all the way down to the finish.’
For the chasing pack, fleet compression as the yachts hit the reach and the run meant crew manoeuvres and tactical calls became critical. ‘It was getting pretty busy on the run,’ beamed Tom Aiken, skipper of the 30.6m Gaia. ‘There was lots of communication on the radio and lots of gybing! But it was nice, and it was fun sailing with everyone else.’
As the yachts reached the hoist point at the top of bomb alley, off the southwestern tip of La Maddalena, the faster Class A yachts had started to make their way through the fleet providing some exciting, close-quarters action for the owners and their crews. As the kites went up, Moonbird held the lead on the water closely followed by the Southern Wind Grande Orazio, Gaia, Unfurled, Karibu and Firefly. Cape Arrow and the Swan Selene followed neck and neck, with Wally Whisper, Ganesha, Southern Wind Feelin’ Good and Pier-Luigi Loro Piana’s yacht My Song close behind. Sir Lindsey Owen-Jones’s Magic Carpet 3 led the charge of the performance yachts with the 30.5m Wally Open Season pushing hard, with Inoui, the Southern Wind charter yacht Farewell and the Vitters 37.2m Ghost fighting hard.
At the finish, the Wallys Magic Carpet 3 and Open Season just managed to overhaul Moonbird on the water, with Magic Carpet 3 taking line honours. The results on corrected time showed just how close today’s racing had been, though, with the top three of Class B – Moonbird, followed by Unfurled and Cape Arrow – split by just 37 seconds.
In Class A, Firefly took an emphatic win on corrected time, with Magic Carpet 3 third just 25 seconds behind second-placed Ghost. Class C was taken by Grande Orazio, ahead of Karibu and Selene, although in the Southern Wind Trophy subdivision she was pushed into second by Cape Arrow, with Farewell scoring a third.
‘We had a good run because we sailed well,’ said Cameron Appleton. ‘We got an early jump and we were able to maintain that by just being ahead in clear air and sailing new breeze lines whenever we wanted to – we weren’t dictated to or governed [by other yachts]. It was a great race, and all in all we’re pleased particularly when we found out that we were 12 seconds ahead of Unfurled. That was a real close battle and it’s probably going to stay like that all week.’
‘We are delighted with this start to the week,’ enthused Grande Orazio’s owner, YCCS Member Massimiliano Florio. ‘The boat is brand new, launched in January and brought here from South Africa in March so this is the first regatta she has participated in. We’re testing the boat – today we were very fast and we had to be careful of keeping our distance from the other boats. We have a strong crew that has sailed together for a long time and so we hope to keep improving.’
For others, just being out on the water was a result in itself. ‘It was a fantastic, wonderful day,’ beamed the owner of the Southern Wind Farewell. ‘The YCCS and Boat International Media have organised an incredible event on this wonderful isle. I think every yacht managed to release the full stable of horses today! This is a wonderful place for wind – good for super maxis and superyacht racing.’
‘Today was good,’ added the owner of the Vitters-built Inoui. ‘The part I enjoyed most was that the big Wallys didn’t get us right away. Upwind we were doing pretty well, and the downwind leg was certainly fun. We needed perfect manoeuvres as even the slow boats are not that slow… The course today was perfect, although when things are going well 31 miles feels very short…’
Tonight owners and their guests enjoy the Loro Piana Owners’ Dinner on the YCCS terrace, which this year is being created by Michelin 3 Star chef Massimo Bottura, while prima ballerina Eleonora Abbagnato will perform with the sort of poise and grace that the crews will be aiming to emulate when racing resumes on Thursday.