Following two days of exciting racing, the final day of the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta – Embraer Race Day – was shaping up to be a classic. At the top of both Classes it was anyone’s game, with sailing yacht Inoui the overnight leader in Class A, just one point ahead of the 38m charter yacht P2, and with Swan 90 superyacht Freya just one point further back.
In Class B, the frontrunner – 55 metre Vitters ketch Marie – was under pressure from the 48 metre superyacht Wisp, making her regatta debut at this event. While the Truly Classic 24 metre yacht Drumfire was holding on to third, yesterday’s storming Class B win by the largest yacht in the fleet, the 59 metre Perini charter yacht Seahawk, suggested that an upset could be in order.
Clearing skies and a building breeze from the east promised superb conditions for big boat racing, and so it proved. The race committee sent both Classes anticlockwise around Virgin Gorda with downwind starts, and with the long beat up the back of the island into short, two metre seas there was plenty of room for bold tactical calls and slick crew manoeuvres.
It was the smallest yacht in the fleet, the 22.4 metre yawl Bolero, that got racing underway, closely followed by the 53 metre Perini charter yacht Parsifal III who snatched the lead as she powered down the reach from the Dog Islands to Round Rock at the western end of Virgin Gorda.
Further back, Marie and Wisp were continuing their match racing that has been a feature of the event. ‘We knew the course was going to favour Wisp on the beat up the back of the island,’ said Tony Rey, tactician on Marie. ‘We knew we had to get them on the downwind leg, and we did by a few boatlengths but it wasn’t enough. Coming up the back of the island was like doing motorcross in a school bus – it was all about dodging the waves and trying to figure out how to get over them!’
While Wisp and Marie were duking it out, Day Two’s winner Seahawk was simply powering her way up the beat and by the time the yachts had reached the eastern point of the island – the turning point for the downwind run home – she had snuck out in front.
In Class A, fleet compression once again made for some dramatic, close action on the water. Freya, sailing yacht Cape Arrow, P2, superyacht Ganesha and Inoui were all playing tack for tack on the beat. At the eastern corner of Virgin Gorda, Ganesha and Inoui rounded side by side.
As the fleet headed under kites past Necker Island, Wisp and Marie had started to close on Seahawk, but it was not to be – Seahawk took the Class B race just over a minute ahead of Wisp, who finally got the better of Marie.
In Class A, the fleet sailed down to a leeward mark before beating back up to the finish, and as they climbed toward the line it was three abreast with Freya, Cape Arrow and P2 all fighting for the win. On the line, P2 snuck in for victory, but only by 34 seconds over Cape Arrow who in turn crossed the line just five seconds clear of Freya. It was the closest finish in a week of close finishes – a spectacular end to the final race.
With overnight leader Inoui only managing fourth, it was P2’s day and with two bullets and a third she would take not only Class A, but also The Loro Piana Prize: The Boat International Media Trophy for the lowest scoring yacht of the week. ‘I have to compare this win to yesterday,’ said P2’s emotional owner, Gerhard Andlinger. ‘The crew said “we did it yesterday, why can’t we do it again today?”, and that was the spirit on board. I have a great crew and this victory is theirs, not mine. I am very, very happy.’
‘This kind of racing is spectacular,’ continued Rey. ‘The ORCsy rating rule couldn’t ask for a better soft launch. This event at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda was absolutely spectacular.
’For the Royal Huisman yacht Wisp, this was the first regatta the yacht and her owner have done. ‘It’s the first time the crew have sailed together, and we’re extremely happy,’ said Rondal’s Paul Dielemans who was helming Wisp this week. ‘The wind conditions were very good for us and it really worked out well with lots of close finishes. Doing the Loro Piana as a first event was great – the right wind, and the right boats. Our second place is also remarkable – this is a yacht built for sailing around the world in comfort and for any owners out there who are hesitant about doing this event, I can tell you for sure this owner is 100 per cent happy.’
As the yachts returned from the course and the afternoon rolled into the prize giving ceremony, Pier-Luigi Loro Piana summed up the racing in Virgin Gorda. ‘I think it was a spectacular, beautiful week,’ he beamed. ‘Watching what happened this week I’m sure there will be more and more yachts joining us here.’
The Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous returns to Virgin Gorda 9-12 March, 2016.