If there was ever any doubt that another new rating rule could create thrilling superyacht racing, Day One of the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous 2015 not only proved the concept, but kicked it squarely at the goal. After a squally night in the enchanting Virgin Gorda yacht charter location in the British Virgin Islands, the day dawned with perfect conditions – sun, a steady breeze and blue skies. The scene was set – and the racing didn’t disappoint, with an amazing photo finish on the water for both Classes.
‘It was a perfect day of yachting,’ said a beaming Peter Wilson, racing on the Vitters ketch Marie in Class B. ‘The wind direction was steady, as was the wind speed – perfect conditions for Marie and the fleet.’
This year’s regatta – organised by the Boat International Media and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda – has two innovations. First, it is the first outing for the Offshore Racing Congress’ new ORCsy superyacht rating rule, and second it is the first time the Loro Piana regatta has run a true pursuit race format. The yachts start in a prescribed order according to how long their rating says they will take to finish the course, and whoever crosses the line first is the winner – there are no corrections or handicaps applied after the racing.
The race committee chose to send the fleet of sailing superyachts clockwise around Virgin Gorda and the Dog Islands, with the more performance orientated Class A yachts sailing a 32 mile course and the cruising yachts of Class B sailing a 26 mile course. With 13 to 16 knots of breeze from the east, the fleet fought hard on the first beat past Necker Island and out to the eastern point of Virgin Gorda. Some chose to head inshore, and some tacked out, but the early pace-setter was the Nautor’s Swan yacht Freya who reached the corner first and was quick to hoist her spinnaker. She was followed by regatta veteran charter yacht P2, with the 46 metre sailing yacht Ganesha in hot pursuit.
As the kites popped open and the fleet headed towards Ginger Island at the bottom of Virgin Gorda, Freya and the Southern Wind superyacht Cape Arrow had stretched their legs and pulled out an impressive lead in Class A, while the giants Marie and Wisp in Class B hauled in the smaller yacht Drumfire and Bolero yacht. But as Class A rounded Ginger Island and dropped kites, both the 38 metre P2 and the 33 metre super yacht Inoui had reeled in Cape Arrow and Freya, leading to a tense battle up to the Dog Islands. Marie and luxury yacht Wisp – sailing the shorter Class B course – meanwhile began to pick their way through as the fleet compressed nearing the final beat.
For the last couple of miles, there was all to play for, but the big story was developing as P2 and Inoui caught Cape Arrow. ‘In the end it was incredibly exciting,’ says Chris Main, tactician on Inoui. ‘We were looking ahead and halfway through the race we thought we were never going to catch P2, Cape Arrow and Freya. But then a couple of things went our way. The bigger boats came through the fleet and were playing cat and mouse with the smaller yachts which gave us a chance to get past. We and P2 also gave Cape Arrow a bit of a pasting, but while we were battling with P2, Freya got a bit of a jump on us!’ Cape Arrow got caught in the crossfire and suffered in some dirty air, but P2 and Inoui fought through.
‘We got the last wind shift just right,’ Main continues. ‘We didn’t think we were going to get across P2 but the shift went our way and we went from third to first in the last 500 metres.’
As the yachts closed in on the finish the tension mounted, with Inoui and Freya running side by side to the finish, and with P2 closing in fast at the other end of the line. As the gun sounded, Inoui had taken Class honours by the smallest of margins – just 37 seconds separated her from Freya. P2 came in just 33 seconds later, while fourth and fifth placed yachts Ganesha and Cape Arrow were separated by a single second. It was an astonishing and dramatic end to a great race – and the excitement carried over to Class B.
In the final moments of the last beat, there was nothing between Marie and Wisp. ‘The beat was key,’ Wilson says. ‘We had to keep Wisp behind to the finish, particularly when she went offshore on the last beat and got a good shift – that put her ahead. But when she came back in the shift went our way and we managed to retake the lead.’ It showed – Marie took the win in Class B with Wisp on her transom just 31 seconds behind. The 24 metre Drumfire took third.
‘It was a lot of fun,’ enthuses Donald MacPherson, owner of Freya. ‘There was good strategy. Cape Arrow was on our hip for much of the race until she got rolled by P2 and we got well away. There’s always a way to do something better, but second is not bad!’
The real winner of the day, however, was the ORCsy rating rule. ‘The race committee did a great job of implementing the new racing rule,’ smiles MacPherson. ‘The race really did come down to the wire.’
‘It’s still early days but I have to take my hat off to the rating guys,’ agrees Wilson. ‘Today was the perfect day to test a new system!’
‘We’re a very happy ship,’ Main concludes. ‘And to have won the first race under the new rating system – we’re stoked!
Tonight, the close racing is bound to be one of the leading topics of conversation as owners and their guests enjoy some sophisticated hospitality at the Loro Piana Owners’ Dinner on the YCCS clubhouse terrace overlooking Gorda Sound. There will be some sophisticated entertainment, too, as the dinner features a performance from the great lyric soprano Maria Luigia Borsi. Hailed by critics worldwide for her vocal dynamism and interpretive prowess, she has forged a career that has taken her centre stage to some of the most prestigious theatres around the world, from Milan’s la Scala to the Tokyo New National Theatre, collaborating with the world’s most renowned conductors.
Tomorrow racing resumes at 1100 as Day Two – Oil Nut Bay Race Day – gets underway, and the close action on the water continues.