The J Class raced a 34.5 miles anti-clockwise lap of the La Maddalena archipelago in northeasterly to easterly winds that rarely exceeded 10 knots on day three of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Since 1980, this event has been the highlight of the maxi yacht calendar, run by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association, the officially-recognised body that promotes maxi yacht racing globally and to which the J Class is affiliated.
Today the J Class yachts, competing within the Super Maxi class, were the second start after the Maxi 72's.
In reality all was decided at the star and on the first beat. Velsheda got away reasonably, starting close to the pin, and made gains on the left side of the first upwind leg. "We wanted the left side," explained tactician Tom Dodson. "The wind was supposed to go right, but there was more pressure offshore and we ended up getting into that and that's what got us into the lead."
From the weather mark, the course took the Js on a reach up the seaward side of the Costa Smeralda's spectacular off-lying island chain, before returning south with a dog-leg around Monaci and then onto the finish.
With the course largely reaching, rivals Svea and Topaz were unable to make any impression on Velsheda, until the final beat back across to Monaci. "The second last leg was pretty awkward and we had to squeeze around a couple of shallow places there. Fortunately the tricky bits we managed very well." admitted Dodson. Nonetheless Velsheda went on to claim the Super Maxi prize today, first by 1:30 from Topaz, with Svea second on the water but third on corrected time.
For Topaz, their start hadn't been ideal, the main halyard accidentally releasing five minutes before the gun. Peter Holmberg explained: "We were in recovery mode, but we were okay in the end. On the first beat the guys on the left had better pressure and went faster, s we found ourselves third. Velsheda has got the best speed of all the boats out here - they need to make a mistake, or we need to do something brilliant, for us to get in front." At one point Topaz attempted a gybe-peel but this didn't make the gain the crew had hoped for.
America's Cup veteran Peter Isler said he and the Svea crew had enjoyed today's racing around the La Maddelena archipelago. "It was fine, good light air Mediterranean 'keep your eyes open and try and find the pressure' type of day. it was a lot of reaching, an inverse course from Monday - so another beautiful tour around one of the prettiest archipelagos there is.
"After the first beat, it was follow-the-leader, so there were not a lot of passing lanes, it was just finessing all the turns and the straight line bits you had but a lot of reaching."
Further coastal racing continues tomorrow for the Js with a first warning signal at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup scheduled for 11:30. According to Peter Holmberg more breeze is forecast and he is looking forward to it. "We will all probably learn a little more about our boats - I think we will like more breeze."