Svea win first coastal race with Costa Smeralda at its best
September 5, 2023
©️ Studio Borlenghi / Francesco Ferri
For the second day of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Porto Cervo and the Costa Smeralda delivered the kind of picture postcard exciting, racing conditions which the hallowed waters of this north-east corner of Sardinia has built a global reputation for. In brisk NE’ly winds with big, choppy seas, and beautiful warm late summer sunshine, the three J Class teams were sent on a long course up through the La Maddalena archipelago. Starting at 1240hrs, it was just before 1645hrs when the race winner Svea crossed the finish line to collect their third win of the regatta.
The Swedish flagged team won the start, getting the windward position they wanted against Velsheda, and then made it hard for their nearest rivals to pass during a 38-nautical mile long course which, after the first, initial windward-leeward, offered few tactical opportunities.
“It was great racing, what we come to Porto Cervo for, just superb!” enthused Steve Hayles, Svea’s navigator, paying a special tribute to the hard work and superb skills on the bow and mid bow in the very bouncy conditions. “It was a massive day for the guys at the front of the boat. Enormous. The amount of work that goes on up at the sharp end when it is bouncing around is incredible.”
The three J Class yachts were a magnificent sight, especially at the start and up the first beat, crashing through the swells in clouds of spray. Although Svea started to windward, Velsheda worked hard to climb up to almost get into their rivals’ lee bow. But Svea were able to tack away and lead around the first mark.
Although the breeze on the upwind was in the high teens, racing downwind in the awkward swell of the first run was not easy for the trimmers. Topaz tore two spinnakers in succession and had to retire, leaving Svea to contain Velsheda all the way up ‘bomb alley’ where tight spinnakers were flown off La Maddalena until the corner. Velsheda got to within 150 metres of Svea but as they beat out of the islands, Svea stuck to the La Maddalena shore and made a final gain, going on to win.
Svea, who are defending the class title they won at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in 2022, have won three from three while Velsheda are second, scoring two second places and a third.
Hayles summed up the day. “The sea state was the most challenging thing. It was a long race with a big importance on the start. We felt that Velsheda have the legs on us upwind in that stuff, when it is a bit windier.”
He acknowledged: “Velsheda are very quick. They are smart and they sail their boat very, very well. It was close on a few occasions. We were pretty keen on the right coming out at the top of islands. But it would not have been pleasant for anyone in second today, trying to work out a way around us. I think when you are in the lead you are just keeping your elbows out a bit and make yourself difficult to sail against, which we did a reasonable job of today.”
Velsheda’s crew boss Justin Clougher recalled, “It was a nice tight start and they managed to get a little piece of us which we could not get back. And so, they were controlling us. We enjoyed the first beat. It was a challenging day for all the boats and we just worked hard to keep it together. They did manage to stretch a bit and we got back at them a little at times but overall we were happy to keep them looking at us. We were always looking for opportunities and there were none. So, we are happy with the way we went. We did not leave much out there.”
J Class results, Race 3 Coastal Race
1 Svea corrected time 3h56m06s
2 Velsheda 3h59m00s
J Class overall results after three races
1 Svea 3pts
2 Velsheda 7pts
3 Topaz 9pts