While a mistral had been forecast for the penultimate day of the 2018 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the westerly wind gusting only into the early 20's, still made for a lively, challenging day out on the water. The course took the trio of Js on a 34.5 mile clock-wise lap of La Maddalena, northwest to round the island of Spargi.
Today under JCA, Svea beat Topaz on corrected time. She also claimed the overall J Class prize, finishing today on five points to Topaz' seven.
In today's bigger conditions, both Svea and Topaz suffered sail damage from which their experienced crews recovered quickly.
Svea's navigator Peter Isler described the racing: "it was great: A super-close tactical beat all the way up Bomb Alley, really fun position changes right and left, and navigational challenges where it gets narrow up there. It is spectacular to sail this boat and to have the other J's there made it really fun, especially at the start and then when we were bouncing off the rocks."
Svea blew up a spinnaker on the lively return journey around the seaward side of the La Maddalena archipelago. But they were not alone. From Svea, Isler said he had been particularly impressed by Topaz' recovery when their jib split early on their upwind assault on 'Bomb Alley' (the inshore route past the archipelago): "It was going to go and you just saw this hand appear through it! When they finally tackd you could see where they'd tried to stick it back together and they just lived with it.
And it was not just Topaz' ability to keep the wheels on, but their bold navigational calls too. Topaz' helmsman Peter Holmberg praised their Spanish navigator Nacho Postigo: "He put us in corners today that either we had to be crazy or damn good to call it that close. But he did a great job and it worked out well."
Most brave was going 'inside' some of the off-lying rocks around Spargi. As Isler explained: "There is a known inside passage you can take, but you have to go inside 2m rocks when you are reaching along at 11 knots. It isn't like you are passing a shore where you can look over the side and say 'up a little bit' - you are barrelling towards the enemy!"
Velsheda and Svea both refrained from this option. "Since Velsheda was staying conservative and going outside of everything, while we were six boat lengths ahead, I calculated that it would be a five boat length gain to do it. Topaz went for it and got almost a minute on us."
Aside from this bravery, on board Topaz Holmberg said they had been particularly pleased with their choice of headsail which had come down to examining the forecast and predicting the wind would be more 15-20 knots than 20-25. As a result they had opted for their No 2.5 jib (a cut down No 2). "We were good with that," said Holmberg. "Velsheda continues to be the benchmark, but I am really proud of how well our guys are sailing - great team work and good chemistry, pulling off all the manoeuvres and playing the boat as hard as we can."
For their efforts Topaz has won the Superyacht class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup under ORCsy corrected time.
Most experienced of the trio, Velsheda, experienced no damage in the conditions but crew and helm were thrilled by today's sailing. As tactician Tom Dodson explained: "We had an epic afternoon - all within boat lengths of each. We were ahead for pretty much all of the race: Topaz crossed us at one point half-way up Bomb Alley, but then we got them straight back as they were struggling with the tear on the leach of their jib.
"When Svea blew out their spinnaker on the run, Topaz crossed them back on the water, which probably wasn't ideal for us as we wouldn't have minded Svea holding them back a bit!"
Otherwise Dodson said they didn't feel like they were the most experienced of the J Class crews and had made wrong sail calls. He praised Velsheda's Owner who as usual steering for the whole race: "Ronald had a really good day - it's tough when you have two boats nipping at you the whole time to keep focused and keep looking forward, but he did that brilliantly."
Racing concludes tomorrow with a further coastal course for the J Class competing this week within the Supermaxi Class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the maxi yacht calendar's pinnacle event, run by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association, the official body that oversees and protects maxi yacht racing globally.