Rolex Capri Sailing Week

“Buon vento. Benvenuti a Capri.” With these words, Massimo Massaccesi opened the fifth Rolex Capri Sailing Week last evening at the skipper's briefing held at the Capri Palace Hotel elegantly located in Anacapri. This morning, Capri greeted the crews with beautiful sunshine and the thirty-eight competing yachts set about creating a few more legends for this island of myth, celebrity and fine-cuisine.

The welcome, though, was limited to the clear sky. The two races were held in difficult conditions, where the wind eventually settled from a westerly direction but without much stability. Fragile breeze, meant fragile leads and this showed at times as some of the first leg leaders found themselves second leg losers. Table toppers this evening are: Vincenzo Onorato and Mascalzone Latino (ITA) in Farr 40 (2,1); Nico Poons and Charisma (NED) in Swan 45 (4,1); Enrico Scerni and Kora 4 (ITA) in Swan 42 (1,1); Alessandro Nespega and Fral 2 (ITA) in Comet 45S (3,1), and, Massimo Russo and Athanor (ITA) in Comet 41S (1,1).

In the Farr 40s, it was Marco Rodolfi and TWT (ITA) that came out all guns blazing, after two aborted starts and an impending 180 degree wind shift left Peter Reggio, the Principal Race Officer, with little choice but to hold up proceedings for an hour and a half to allow the westerly flow to settle. Second at the first windward mark, Rodolfi and tactician Tiziano Nava made gains downwind and by the finish had done enough to sneak across the line a hair's breadth ahead of Mascalzone Latino. Race two did not go so well for TWT, who were fourth at the first mark, but victims of a vicious hole on the downwind leg that left them struggling to recover to seventh at the finish. Enough to lie second in class overnight, but Onorato and his team put in stellar second race to lead from start to finish and the Neapolitan has an ominous five-point advantage already.

In the Comet 45S class, racing under handicap, Fral 2 and Saverio Bifulco's One Noi Di Notte (ITA) both have four points, both having secured a first and third today. Fral 2 heads the heap by virtue of count-back. Elsewhere in this competitive division, I. Nova (ITA) will be counting themselves unfortunate to be only in fourth. Sole female helm in the Comet fleet, Christiana Monina, and her virtually all-girl crew looked to have race one firmly in their sights as they rounded their initial mark right on the tail of the more experienced Fral 2. Let down by their decision-making, they finished two minutes behind Fral 2 , but more importantly with three boats in between them and that pushed them down to fifth on corrected time.

In the second race, Monina aimed to avoid a similar mistake and took the race by the scruff of the neck from the start, leading on the water at the first mark. She was unable to gain a complete advantage over Fral 2, which managed to overhaul her before the finish-line, but second place on corrected time was just reward for good sailing in difficult wind, according to Monina, “today was a beautiful day, although unfortunately the wind left a lot to be desired. Until the last mark we did quite well in the first race. Then we made a mistake in choosing the unfavoured side of the gate and did badly on the last beat (upwind). But the second race was really nice. We are a brave female team, all girls, all sailors with a great passion and great technical knowledge.“

Monina feels no added-pressure racing against male-dominated opposition. “What the men have in strength, we have to make up for in technique,” she asserts. And, in light winds any physical advantage is reduced, as she showed today, “the second race was more difficult than the first one. On the downwind leg there was less wind and it was difficult to understand the wind channels. Sometimes it is not only about being brave but also about being lucky. I am used to sailing dinghies in light winds and was able to keep the concentration.”

In the Swan 45s, Charisma and Carlo Perone's Atlantica Racing (ITA) are also tied at the top with identical scorelines, but with two other boats also posting 5-point scorelines for the day this class is even tighter. The Dutch boat is benefiting from count-back to end the day in clover. It could have been different. Class world champions Earlybird (GER) looked to have race one sewn up, with a good lead after the first leg. Perrone had done enough to be in third at this point, with Charisma in fifth. Downwind, though, it was the Germans who faltered, swopping places with the Italian crew on Atlantica, who squeezed over the line duelling to the finish with Blue Nights (FIN), which had held the runners-up position all race.

In the second race Charisma led from start to finish, while Atlantica and Earlybird reversed roles. The Germans moving from fourth to second, whilst the Italians slipped backwards.

Meanwhile, another of the lady-led teams here this week - Blue Nights, helmed by Tea Ekengreen-Sauren - was putting in another solid performance, capping a good day on the water by holding third all the way round the course. Ekengreen-Sauren is the first and, currently, only female helm in the Swan 45 class, “ it was a very tough day with light, shifty winds. The four top boats have the same points so it is very even. This stands us in a very interesting position tomorrow ” This is Ekengreen-Sauren's second season in the Swan 45 and she clearly enjoys the type of cut and thrust experienced on the course today, “for sure that is the fun of it. It is so competitive and there are five, six boats coming into the mark at the same time. We have a good chemistry in the crew, it's a fast boat, and we feel we have all the possibilities to win this regatta.”

The other two classes seem to be in the hands of walk-away leaders. In the Comet 41S class, Athanor (ITA) took line honours in both races and also corrected out in first both times; in the second race with a thumping four and a half minute advantage. Zoom (ITA) and Pedro Proiettile (ITA) who traded seconds and thirds look to have their work cut out to snuff the ambitions of Massimo Russo and crew.

Equally, Kora 4 appeared untouchable in the Swan 42 class. Imperious performances in both races will have left second placed Kuujjuaq (FRA) scratching their heads overnight. Ludovic de Saint Jean and Leonardo Ferragamo (Cuordileone) will have to up their games tomorrow if this regatta is not to be a one-way street. Maria Papadopoulou and the Greek crew of Aella will also be looking to improve tomorrow. The third of the female master and commanders here this week, Papadopoulou is also the most inexperienced. Her crew is completely Corinthian, epitomising the spirit of the class, and this is their first venture into international competition. Papadopoulou does not appeared fazed by this baptismal experience and although she finished last in both races today, she was by no means disgraced.

For all crews, tomorrow is another day, and this regatta is by no means over. Overnight it will be important to count one's blessings and focus on the days ahead. Legends will be created, but they are not written on the first day.

Today's Plate of the Day is threefold: Pizza Margherita for antipasti, followed by a steaming plate of stewed clams (cooked in a sauce that sadly would not be divulged), and rounded off with fresh turbot (rombo) baked with tomatoes and basil. All courtesy of Da Giorgio, which opened in 1948 and has the most stunning view out towards Ischia.

The Rolex Capri Sailing Week, organized by the Yacht Club Capri, runs from 19 to 23 May.