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Jethou edges ahead at Loro Piana Giraglia inshore maxi racing half-way stage

Yacht Racing Podcast

While conditions at this time of year in Saint-Tropez are renowned for being light and thermal, today competitors at Loro Piana Giraglia were treated to easterlies into the high teens combined with a short violent chop. This was the second day of Loro Piana Giraglia inshore racing, organised by the Yacht Club Italiano in collaboration with the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez. These four days of inshore and coastal races form the third event in the International Maxi Association’s 2024 Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge.

Today the maxi fleet again raced two windward-leewards on Pampelonne Bay, but the lumpy seastate made life challenging even on the largest maxis. The slightly depleted turn-out (due to the sea state) thinned out further as yachts were forced to retire with technical issues during racing. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Maxi A where Karel Komárek’s Wallycento V won the first race, albeit by just 10 seconds from Peter Dubens’ NorthStar, but then suffered a severe hydraulic failure in the second race, forcing her to abandon.

With Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’ Wallycento Magic Carpet Cubed not competing today, a 5-3 elevated Chris Flowers’ Wallycento Galateia to fourth place in Maxi A and to the top spot among the 100s racing in Maxi sub-class 1. “We had a couple of good starts, which always helps,” explained Galateia tactician Kelvin Harrap, calling in the afterguard here alongside John Cutler and Markus Wieser (standing in for regulars Murray Jones and Jordi Calafat). “If you can get your nose in front on a 100 footer then you can put your elbows out… In the first race we gybed a bit early on the first run – with this course you can’t go through the finish line, even if you are laying the gate [the gate is downwind of the finish line], so we had to gybe, while V did it in one. In the second race we didn’t make that mistake…”

Close racing in the Maxi A fleet. Image © Loro Piana / Studio Borlenghi

Even aboard the newly water ballasted 100 footer, the conditions were felt: “It was about 18-20 knots most of the day, but the seastate increased and made it fairly hard especially upwind,” continued Harrap. “The water ballast makes it a little harder because it is at the back of the boat where it increases the pitching. But it was a great day and Chris [Flowers] is getting better every day.”

In the broader Maxi A class, there has been a lead change with Peter Harrison’s Jolt eased out by Sir Peter Ogden’s Maxi 77 Jethou, albeit by one point. Jethou with a 3-1 and Peter Dubens’ NorthStar with a 2-2 were the top Maxi A scorers today, enjoying exhilarating high octane racing, surfing down waves on the runs.

“It was a big day out!” commented Ian Walker, Jethou’s tactician. “We saw about 20 knots – not hugely windy, but there was a big short seastate. It was really uncomfortable especially when the wind went right – you were punching into the waves on starboard tack. It was really punishing but then great fun downwind. Peter [Ogden] did a good job – it wasn’t easy to steer.”

As to the racing today the Volvo Ocean Race winner commented: “The second race we sailed really clean. The boat is going well and if we can stay away from the other boats and let the boat run… We did a good hoist and a good gybe and got the laylines right. But in the first race we were in the pack and it took us a while to get ahead of the other boats and we didn’t have enough time to make up our time on NorthStar. Plus we were a little bit messy on the first run as most of the boats were… Today was a big work out for the grinders.”

Big waves are typically not the strong suit of IMA President Benoît de Froidmont’s Wally 60 Wallyño but today they hung in there. Just. In the first race they maintained their perfect scoreline in Saint-Tropez inshore races that has lasted since the end of 2022, albeit by just one second from Guido Paolo Gamucci’s Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X. Then in the second race the Italian canting keeler finally prevailed.

“Upwind was like being in a washing machine – it was very tough, especially the first race,” said Gamucci, adding: “Wallyño is very difficult to beat, but our real direct competitor here on the water is Spirit of Lorina [Jean-Pierre Barjon’s Botin 65]. We are always close to them but usually they beat us.”

Calling tactics on board Cippa Lippa X is former Olympic Laser sailor Michele Regolo, who observed: “The Swan 90 [Alex Schaerer’s Strathisla] was suffering less than us upwind. So we had to fight at the start. Spirit of Lorina is better upwind and we are better downwind – we were surfing downwind today at 18 knots, which was beautiful.”

Despite Benoît de Froidmont’s Wally 60 Wallyño losing the second race, they were still second and maintain a resounding lead in Maxi B. “It was not the best conditions for Wallyño, so we are pretty happy with the results,” admitted her ace French tactician Cédric Pouligny. “We managed to stay pretty clear at the beginning of the race and then we were happy to sail on our own. We didn’t make any mistakes – it was easy to make bad drops today, but we sailed conservatively.”

After two days of windward-leewards, tomorrow the two maxi classes will race coastal courses starting from within the Golfe de Saint-Tropez. Meanwhile navigators are eyeing up the forecast for Wednesday and the Loro Piana Giraglia offshore race to Genoa, which currently looks set to be in record-breaking conditions.

Report by James Boyd/International Maxi Association

Main image © Loro Piana / Studio Borlenghi