Rolex Ilhabela Sailing Week opens with two records

July 6, 2009

Largada para a Eldorado-Alcatrazes por Boreste.

If you have entered an international business meeting lately or are a global fund-manager interested in emerging markets, you will almost certainly have heard plenty about Brazil. Barrack Obama referred to the country's president as "my man" at the April 2009 G20 meeting in London, where Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva shared the stage with British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and France's President, Nicolas Sarkozy. Newsweek magazine referred to the country as "The Crafty Superpower." It is the country of the moment in the economic world. If you had any doubts, just being in Ilhabela watching the start of the Rolex Ilhabela Sailing Week with 205 boats and 2000 sailors at the start of the long distance race, with a new forty-foot one-design class thrown in for good measure, would be enough to help make up your mind.

Rolex Ilhabela Sailing Week is now in its 36th edition and has proved once again to be the most important regatta in South America gathering 'la crème de la crème' of the South American yacht-racing community for a week of competitive sailing in the waters off the paradise of Ilhabela - 'the beautiful island,' located 140 miles north of Sao Paulo.

Amongst the competitors, the biggest noise is being made by the S40 one-design class, which made its first appearance at the Circuito Atlantico Sur Rolex Cup in January. Conceived by a group of Argentinean and Brazilian owners during a dinner at the 2008 Rolex Ilhabela Sailing Week, the class is proving to be the racing one-design machine of the moment in South America. From the sketches and ideas these owners created, designer Javier Soto Acebal drew the lines for this exciting one-design craft. Eduardo Souza Ramos was one of the visualizers and is racing here with the winning skipper of 2008/09 Volvo Ocean Race, Torben Grael, as tactician.

Yesterday, Sunday 5 July, saw the opening, long distance race at Rolex Ilhabela Sailing Week 2009. The 205 boats on the start line set a new record fleet size for this event. The S40, ORC International and ORC Club faced a difficult 55 nautical mile racecourse that tested their crew skills. At the start, the wind was a mere 5-knot northeasterly offering a downwind run to Alcatrazes Island. Once in the open sea the wind built to 20-knots and the waves peaked at 2.5 metres.

The second record of the day was set by the arrival at the finish by the Argentinean S40, Cusi 5, which completed the course in 6 hours 12 minutes 29 seconds, some forty-minutes inside the previous best time. "We are really happy with the result. Today we faced a very difficult racecourse with many different wind conditions," commented the skipper Jose Estevez. The previous record, 6h 53m 27s, was set by another Argentinean boat, the 57-foot Fortuna in 2005.

Cusi 5 was followed across the line two-minutes later by a second S40, Mitsubishi/Gol (BRA). The Brazilian skipper and former-Farr 40 owner, Edouardo Souza Ramos, was happy, "it was spectacular. The day was Patagonia, que liderava antes de rodear for the 40-footers. This boat is particularly strong on a beam reach and we hit 17-knots of boat speed. Unfortunately, we took a little bit longer to get to the east side of the course and that is where the Argentineans passed us."

There are four S40s - two Argentinean and two Brazilian - competing here this week. Not bad for a class that is less than one-year old. Whilst disappointed to finish the race in second, the 2008 Rolex Ilhabela Sailing Week division winner remains optimistic about the racing to come, "one of our goals for this event was to finish ahead of one of the Argentineans and, at least, in one race we have managed that already," explained Souza Ramos, continuing, " we are surprised by our time. We were 40 minutes ahead of the previous record! Today we showed the potential of this boat."

Arriving straight from Russia having won the Volvo Ocean Race, Torben Grael has joined the Mitsubishi crew as tactician for the week. For those who might wonder why Grael is taking part in Rolex Ilhabela Sailing Week after nine-months of sailing he has good reasons. His wife, Andréa, is racing on the all-female crewed Eiger, which won in the ORC International 700 class, and his son, Marco, is racing on Loyal, which came second in ORC 500. Proof again that this is a sailing dynasty through and through.

Asked about his experience on the S40, Torben Grael was quick to identify its plus-points, "it was a great sailing. It is a modern boat, very fast with different components that give it great speed. This is certainly a 40-footer that races well and is very fun to sail."

Elsewhere in the fleet, in ORCi Sorsa III was the first to cross the finish line in ORC 500, but it was Touché Super which won on corrected time followed by Loyal with Mercenário 4 in third.

Provisional Results after Race 1
1. Cusi 5
2. Mitsubishi/Gol
3. Patagonia

ORCi 500
1. Touchè Super
2. Loyal
3. Mercenário 4

ORCi 700
1. Eiger
2. Equilibrium
3. Meu Barco Novo