Tuesday, September 22, 2015

J/70 sailing ItalyL’ELAGAIN Crowned J/70 EuroCup Champion
(Riva del Garda, Italy)- As expected, the final day of the J/70 Eurocup at Fraglia Vela Riva was a duel to the finish for the top two leaders in the standings of the J/70 Alcatel OneTouch Italian Nationals- CALVI NETWORK (with Carlo Alberini at the helm) and L’ELAGAIN with Franco Solerio skippering.  Their duel was one of the highlights of the three-day series held from September 10th to 13th on the fabulous Lago di Garda, a famous lake in the northeastern part of Italy that is known for very reliable mountain winds and the spectacular scenery.  Against that beautiful backdrop, Solerio’s crew on L’ELAGAIN built upon their experiences in the J/70 Worlds in La Rochelle, France earlier in July and demonstrated they had the speed and “smarts” to win and be considered one of the top teams in the J/70 class.  In fact, they not only won the final regatta on Lago di Garda, they also won the entire J/70 Alcatel OneTouch Championship series!  Here is how it all played out over the three days of racing.

J/70s sailing Lago di Garda, ItalyDay 1
The first day of the final round of the J/70 Alcatel OneTouch Italian Trophy got off to a perfect start. Three races were completed with the usual fantastic “ora” wind that blew from 14-16 knots. A great start for this event which this year has seen an increase in the big names in international sailing on board in a tactical role. Italy looks to be in a good position this year in the J/70 class worldwide. Professionals of the caliber such as Francesco De Angelis, Celon, Cassinari and Fonda, who we are used to being seen in other sportboat and offshore classes are sailing this year on board the J/70s.  It is a similar evolution seen in other parts of Europe and the USA, where World Champions and Olympic medalists in other classes are finding that J/70 class sailing is so simple to sail, the fleet is all going at the same speed. As a result, it makes for exciting sailing when fleets are so tightly packed that small mistakes magnify into big gains or losses, depending on the situation.  In fact, it is quite often that one finds a double Olympic Medallist or 3x World Champion somewhere in the middle of the pack struggling to get back into the top ten!

As for the regatta organization, kudos for Fraglia Vela Riva who three years ago believed in the J/70 class from the very start by offering its experience and management team in promoting the first J/70 Eurocup. The fleet is now starting to get very skilled and numerous (with over thirty boats in competition), and has a decidedly international feel with 8 nations taking part including Sweden, Russia, Monaco, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Malta.

Thanks to the good wind of the first day the event got off to a flying start with a head-to-head between Solerio’s L’ELAGAIN  (with Cassinari as tactician) and Alberini’s CALVI NETWORK. Solerio came out better with two wins and a second that gave him a 7-point lead over Alberini (8-2-1).  Sebastian Ripard of Malta, sailing BETSAFE was in third place after sailing to three 4ths!  Luca Domenici followed on NOTARO TEAM just one point behind. He finished 3rd in the first two races and 7th in the third. Michele Galli (with Francesco De Angelis as tactician) sailed on B2 and was sitting in 12th position with 10-14-17 record.

Three more races were sailed on the second day under the usual beautiful afternoon conditions on Lake Garda with winds of 12-14 knots from the south. With the discard introduced, Alberini’s crew on CALVI NETWORK went into overdrive and claimed three straight bullets to take the lead in the standings, with a two point lead over Solerio’s L’ELAGAIN. The racing again saw a heated battle between Alberini and Solerio, with L’ELAGAIN sailing to a 3-2-2 score- not quite enough to hold off CALVI NETWORK from taking the lead. A heart-stopping finale was clearly on the cards as only two points separated the two protagonists and with the forecast for the wind to be from the north, gusty and unstable in morning, the situation could very well change.

The bronze medal position was also being hard-fought as Ripard’s TEAM BETSAFE leap-frogged over Domenici NOTARO Team into third place. NOTARO Team was disqualified (which was then discarded), but has no margin of error and is in fourth position three points behind the Maltese boat. Jacopo Carrain’s CARPE DIEM (with Enrico Fonda as tactician) put in a good effort coming within 4 points of a place on the podium and was sitting in 5th overall.

Michele Galli on B2 with a well-known crew of Francesco De Angelis, Paolino Bassani and Flavio Grassi struggled to come through with a better performance and remained in 14th place (as noted earlier, De Angelis was a J/24 World Champion and America’s Cup Champion helmsman).

J70s sailing Lago di GardaDay 3
As was predicted, the final day was a duel to the finish. The fairly light winds in the morning gave different conditions from the previous days where the afternoon winds from the south blew in at 14 knots. The introduction of the lighter winds was an important element for Solerio’s L’ELAGAIN team.  The first two races the morning were balanced with CALVI NETWORK winning the first and L’ELAGAIN the second. It was all down to the third race as tactician Cassinari (L'Elegain), well aware of the hypothetical advantage he had over his opponent, skillfully played it safe to gain position on Alberini and drive them down into the middle of the fleet. As a result, Solerio tossed their last race and counted only races in the top three, including three 1sts and four 2nds! Alberini settled for second place in the regatta and second overall in the J/70 Alcatel OneTouch Italian Championship series (Monaco, San Remo, San Remo, Cervia, Riva del Garda).

Team BETSAFE, with Sebastian Ripard of Malta skippering, held on to take third place while NOTARO Team suffered another OCS false start after a 3rd and 16th, which dropped them into seventh place overall, far from the podium which seemed to be within their grasp during the first days.  To make matters worse, the last race OCS also cost NOTARO 2nd overall in the J/70 Alcatel OneTouch Championship series, losing the tie-breaker to Alberini at 95 pts each to settle for third overall.

J/70 winners Italy Alcatel OneTouch Sailing regattaFifth in the regatta was Pietro Saccomanni’s SPIN ONE team from Venice (they were also 5th overall in the series).  The top Monaco team in 6th place was Carrain’s CARPE DIEM, top German team in 8th position was Moritz Bohnenberger skippering TOURING JUNIOR, top Austrian team in 13th place was Klaus Diem’s PFAENDER, top Swiss team in 15th was Julian Flessati’s BODENSEE, top Swedish crew was Mikael Lindqvist’s ROCAD RACING from the Royal Swedish YC and top Russian crew was Sergei Ezhikov’s OST-WEST JUNO.

There was a great comeback for UJI UJI with Alessio Marinelli and Federica Salvà (who are on course for Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil on the Nacra 17 catamaran for Italy), they finished fourth overall with a good, satisfying win in the last race (as a result they also took 4th overall for the championship series of five regattas).  Then, the other team that showed great improvement was Galli’s B2 (with De Angelis calling the shots), sailing to a 10–7-2 on the last day to jump into 11th overall.  For more J/70 Alcatel OneTouch Italian Championship sailing information