67h Tre Golfi Regatta, © ROLEX / Studio Borlenghi
The start of the 67th Tre Golfi Regatta was as picturesque as ever
The Gulf of Naples, with Capri and Vesuvius illuminated by the warm light of the setting sun, provided a stunning backdrop.
A fleet of 130 boats that took to the starting line were clearly visible even from the streets of Santa Lucia, leaving passers-by amazed by the beautiful sight unfolding along the seafront.
Alongside Maxi, Swan and classic yachts, this year the renowned race organised by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia also marks the return of the most famous of oceanic skippers as Giovanni Soldini took to the starting line of the "Tre Golfi Regatta" with his highly successful Maserati Mod70 trimaran.
His toughest competition will likely be Riccardo Pavoncelli's Mana, with Paul Larsen at the helm - king of the world speed sailing record.
A fascinating regatta, but certainly a highly technical and complex one, thanks to the various wind changes the crews will encounter over the 150-miles course, determined in part by the ever-changing geography of the coastline.
The afternoon wind, a thermal breeze of 8-10 knots at the start, quickly dropped to 6-8 knots.
The large high pressure system affecting the area over the coming days will force the tacticians to make some difficult and perhaps daring choices along the way, with various episodes of dead calm expected. It will be crucial to be the first to interpret all the individual breezes in time, while the morning and evening winds will also be important.
After a clean but somewhat arduous start, the fleet headed for the island of Ponza, the first mark in the race.
After passing the Cavallara mark, the tacticians then had to make a strategic choice, deciding whether to take the Procida channel, the Ischia channel, or sail outside Ischia. The approach to Ponza will also require thought, particularly in light of the wind forecast for the coming days.
Only tomorrow will we see whether sticking to the coast or choosing a more central route paid dividends. After reaching Ponza, the boats will descend towards Capri, taking care not to get "sucked" towards the island of Ischia where they could be left loitering for some time before picking up speed.
Fortunes, as past editions have often shown, can once again change in the passage by the Li Galli islet: the fresh wind coming from behind it has on several occasions allowed boats further back in the fleet to regain ground. The race will end as per tradition, in Capri.
The first boats are expected to finish in the early afternoon of tomorrow.
Having crossed the finish line, the boats will be hosted in Sorrento, Sant'Agnello and Piano di Sorrento for the week of regattas that runs through 21st May, in which three high-profile events will be held: the first ever European Maxi Championship, the ORC Mediterranean Championship and the Tyrrhenian National Championship.
The flag-raising ceremony which took place at 1 p.m. today officially opened the event. Among those present were the President of the Italian Sailing Federation (FIV) Francesco Ettore, accompanied by Federal Councillor Antonietta De Falco and the President of the V Zone, Francesco Lo Schiavo, who declared: "The Tre Golfi Sailing Week this year represents a strategic opportunity for sailing in Campania: the V Zone FIV has collaborated with the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia to make one of the oldest and most charming regattas in the Mediterranean an important opportunity for the region. A team that has seen the sporting world together with the institutions doing everything possible to ensure a great show at sea and ashore."
A few tips on some of the favourites.
For the ORC Class A category XIO and Ice Blue, the Swan 42 Mela in Class B, and Sugar and Scugnizza in Class C.
Jethou is hotly tipped in the Maxi division, but Manticore could upset the apple cart.
In a challenging week for all of the crews, we can expect very interesting racing.