Heart-pounding finale to the Three Gulfs Regatta. Sugar 3 is ORC Mediterranean Champion

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What are in the end 4 seconds over 20 hours of racing, yet that was enough for the Trieste crew of ARCA SGR, the maxi 100 led by Furio Benussi with the Fast and Furio Sailing Team, to win the Line Honours of the 69th edition of the Regatta of the Three Gulfs. A heart-stopping finish with V, Karel Komarek’s Wallycento, crossing the finish line only 4 seconds later. Sugar 3 took third place at the 69th Regatta of the Three Gulfs, thus winning the ORC Mediterranean Championship.

69th Three Gulfs Regatta: how it went

A decidedly unusual edition, the Three Gulfs Regatta 2024. There were large and frequent changes in the leading positions, with as many as five leaders taking turns, all the while forecasts were constantly being disproved. As Simon Fisher, navigator on Chris Flowers’ Galateia, explained, “They were practically useless! When you thought you could apply some logic, the wind did something different.”

On departure from Porticciolo di Santa Lucia in Naples yesterday at 4:35 p.m., V left early and was forced to turn back. Coming out of the Gulf of Naples, Peter Dubens’ North Star, winner of the last two Three Gulfs Regattas, got stuck in a creel, which caused it to slip to the rear. At that point Galateia and Peter Harrison’s Jolt took the lead among the 100-footers and former Maxi 72s.

While sailing to Ponza, the fleet saw a significant wind change. The leaders rounded the island around midnight, with V and the favorite for line honors, Furio Benussi’s ARCA SGR, closing in on Galateia and Jolt. The east-southeastbound stretch to Capri was fast until the approach of Ischia, when the wind dropped at 4 a.m., causing a major recompacting in the fleet. Galateia’s hard-won lead faded, as Fisher said, “Since we were the leading boat, the others avoided our wind holes….”

The decisive moment

In a regatta of decisive moments, Ischia was the most decisive. Here Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’s Magic Carpet Cubed and Andrea Recordati’s Bullitt found the wind by bearing south and overtook M72, at that point led by Jolt and Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente. Seeing what was happening in front of them, Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou and North Star chose the route south of Capri, which definitely paid off, bringing them into the lead.

As the wind “died” along the Amalfi coast, the leaders headed offshore and ARCA SGR was the first to round the islands of Li Galli, around 9:30 a.m., in front of Magic Carpet Cubed and V. While en route to the finish line in Naples, the sky suddenly darkened and participants were hit by heavy rain with gusts up to 20 knots, which led to further compaction. At the finish line, ARCA SGR was parallel and upwind of V but only 4 seconds ahead after a full 20 hours of racing. Bullitt, Andrea Recordati’s Wally 93, was third and Magic Carpet Cubed, another Wallycento by Lindsay Owen-Jones, fourth. At the end between the first and the fourth the gap was only 2 minutes and 21 seconds

“Usually when a regatta has so many obstacles, the fleet scatters, but this time it just compacted” – commented Ken Read, the tactician on Karel Komárek’s V, exhausted. “You would make decisions every minute in a 24-hour trial. It was exceptionally difficult but exceptionally rewarding“.

“It was one of the best finishes of my life!” said Furio Benussi at the finish line about ARCA SGR‘s tight victory. “V passed us with three miles to go, but then we found the last pressure-25 knots-and passed them again with 200-300 meters to go….”

The winners of the Three Gulfs Regatta

In IRC, Bullitt, overall winner of last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race, comfortably won its division ahead of V. “It was an intense regatta from start to finish. We just tried to be patient in the crucial moments and take the opportunities that came our way“, commented Bullitt tactician and Volvo Ocean Race winner Joca Signorini.

Galateia, the early leader, was fifth at the finish line in Naples.“We were in the lead for half the trial…only it was the wrong half,” joked Riccardo Pavoncelli (CRVI partner), standing in for co-owner Chris Flowers.

Less than 18 minutes behind ARCA SGR came North Star maneuvered by only eight crew members, the first among the four ex-Maxi 72, winning his class sub-division. “It was really fun” commented tactician Nick Rogers. “We always had the impression that we were there, always close enough“.

Sugar 3 is ORC Mediterranean Champion

Ott Kikkas’ Sugar 3, which had shown an excellent performance already during the coastal trials, with its third place in the Regatta of the Three Gulfs, won the 2024 Mediterranean ORC Championship.

Giovanni Di Vincenzo’s Lisa R, already winner of the offshore regatta last year, finished fourth in both the inshore and the long run, taking second place overall. Selene by Massimo De Campo, winner of the Three Gulfs Regatta in the ORC class, took third place in the combined standings. Selene dominated the entire fleet, followed by Giacomo dell’Aria’s IMX 45 Tetta and in third place Giovanni Laviosa’s X-50 Arya.

“We participated with a mixed Estonian and Italian crew who did a fantastic job, I am really pleased with them, especially our legends on board like Sandro Montefusco and Matteo Ivaldi, who make everything easier,” said Ott Kikkas, owner of Sugar 3. “The first part of the Three Gulfs Regatta was very pleasant, we went fast all night, but then the next day, although we enjoyed it very much anyway, we encountered rain and strong wind, and flat calm… We had a great time, we loved Naples and Sorrento; the whole organization here was great!“.

The 69th edition of the Three Gulfs Regatta is organized by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia, supported by Rolex Official Time Piece and Loro Piana, valid as an offshore race for the International Maxi Association’s European Maxi Championship, was decidedly unusual.

James Barbaro

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