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Naema noses ahead after mega-schooner port-starboard incident

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Naema successfully goes in for the kill on starboard
Naema successfully goes in for the kill on starboard

Just when it seemed that the four giant schooners were likely to spend the day tied to the dock, the sea breeze filled in perfectly allowing the penultimate race of Capri Classica to take place. Sadly, due to the light forecast, the much-anticipated 19th century-style start from anchor was abandoned. Nonetheless the four schooners still had great racing in a competition which has effectively turned into a pair of match races with the giants - Mariette of 1915 and Naema - in one ring and The Classic Yacht Experience-owned schooners - Puritan and Orianda - in the other.

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Once again the race committee set up the start between Capri and the Sorrento Peninsula and a first weather mark located off Punta Campanella, the tip of the Sorrento Peninsula. But from there the schooners were sent around a triangle returning them into the Gulf of Naples, back to the start and from there on a final extra leg towards Capri’s Marina Grande.

Today all four boats started respectably, with Mariette of 1915 and Naema first to tack on to port. Mariette of 1915 once again showed her higher pointing ability and as Naema tacked back on to starboard to lay Punta Campanella, Mariette of 1915 tacked on to the same line directly ahead of her. The navy blue schooner seemed about to perform a horizon job, like yesterday, until the breeze dropped, forcing her to shave Punta Campanella, as Naema managed to stay high, laying the mark perfectly. After Mariette of 1915 tacked on to port and was approaching the mark she infringed Naema, which was closing on the mark on starboard with rights. In fact Mariette of 1915 should have accepted a time penalty, but in the event she carried out a 360° penalty turn – no small undertaking in a 138ft 180 tonne beast of a vessel with eight sails up – leaving her far behind her rival.

Naema goes in for the kill at the weather mark
Naema goes in for the kill at the weather mark

But as on Wednesday all was not over. On the final leg off fickle Capri, the two mega-schooners split tacks, only for the breeze to disappear. As Naema’s helmsman Hank Halsted observed: “We thought we might have the exact reversal of the first race when Mariette led us around the course and sailed into a hole. In fact this time we spent an equivalent time stopped on each side of the course.”

Mariette of 1915 was able to close, but was awarded a 20% elapsed time penalty for her windward mark infringement. This left Naema to win the day comfortably.

Halsted, once creator of the ‘Bucket’ superyacht regattas, was disappointed that the racing hadn’t been closer, as it had been on Wednesday, but still relished the competition. “Naema is simply not as powerful a boat and our sail plan isn’t as well articulated. Mariette have been managing those sails since 1915 while this is our fourth regatta! We have 30 people from ten countries speaking four different languages – but everyone on this boat is passionate and their common language is ‘schooner’.”

Behind them Orianda and Puritan were locked in their own personal match race and while the smaller 85ft Orianda led up the first beat, the duo were involved in their own port-starboard incident at the top mark: Puritan came in on starboard with rights but on this occasion Orianda played it safe and ducked her transom. A nimble tack ensured Puritan took the lead.

Helming Puritan today was Tomas de Vargas Machuca, President of the International Schooner Association, whose company, The Classic Yacht Experience, owns and runs the Capri Classica entries, Puritan and Orianda. He recounted. “We had good pace and touched nine knots downwind. Then off the Sorrento coast there were difficult wind conditions, the wind shifting by 30-40°. We were a bit slow to ease the mainsail and almost did an involuntary tack which lost us two or three minutes to Orianda. Then there was a calm final leg.”

Ultimately Puritan’s position corrected out leaving her behind Orianda, but at least was a point on board after having had to retire from the previous two races due to ensnared a fishing net on day one and running out of wind south of Capri yesterday.

“It was good fun today which was important - at least all four crews had good competition,” said de Vargas Machuca. And this was despite some sore heads this morning, after last night’s party that ran into the early hours across Mariette, Orianda and Puritan.

This had followed a display in which all of the crews were able to show off their traditional schooner craftsmanship and skills such as ropework and leatherwork. This competition is currently being judged - the winner will be announced at tomorrow’s prizegiving in Capri’s Marina Piccolo.

Overall Naema leads going into the final day of Capri Classica with another light day forecast.

Organised by the Circolo Remo e Vela Italia, the Yacht Club Capri and the International Schooner Association with the support of the International Maxi Association, this inaugural Capri Classica is an exclusive invitation-only affair for large classic schooners. It is the first event of the International Schooner Association’s first Schooner Cup Series that will be followed by Monaco Classic Week and Les Voiles de St Tropez.

The competitors

Mariette of 1915 –138ft 1915 Nathanael Herreshoff schooner
Naema – 128ft built in 2012, inspired by the 1938 Alfred Mylne design Panda
Orianda –85ft 1937 Dahlstrom staysail schooner
Puritan –126ft 1930 Alden gaff schooner

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