News Palermo-Montecarlo offshore race. Line Honours for Lady First III

Palermo-Montecarlo offshore race. Line Honours for Lady First III

Monaco, 22 August 2022

Last night Jean-Pierre Dreau s Lady First III was first to finish the Palermo-Montecarlo offshore race, crossing the finish line off Port Hercules, Montecarlo, at 23:47 local time. Despite this year’s race being relatively breezy, the Mylius 60’s elapsed time of 2 days 11 hours 47 minutes 6 secondswas well outside the 1 day 23 hours 46 minutes 48 seconds time set by Igor Simčič’s substantially longer 100ft maxi Esimit Europa 2 in 2015. Her performance would have been outstanding under IRC corrected time too had the Marseille-based maxi not parked under a cloud on the typically tricky approach to the Monaco finish line. 

Organised by the Circolo della Vela Sicilia and the Yacht Club de Monaco in partnership with the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and in cooperation with the International Maxi Association (IMA), the Palermo-Montecarlo is the seventh and final event of the IMA’s 2021-2022 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge which began with last autumn’s Rolex Middle Sea Race. 

For the Palermo-Montecarlo, the largely amateur crew on Lady First III had some significant afterguard changes with well known Figaro sailor Nicolas Berenger standing for regular boat captain and crew boss Christopher Pratt while navigation duties were assumed by Pierre Quiroga, who, significantly was last year’s winning skipper of one yacht racing’s hardest competitions, La Solitaire du Figaro. 

Previously Berenger had won the 2018 Palermo-Montecarlo as navigator aboard the Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen. “I love this race because it is a very interesting course. There are lots of different weather points you need to know very well particularly off Sardinia and Corsica.” However he was less used to competing on cruiser racers like Lady First III. Nonetheless he was complimentary: “The boat is great – full carbon construction, but more for cruising than racing. We were joking before the start about the aircon and how it was going to be heavy. In fact the boat is great to sail in any conditions, even in light wind.”

The 37 strong fleet, including the scratch boat, the Austrian-flagged VO65 Sisi, set sail from off Palermo’s beach district of Mondello on Friday (19th August) at 1200 into a 10-12 knot building headwind. However even then the forecast was showing strong 20+ knot northwesterlies blowing with a lee to be avoided to the east of mountainous Sardinia. The strong breeze was most welcome said Berenger: “The Palermo-Montecarlo is known as a race with no wind or little wind but this time it was quite heavy – 15-20 knots upwind early on and some two metre waves. It was sporty, but very good!”

On the race’s 437 mile course, competitors are obliged to pass through a scoring gate off Porto Cervo, run by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and then have the choice of going through the Strait of Bonifacio and then up the west coast of Corsica to get to the finish or the slightly longer route up Corsica’s east coast and past the Giraglia rock. At the time the leaders were in this area though the former option was preferred. 

While the entire fleet was on port tack, erring east of the rhumb line on the first night, a key moment for the Lady First III crew was when they chose to tack and head all the way into the Sardinia coast. They then hugged the coast up to the Porto Cervo gate. “You could have stayed offshore upwind, but in stronger wind, but we knew there would be a good chance the wind would be southeast along the coast. It was a good call and in fact it was a big surprise that only two boats went that way.” This was Lady First III and Berenger’s former ride Tonnerre de Glen. 

But the French Mylius 60’s biggest gain came after beating through the Strait of Bonifacio in second place on the water, they chose to hug the Corsican coast as the leader, Sisi, headed offshore to the west. First into the good breeze, Lady First III was able to pull out a 35-40 miles lead as Sisi was also overtaken by Tonnerre de Glen and the NEO 570 C Carbonita. 

Finishing into Monaco at night time is often difficult and this proved to be the case for Lady First III this time, whose crew had to witness their race winning lead evaporate. “In the last 25 miles we lost everything,” explained Berenger. “The big decision was going east or west, so we just tried to go a bit east but there were a lot of clouds and from 30 miles out it began to drop and at 25 miles out we had no wind.” With the advantage of being chasing boat, Tonnerre de Glen chose to approach more from the west and held the breeze all the way to the finish, as Carbonita, on a similar course to Lady First III also parked. “We were expecting Tonnerre to stop, but they arrived with 8 knots all the time,” lamented Berenger.  

Ultimately Tonnerre de Glen finished at 01:02 this morning (22 August), just 1 hour 15 minutes behind Lady First III, which seem likely to hand her the overall prize under IRC for the Palermo-Montecarlo with Lady First III possibly second overall. The higher rated Sisi was eventually fourth to finish, some 13 hours astern of Lady First III indicating what a quiet early morning it was en route to Monaco. 

Jean-Pierre Dreau was delighted with Lady First III’s performance which looked set to be his Mylius 60’s second best after they won the RORC’s La Trinite-Cowes race in 2019. 

Lady First III’s season will continue with Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez in October followed by the Rolex Middle Sea Race. 

(Report by James Boyd /IMA)


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