As if easing the teams into the final decider of the inaugural TF35 season, Scarlino delivered a warm sea breeze between 6 - 11 knots, flat water and blue skies on the sparkling Tuscan coast for the opening day of racing.
"The conditions were perfect, good wind, great sun, fantastic racing", said Zoulou's owner Erik Marris on the dock. "The competition is intense; some of the teams seem to have found the grove better than others, I'm not sure we are in that category, but we are working hard and enjoying it."
After two practice starts and two practice races, it was business as usual for fleet leaders Realteam Sailing who came out of the starting blocks firing to claim two wins in the first two official races.
In contrast, closest rivals Ernesto Bertarell's Alinghi warmed up slowly, starting the day in third, taking second in race two, and finishing the day on a high with a win.
The two teams have been inseparable all season, matched in on speed, manoeuvres and boat handling; the only way to leverage points over the other is when a mistake is made - and in race three, Realteam Sailing made a mistake.
Slow off the start Esteban Garcia's Realteam Sailing, co-skippered by Jérôme Clerc, saw the fleet accelerate away. Alinghi was leading the charge but closely followed by Spindrift, Team Sailfever and Zoulou. In fifth, Clerc broke off from the fleet early on the first beat in search of clear air and a bit of good luck on the other side of the race track, but they were unable to recover and finished the race as they had started in fifth. A costly result for the opening day of the final Grand Prix when there are only two points between them and Alinghi overall.
The standout team for today was undoubtedly Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard's Spindrift. During yesterday's training the team suffered a broken foil flap. After a heroic effort by the shore crew François Guiffant, Hugo Pronost and help from the team, overnight the flap was rebuilt, but still onshore installing the foil this morning whilst the rest of the fleet were practising, the pressure was on for racing.
"Once we left the dock, we tried to forget the breakdown and focus on our goal - to get the boat moving as fast as possible", explained tactician Yann Jauvin. "We had a good start on race one, it played out well with Realteam and Alinghi, and we managed to get between them to finish second.
In race two, the Guichard's team admittedly struggled with their upwind speed but managed to hold on to fourth. A return to form in race three saw the swiss team taking a second-place finish, this time slotted between Alinghi and Team Sailfever.
Day two of the Scarlino final sees racing scheduled to start an hour earlier at 11:00CEST and an increase in conditions and intensity as the wind is forecast to build. Follow live at TF35.org.