Anyone who doubts the strengths of IMS racing should take a look at what’s happening off the Southern Italian island of Capri this week. Seventy-two boats, mostly production models, but with a few high-end custom jobs sprinkled in, are sailing the Rolex IMS World Championships. The racing is tight, the three classes are talent heavy, and conditions so far are as near perfect as one could hope for.2001 champion Brava Q8, a 49-foot Farr design owned by Pasquale Landolfi, dating from the 1999 Admiral’s Cup and staffed with some familiar names from the Alinghi syndicate, including Warwick Fleury and Simon Daubney, is defending its title against new builds such as X-Sport, a snappy-looking Grand Soleil 56R, Orlanda, a Farr 53 that rolled out of Goetz Custom Boats in Rhode Island last spring, and Enigma of London, a “proto maxi” built for breaking records, whose crew includes Lisa Charles MacDonald, of Volvo 60 fame. Also racing are some of the hottest racing programs in Europe, where sailboat racing is a highly commercial, competitive sport. Almost every crew is dressed in matching gear, right down to footwear, and sails, booms, and hulls are covered with the names of European companies. Boats from Italy make up most of the entries, but racers from England, France, Germany, Russia, the United States, Greece, and Spain, are entered.Racing began last Monday, with two windward-leeward races being held in a 12 to 16-knot seabreeze which appeared, almost as if ordered by race organizers, soon after the extremely civilized 12 p.m. rendezvous between the Italian coastline and the craggy island of Capri. In class A, Spangaro Steffano’s X-Sport won the day with two first-place finishes, followed by Orlanda with a 6,2, and the Spanish Rodman 42 Bribon took third with a 3, 5. Brava Q8 finished at eighth for the day, two places ahead of the lone American entry, George David’s Idler, a Nelson Marek 49 which was also built for the 1999 Admiral’s Cup, and had a tough first day, taking a 14, 7.In Class 2, Antonio Orlandi’s Grand Soleil 42R Italtel ended in first for the day with a 1,1, while the Rodman 42 Wind took two second-place finishes, and Team Revolution, a Sinergia 40, placed third. In Class 3 Paul & Shark, a Vismara 34, was top dog, followed by a modified Beneteau 36.7, Di Mare-Tec. Imp. Vai in second, and Maretta, a Grand Soleil 341, in third. On Tuesday, the race committee sent the racers on a 195-mile long course, from which two races were scored. First points came from the first 128 miles, which included a 15-mile reach to an inflatable Rolex buoy off the Naples city front, a 25-mile beat along the cliffs of the coast to the corner of the Island of Ischia. From there a 35-mile beat up the coast to a turning mark in front of the town of Gaeta. A 15-25 knot northwest breeze made that leg a jib reach for the fleet for the trip up, but a wind shift to the southwest turned the return leg into a headsail reach, too. A left turn at Ischia brought the fleet back across the Gulf of Naples where spinnakers were set for a run to the Race 3 gate directly off Capri. The second point of the race came from the entire 195-mile race, which included a further 30-mile run to St Maria di Castellabate and a beat back to the gate off Capri. The idea behind the two-point/one-race system is to throw the crews and skippers a bone halfway through the race and ensure that points are on the board should conditions become light later. Enigma of London, (nee Chance, a 75-foot Transpac sled but with a different rig) finished first, early Wednesday morning, but with a stanchion missing and a bent bow pulpit, illustrating the difficulties encountered by the fleet during the race. Winds as high as 33 knots were encountered by boats in Class A after they rounded the mark off Gaeta, and the seas built quickly. Next to finish was the Australian entry, Bumblebee V, a Sydney 62, then Orlanda, which was followed by X-Sport and Idler, respectively. The American team-which includes Stars & Stripes veteran Tony Rey on tactics, and Prada navigator Matteo Plazzi lending local knowledge and navigational skills-basically match-raced the partially Alinghi-staffed crew of Brava Q8 the entire race. While the American team beat Brava Q8 across the line, the Italian Farr 49 beat Idler on corrected time by 1m:24s. But the spotlight didn’t stay on the big boats in Class 1 for long. Strong winds helped Class 2 entries Wind, a Rodman 42 owned by Roberto Maffini, to first overall, followed by Italtel in second. Class 1’s Telefonica Movistar, a Rodman 42 scored third. Thursday is a layday, which will give the crews a chance to rest up for the final two days of racing, which will consist of two races Friday and a single race on Saturday.For complete results, see http://www.orc.org/world03/pete.htm?