The start of the second IMA Maxi European Championship, organised by the the Naples-based Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia (CRVI) in conjunction with the IMA, the body officially tasked by World Sailing to administer and develop maxi yacht racing internationally, is approaching rapidly.
Taking place over 12-18 May and supported by Rolex as Official Timepiece, and Loro Piana, the event is open to maxi yachts and is raced under the IRC rating system with all entries required to have IRC Endorsed certificates.
It will again comprise offshore and inshore components: The offshore will be the 68th Regata dei Tre Golfi, starting at 1700 on 12 May from off Naples’ Castel dell’Ovo, where the CRVI’s clubhouse is located within Santa Lucia Marina. Its 150 mile course heads past Procida, west-northwest to Ponza, the first major turning mark. From here competitors return, leaving Capri to port or starboard, to the southern side of the Sorrento peninsula, rounding the Li Galli islands off the Amalfi coast, before returning to the Bay of Naples and the finish off Sorrento.
This is followed by four days of coastal racing, starting on Monday 15 May, based out of Sorrento with courses on the Bay of Naples, including the popular lap of Capri, if conditions permit.
Maxi fleet run back to Sorrento – photo © IMA / Studio Borlenghi
At present 28 maxis are entered from 60 to 100ft (18.29-30.50m), the longest being Furio Benussi’s Arca SGR. Last year the Trieste-based 100 footer won the Regata dei Tre Golfi in a time of 22 hours 25 minutes and 30 seconds, despite suffering hydraulic issues with her canting keel. This has now been rectified as over the winter her massive hydraulic system has been replaced. This is a significant change. “Before we couldn’t use the winches and the canting keel at the same time,” admits Benussi. “When we tacked we had to wait for the keel and only then could we pull in the headsail. Now we can do both at the same time.”
While Arca SGR is the scratch boat, the light, often fickle nature of racing on these waters can be an equaliser. For example, in last year’s Regata dei Tre Golfi the first Maxi 72 arrived less than half an hour after Benussi’s crew. And this year there competition is much stronger, says Benussi: “There are some really competitive boats like the ClubSwan 80 [My Song] and Cannonball, which have done a lot of mods – now it is 75ft and they have changed the keel. The ClubSwan 80, especially downwind, is really fast, so it could be close to us.”
Some of the hottest competition will be between the former Maxi 72s, now all out of class, but still enjoying formidable competition. This year five are racing: Peter Dubens’ North Star (winner of last year’s Regata dei Tre Golfi), Jim Swartz’s Vesper and George Sakellaris’ Proteus (first and second at last year’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup), Dario Ferrari’s Cannonball (winner of the MYRC in 2019 and 2021) but it is Sir Peter Ogden’s 77ft Jethou, which has enjoyed the most success on these waters.
Sir Peter Ogden at the helm of his elongated former Maxi 72 Jethou – photo © IMA / Studio Borlenghi
“I am looking forward to starting the new season in Sorrento,” says Ogden. “The IMA Maxi Europeans attracts a good competitive fleet, and the unpredictability of the weather always makes for close exciting racing. Off the water Sorrento is a favourite with the crew. We have done a few boat mods over the winter so hopefully we will be competitive.”
This year racing will be managed by the event’s new PRO, well known international yachtsman, two time Olympian and double Etchells World Champion, Stuart Childerley.
Furio Benussi’s Arca SGR rounds the Li Galli islands in the 2022 Regata dei Tre Golfi – photo © IMA / Studio Borlenghi
“With any new class or group of competitors it is a fantastic opportunity to understand the class and to give them the best possible racing, given what we have – be it conditions or resources. It is important to really understand the boats and the sort of racing the boats and the crews really enjoy,” says Childerley (right), who has fond memories of the Bay of Naples when he raced out of the CRVI in the 1989 One Ton Cup. “I have not been to Sorrento before. It is always interesting to learn about new venues and new groups of people, be it the race team or competitors where there will be a lot of familiar faces.” Childerley has past experience racing maxis too, notably the former Rolex Maxi 72 World Champion, Alegre.
Hot competition off the start line during the 2022 IMA Maxi Europeans – photo © IMA / Studio Borlenghi
The social program for the IMA Maxi Europeans is extensive, starting with a dinner for the maxi owners at the CRVI in Naples on Thursday, 11 May. The next day, prior to the Regata dei Tre Golfi start at 1700, there will be once again a flag raising ceremony at the CRVI clubhouse at midday followed by a crew spaghetti party.
On the Sunday night after the offshore, maxi owners will have the exclusive opportunity to visit one of the marks of the course: the private Li Galli islands off the Amalfi coast. In the past this was said to have been occupied by sirens, but a more famous resident has been ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev.
The IMA Maxi Europeans fleet will be based in Sorrento’s Marina Piccolo – photo © IMA / Studio Borlenghi
On the Monday night the IMA Cocktail Party will be held on the magnificent terrace of the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria overlooking the Bay of Naples with the IMA Maxi Europeans fleet beneath in Marina Piccola. The event will conclude on Thursday 18 May with a prize-giving at the race village followed by a chefs dinner at Le Axidie, Vico Equense.
Daily there will be breakfast offered by Caffe Borbone, and, after crews return from the race course, a pasta party, both in the race village.
Arca SGR skipper Furio Benussi – photo © IMA / Studio Borlenghi
by James Boyd / International Maxi Association