Since the early 1980s, maxi yacht owners and sailors have been drawn to the Costa Smeralda and specifically the annual Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.
Considered the perfect sailing package the event unites first-class organization, a majestic sailing environment and the world’s leading maxi yachts and professional crews.
Rolex and event organizer the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) have enjoyed a close partnership for nearly 40 years. The longevity of this collaboration has been at the heart of the event’s continued success and evolution. Support for the organization of the week-long regatta is provided by the International Maxi Association (IMA).
The 2023 edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will be considered a special vintage. Four days of racing offered the full repertoire of the Costa Smeralda sailing experience, from the strong breeze, big waves and robust sea state of the regatta’s initial exchanges to the light, unstable conditions which closed proceedings.
The Maddalena Archipelago’s myriad of race courses feature numerous narrow passages and rocky outcrops. On such testing fields of play, sailing powerful yachts at high speeds requires total synergy in teamwork and deft boat handling skills.
Sailors, drawn from the cream of professional sailing talent, were left enthralled by the week’s competition. Former Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Mike Sanderson, part of the afterguard on Bella Mente, was one such example:
“The location is so special. Sun, big waves and big breeze. For so many teams this is the pinnacle event of their year. We have worked all year to develop the boat to be ready for this regatta.”
Bella Mente – Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – photo © Carlo Borlenghi
For Mitch Booth, two-time Olympic medallist, overall Rolex Middle Sea Race winning skipper in 2021 and tactician on Leopard 3, the event is without equal:
“Coming together in such an iconic place, it is a real season highlight and a clash of the titans, the best against the best in perfect sailing.”
Leopard – Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – photo © Carlo Borlenghi
Accolades went to the six class winners who showed great consistency and expertise in dealing both with the vagaries of the conditions but equally the formidable nature of the opposition. Proving triumphant were: Galateia (Maxi Class A), Bella Mente (Class B), Spirit of Lorina (Class C), Y3K (Supermaxi), Svea (J Class) and Allegra (Maxi multihull).
Since its foundation, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has been the showcase for the evolution in maxi yacht design and technology. The 48-strong fleet at this year’s 33rd edition was one of the most eclectic to date. From the largest entrant, Svea (43.6m/143-ft) through to the smallest Blue Oyster (18.3m/60-ft), an eye-catching range of yachts were on display.
SVEA – Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – photo © Luca Butto
Innovations for the 2023 edition included the first ever appearance of the maxi multihulls. As YCCS Commodore Michael Illbruck explains this aligns with the event’s perennial commitment to be at the forefront of developments:
“Change is a constant in the world of yachting, and continuous evolution has been the key to the success of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, right from the first edition in 1980 up to the present day. The inclusion of multihulls fits perfectly with this perspective, a natural development of an event that has always been characterized by cutting-edge technology. Opening up to other categories allows owners to continue to pursue their passion and may inspire others to do so.”
The oldest competing yachts included the J Class Velsheda and the recently restored Baruna, both dating back to the 1930s. Thomas Bscher’s Baltic 68 Open Season proved a highlight amongst the newer launches and one which symbolises a movement within sailing design to consider even more closely the environmental impact across all aspects of boat building and performance.
Creating fair and exciting competition across such a diverse fleet requires significant race management organization, one the event has long been renowned for. The rating system and division of classes is constructed with this in mind and to provide owners and sailors with the platform to pursue their passion for the sport.
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – Open Season, Sail n.: GER 8468, Class: MAXI C, Model / Designer / Shipyard: Cafe Racer / Jaudenes / Baltic, Loa: `22, 66`, Owner: Thomas Bscher – photo © Carlo Borlenghi
On the water, one of the closest divisions was the eight strong Maxi B group where American yachts Bella Mente and Proteus broke away to contest the title. Going into what proved to be the regatta’s final race, they were tied on points. Bella Mente finished first to cap an impressive week on the water which saw the stellar crew, predominantly together for the past decade, claim two bullets and three second places. Delight for owner Hap Fauth:
“We come every year and it is the pinnacle of our season. This is our fourth victory in eleven years and the hardest fought.”
Prizegiving ceremony, Rolex timepieces and trophy – Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – photo © Carlo Borlenghi
Even closer was the Supermaxi competition. Only three points separated the top three yachts – Moat, Inoui and eventual winner Y3K, the recently launched Wally 101. It marked a return to Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup success for owner Claus-Peter Offen:
“I have been racing here for 25 years. For us it is the highlight of the regatta season. This is where we want to be thanks to the beauty of the area and of the yacht club.”
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup prizegiving ceremony – Michael Illbruck (YCCS Commodore)Y3K, Sail n.: GER 101, Class: SUPERMAXI, Model / Designer / Shipyard: Wally 101.1 / Judel-Vrolijk / Performance boats, Loa: `30, 80`, Owner: Offen Yachting Ltd – photo © Carlo Borlenghi
For the class winners, crowned at the final prize-giving, victory at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is reward for overcoming world-class competition, an intense and challenging racing programme and having prepared in peak form for the pinnacle event in the maxi yacht calendar. The overriding sentiment was an appreciation for an event which always delivers on excellence.