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Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

A powerful fleet of 48 maxis (including three not racing) is in Porto Cervo chomping at the bit for tomorrow’s start of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

This annual highlight of the maxi yachting season is once again organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association and Rolex as title sponsor.

Racing is due to take place from Monday 4th until Saturday 9th September with the most races being on the coastal courses around La Maddalena archipelago and ‘Bomb Alley’ for which the magnificent Costa Smeralda in northeast Sardinia is famous. Porto Cervo also often benefits from being unusually windy for this part of the Mediterranean, thanks mostly to the prevailing northwesterlies that funnel through the Strait of Bonifacio and down Bomb Alley. The present forecast shows a 15 knot north-northeasterly on Monday, freshening on Tuesday and moderating again on Wednesday.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – Of the three Js competing this week, Velsheda is the only ‘origin’ ©IMA / Studio Borlenghi

Among the fleet, remaining unchanged are the Super Maxi class, for yachts with an LH of 30.51+ m (100+ft) racing under ORCsy and the magnificent Js competing in their own class under their own rule. A new addition is the Maxi Multihull class aimed at high performance cruising catamarans such as those made by Gunboat, racing under ORCmh.

The term ‘Mini Maxi’ has been dispensed with, now integrated into a larger ‘Maxi’ fleet encompassing yachts with LH of 18.29-30.51m or 60-100ft. For the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup this has been divided into the following classes:

  • Maxi A: IRC TCC 1.700< (roughly what used to be the ‘Maxi Racing’ class).
  • Maxi B: IRC TCC 1.600-1.700 (ie ex-Maxi 72s and smaller Maxis, VO65s)
  • Maxi C: IRC TCC <1.600 (former Mini Maxi classes)

Maxi A will sail one day of windward-leewards and the J Class and former Maxi 72s two – otherwise all races will be on coastal courses.

The 100 footer competition will be one to watch this year (and more so in seasons to come). Central to this will once again be the three Wallycentos – Magic Carpet Cubed, Galateia and V. David M Leuschen and Chris Flowers’ Galateia was top of this trio here in 2023, however Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’ Magic Carpet Cubed is always competitive as will be V (ex-Tango), competing in just her second regatta, with a new owner and a largely new crew led by North Sails President Ken Read.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2022 ©Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Recent line honours and overall winner of the Aegean 600, the 100ft Leopard 3 underwent a massive refit over the winter with some five tonnes of weight removed from her plus a new mast and winch package. They will face Wendy Schmidt’s ever improving 80ft Deep Blue while another recipient of a massive upgrade is Andrea Recordati’s Wally 93 Bullitt. She has been made more powerful with improved downwind performance, including a longer bowsprit, increased mast rake, her lifting keel replaced by a 6m fixed keel and two tonnes of water ballast added each side.

New for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2023 is the multihull category ©Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Among the stripped-out racers Australian Peter Harburg’s 100ft Black Jack comes fresh from winning line honours in the Palermo-Montecarlo. Black Jack was previously class winner here in 2006 when she was Alfa Romeo II, campaigned by Neville Crichton (set to return next year aboard his newly-acquired J Rainbow). Freshly arrived from the Adriatic is Gašper Vincec’s Way of Life, the former Morning Glory maxZ86, which won her class at this event in 2007.

Coming in at the bottom of this group in rating terms is Pier Luigi Loro Piana’s Club Swan 80 My Song, which made her race debut here last year, when she won the last race.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – IMA President Benoît de Froidmont’s Wally 60 Wallyño will face stiff competition this week from Riccardo de Michele’s H20 © IMA / Studio Borlenghi

As usual the heavyweight dust-up of this regatta will be between the former Maxi 72s competing in Maxi B: Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou, Dario Ferrari’s Pepe Cannonball, George Sakellaris’ Proteus (runner-up here last year) and Peter Duben’s North-Star. All are packed with A-list pro sailors and with many of the yachts having been upgraded since last participating here.

Bella Mente is now highest rated and has twin rudders and water ballast (as has Pepe Cannonball and North-Star). North-Star has a new rig designed to be twisted. This, along with AEROsix standing rigging, reduces windage and improves upwind and reaching ability. Pepe Cannonball has reverted to her original 72ft length, not only reducing her rating but also regaining her age allowance. This has required some modification to her water ballast. This week Pepe Cannonball is being steered by Peter Harrison.

The former Maxi 72s will face stiff competition from Django HF, which as Highland Fling XI comfortably won the Maxi class here last year. If conditions reach the upper end, we can expect to see the two VO65s Ambersail 2 and SiSi performing well.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2022 ©Carlo Borlenghi

The biggest class is Maxi C. Among the 16 yachts in this are several past winners. Riccardo de Michele’s silver 78 footer H20 is favourite having won her class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup more than any boat ever (last year she won Mini Maxi 3/4 with straight bullets). However in June this year International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont and his 60 footer Wallyño also scored straight bullets in the Rolex Giraglia inshores. His silver Wally is also a past winner of the IMA’s Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge.

Jean-Pierre Barjon’s 65ft Spirit of Lorina will briefly return to racing inshore this week. His program currently is mainly offshore – he competed recently in the Rolex Fastnet Race and won the IMA’s Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge in 2022.

One of the new boats competing this week is the Baltic 68 Cafe Racer Open Season – the first event for former IMA President Thomas Bscher’s new steed. Open Season is the highest rated yacht in Maxi C. Also from the Baltic stable is Dario Castiglia’s 65 footer RE/MAX One 2.

Vismara Marine is represented by two yachts: the 68ft Pelotari.Project of Spain’s Andres Varela Entrecanales and Luigi Sala’s 62ft Yoru. Similarly there are two from Mylius Yachts in the familiar 65FD Oscar 3 campaigned by Aldo Parisotto and the 60FD Manticore of Franz Wilhem Baruffaldi.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2022 ©Carlo Borlenghi

With the 80ft Maxi-Mini Maxi divide removed this season, the two longest boats in the Maxi C will this year have the novelty of enjoying improved racing, competing with similarly-rated, but smaller, yachts. They are Massimiliano Florio’s Southern Wind 82 Grande Orazio (which finished 4th in the Maxi class last year) and Philip Rann’s Swan 80 Umiko. Another highly competitive regular entry at this event from Swan is the 601 @robas of Frenchman Gerard Logel, while one of the best-looking modern yachts here is Gabriele Guerzoni’s Persico-built 65 footer Punto G.

The smallest yachts in Maxi 3 are Luca Scoppa’s Dehler 60 Blue Oyster, Matteo Fossati’s 64 footer Stella Maris and the classic Baruna of 1938, campaigned by Tara Getty – essentially designed as a smaller version of the S&S penned Super J Ranger and the recipient of a complete refit.

The three podium placers from the Super Maxi class last year are back. The 2022 winner, the Swan 115 Shamanna, is here but not racing, leaving Christian Oldendorf’s exquisite Spirit 111 Geist to clash swords with Juan Ball’s Swan 115 Moat. They are joined by faithful long term Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup competitor Vittorio Moretti and the Maxi Dolphin 118 Viriella, longest of the Super Maxis, plus the bright charteuse-coloured Inoui of Switzerland’s Marco Vögele. However all eyes will be on the newest boat in the fleet, former International Maxi Association President Claus-Peter Offen’s brand new 101ft y3k, that replaces his Wally 100 of the same name. All Wallys are high performance, state of the art racer-cruisers and according to Offen, compared to his previous 2009 vintage 100, the new y3k is both a better racer and a better cruiser.

With focus moved to their newly announced World Championship taking place in Barcelona next year, so three of the magnificent Js are competing this week, all having been optimised to their class’ JCA rule. For example 11 tonnes has been shed from Svea, last year’s stand-out winner here with a near-perfect scoreline. But at the Superyacht Cup this year Velsheda beat the Swedish J by one point. This week they are joined by Topaz, which Velsheda beat here both in 2021 and 2019. However Topaz beat both Svea (under her previous owner) and Velsheda here in 2018.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup - Adrian Keller's Irens 84 catamaran Allegra - photo © Rick Tomlinson / RORC
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – Adrian Keller’s Irens 84 catamaran Allegra – photo © Rick Tomlinson / RORC

An entirely new addition to the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is the Maxi Multihull class. In this three catamarans are competing this week. At 84ft Adrian Keller’s Allegra is the longest and has benefitted from a huge race program since her launch in 2014, including a recent multihull class win in the Rolex Fastnet Race. She is joined by the scratch boat, Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Gunboat 80 Highland Fling 18 and the Gunboat 68 Convexity2 of triple M32 catamaran World Champion Don Wilson and Suna Said. However both Gunboats are very recently launched and this will be the first race for both. All three are bristling with A-list crews including Loick Peyron on Highland Fling 18, the world’s fastest man afloat Paul Larsen on Allegra and Match Racing World Champion Taylor Canfield on Convexity2.

“For a second year after the pandemic we have a near record fleet of maxis competing at our premier event,” said International Maxi Association Secretary General Andrew McIrvine. “The competition especially between the 100 footers and the former Maxi 72s will be especially tough. We also welcome the multihulls for the first time. On the water these will be kept largely separate from the monohulls but otherwise we look forward to them integrating into the larger maxi fleet.”

The first warning signal for tomorrow’s racing is scheduled for 1200 local time. The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is the penultimate event in the IMA’s Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge.

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association

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