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Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and Rolex Maxi 72

With westerly winds gusting into the mid-teens, brilliant sunshine and a mix of windward-leewards for the Maxi 72s and, for the remainder, a coastal race taking them on a clockwise lap of La Maddalena archipelago, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship got off to the best start possible.

Highlight of the maxi-boat calendar, this historic event is run by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association, the officially-recognised body that promotes maxi boat racing globally.

While George David’s Rambler 88 romped around the course, quickly picking off the boats that had started before her, it was Massimiliano Florio’s Southern Wind 82 Grande Orazio which was the Maxi class winner today. She benefited from the wind filling in for the smaller boats on the run back from La Maddalena.

In the Wally class, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’ Magic Carpet Cubed did a superb job on the first beat to Monaci causing her to lead David M. Leuschen’s Galateia and Charif Souki’s Tango around the race course. The dark blue Wallycento ultimately won the Wally class today, after Jean-Charles Decaux’s Wally 77 J One was disqualified following a protest.

“We had the better start, to leeward of everyone. We pushed away Tango and they ended up doing extra manoeuvres, which is why they were so far behind. Then we got a big left shift and overstood the first windward mark, going directly to Monaci,” explained Magic Carpet Cubed’s tactician, Olympic legend Jochen Schüman. He added that they had made some good layline calls going up the inside of the La Maddalena archipelago, but on the way back, the breeze had built from astern allowing her rivals to close on her. “I think we are quite happy upwind,” continued Schüman “but Galateia is the benchmark boat – she has the most speed potential, is 1.5 tonnes lighter than us and she is newer.”

There was slight surprise in the Super Maxi fleet, comprising the biggest boats competing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. While Pier Luigi Loro Piana’s Baltic 130 My Song was by far the fastest around the course, it was the magnificent German-owned Topaz that came out on top, even ahead of her much tipped J Class rivals Svea and Velsheda.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup day 1 - photo © Ingrid Abery /
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup day 1 – photo © Ingrid Abery /

The last time Topaz won a race was at the first J Class World Championship, organised with the assistance of the International Maxi Association, held last summer in Newport, Rhode Island. According to helmsman Peter Holmberg, they had won by

simply out sailing their rivals on the opening leg of the coastal race. “We got ahead of Svea and held them back on the first beat. We got ahead of them, but they were constantly coming into us and we blocked them whenever they got close – a nice job by our afterguard doing that. Then with Velsheda it was a little bit of luck – going into the finish, we were neck and neck on corrected time and they ran into a little traffic and they didn’t do a good job getting through it, whereas we did a nice job in the last five minutes to came back to win by a minute.”

Holmberg, who is racing here with Tony Rey and Nacho Postigo (the same line-up that he sails with on Provezza in the 52 Super Series) added that Topaz seems to prefer the smoother water on offer off the Costa Smeralda. Prior to this event they also got in an extra day of training than their competition.

In the divided Mini Maxi class, it was Roberto Lacorte’s Vismara Mills 62 SuperNikka, winner of the Maxi Racer Cruiser class in 2015, who came out on top. “We have found something more upwind – we are very happy about our improved performance there,” said Lacorte. “For me it is important to start with a first because it gives us more confidence for the rest of the week.”

SuperNikka, sailing this week with Lorenzo Bressani on tactics in place of Tommaso Chieffi, had a good race with Peter Dubens’ Spectre. She was ahead until the British boat screamed through on the downwind as the two were approaching Monaci – Spectre this season has improved her downwind performance with bigger kites and a larger bowsprit. However Spectre ran over their spinnaker at the last mark, allowing SuperNikka to prevail.

In the other Mini class it was Riccardo de Michele’s Vallicelli 80 H20 which came out on top ahead of the Swan 65 Shirlaf of Giuseppe Puttini.

Topaz won the J Class competition and the Super Maxi division on day 1 of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup ©Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Topaz won the J Class competition and the Super Maxi division on day 1 of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup ©Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Dieter Schön’s MOMO leads after the first two windward-leewards races of the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship held to the southeast of the start area for the coastal races. The defending champion and race favourite clearly won both races with Dario Ferrari’s Cannonball second in both.

“The boat helps us a lot in this breeze,” said MOMO’s Markus Wieser. “We got good starts and went the way we wanted to go. We were able to stay ahead and minimise our tacks and maneovures. Our whole plan worked out very well. About two minutes after the start we were in the lead in both races.” Aside from an outstanding crew that includes Michele Ivaldi and multiple America’s Cup winner Murray Jones in the afterguard, MOMO is benefitting from having had a new, lighter weight mast fitted earlier this season.

Racing continues tomorrow off Porto Cervo with the Wallys sailing windward-leewards and the remaining classes competing on another coastal course. However the forecast indicates there will be less wind.

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by James Boyd /

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