At least 27 maxi yachts will take to the Bay of Naples and its surrounding waters over 10-18 May for Rolex Capri Sailing Week.
Maxi yachts this year representing such a significant percentage of the 150 boat fleet is partly due to the efforts of the International Maxi Yacht Association working in collaboration with Rolex Capri Sailing Week’s triumvirate of organisers the Circolo del Remo and Vela Italia, the Yacht Club Capri and the Yacht Club Italiano.
Of course the Italian island with its dramatic precipices, sea level caves and azure waters remains as strongly attractive a holiday destination today as it was to Roman Emperors. Out on the Bay of Naples, Capri acts as a backdrop to the racing to the south; the Sorrento Peninsula and in the distance Mount Vesuvius to the east.
On board Márton Józsa’s Wild Joe, recently fitted with a DSS foil – Rolex Capri Sailing Week – photo © Joka Gemesi / Opel Fifty-Fifty
One of both Capri and the regatta’s biggest fans is International Maxi Association board member Sir Peter Ogden, who will be returning with his all-black Maxi Jethou. “Capri is very attractive, in fact it is my favourite place,” he says. “Weather-wise, you can get very light winds or heavy winds. Capri is one of the five or so events we do every year. If you had to choose the number one, then equal top would be Capri or St Tropez.”
Rolex Capri Sailing Week sets sail on Friday 10 May with its famous prologue offshore race, the Regata dei Tre Golfi. Approximately 150 miles long, this starts from Naples and crosses the gulfs of Naples, Salerno and Gaeta. It then doubles back south, to the Li Galli islands turning mark off the Sorrento Peninsula before returning to finish line off Capri’s Marina Grande. The unique aspect of Regata dei Tre Golfi is its midnight start off Naples’ Castel dell’Ovo, following a traditional dinner at the CRV Italia’s clubhouse in Santa Lucia Marina.
First held in 1954, the Regata dei Tre Golfi is the second oldest event in the Italian sailing calendar after Rolex Giraglia and celebrates its 65th edition in 2019. It also is the second of five events in the International Maxi Association’s Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge, that started with last October’s Rolex Middle Sea Race and will conclude with August’s Palermo-Montecarlo.
While Alex Schaerer’s Maxi 72 Caol Ila R is due to return to defend her Regata dei Tre Golfi title, leading on the water this year will be American Jim Swartz’ maxZ86 Vesper. Swartz has a long history in maxi boats first with his Swan 60 and then an STP65, both named Moneypenny. He has since campaigned a TP52 for many years before returning to maxis last year, chartering Mike Slade’s Leopard for the Rolex Giraglia. This season he is campaigning Vesper, the former Morning Glory, originally built for Hasso Plattner.
“Capri who doesn’t want to go to Capri?” says Swartz, who last campaigned his TP52 there in 2014. “We loved Capri. I enjoy going to nice spots and Capri is certainly one. We had a good time, had good results and the boys enjoyed it it was great.”
Vesper is entered in both the Regata dei Tre Golfi and the subsequent inshore and coastal racing at Rolex Capri Sailing Week and Swartz says he is excited but also apprehensive about the former event as it will be his first outing on the boat.
As to his 2019 campaign, which also includes the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in September, Swartz says: “The maxZ86 is such a beautiful boat and well built. After a good long run with the TP52, I wanted something that was bigger. We looked around and finally ended up on this. We are going to try this for the season and see how we get on. It gets me and the boys back out on the water again – that is a good part of the whole drill.”
Márton Józsa’s Wild Joe crew this year includes Kiwi round the world race legend Stu Bannatyne – photo © Joka Gemesi / Opel Fifty-Fifty
Also competing will be Márton Józsa’s Reichel Pugh 66 Wild Joe, sailing one of her first regattas since being recently fitted with a Dynamic Stability Systems lateral foil to increase her righting moment and performance.
“The Tre Golfi is a unique event and very much part of our preparation for the IMA offshore circuit 2019,” says Józsa. “The lure of the Rolex Capri Sailing Week, although not part of the offshore circuit, gives us an excellent opportunity to hone our boat handling and continue to learn how to get the best out of Wild Joe. Having fitted DSS to the yacht last year we have undergone significant development of our sail inventory to best get the maximum benefit of this new technology. The performance increase offshore has been very impressive and we are still learning how to get the most from it. Both events are ideal for the Wild Joe team to develop our performance in stunning venues.”
12 maxis are currently entered in the Regata dei Tre Golfi, but their number will increase to 27 for the subsequent inshore and coastal races (including a much anticipated race around Capri) at Rolex Capri Sailing Week, over 15-18 May. This partly due to the additional entries from Mylius Yachts, competing for their annual Mylius Cup.
The line-up includes a particularly strong fleet of 60 footers, notably International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont’s Wally 60 Wallyño, Peter Dubens’ Frers 60 Spectre, the all-conquering Mills Vismara 62 Supernikka of Roberto Lacorte, plus a trio of Swan 65s including Marietta Strasoldo’s Lunz Am Meer. Then there are larger boats including the Baltic 78 Lupa of the Sea, multiple Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup class winner Riccardo de Michele’s Vallicelli 80 H2O and the Spanish Swan 80 Plis Play.
Jim Swartz’s Vesper approaches some of Capri’s extraordinary rock formations – Rolex Capri Sailing Week – photo © Max Ranchi / www.maxranchi.com
For the first time in 2019, Rolex Capri Sailing Week’s inshore and coastal races will form part of the International Maxi Association’s new Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge. This new championship also includes Rolex Giraglia inshores, Copa del Rey MAPFRE, Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and finally Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.
Rolex Capri Sailing Week has a busy social itinerary with the hot ticket being to the International Maxi Association’s Tuesday evening members’ cocktail party held in the magnificent Hotel Caesar Augustus, the Rolex Owners’ dinner at Quisisana Hotel on the Thursday and the event’s conclusion at the prizegiving held in Capri’s famous Piazzetta late afternoon on Saturday.
Marine Grande and the magnificent island of Capri – photo © Carlo Borlengi / Studio Borlenghi
Rolex Capri Sailing Week follows immediately on from the Capri Classica, a brand new event exclusively for classic schooners set up by the fledgling International Schooner Association, in conjunction with the International Maxi Association. Since this was announced last month, its dates have been moved forward by one day with racing still taking place out of Capri’s Marina Grande but now over 8-11th May.
Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General of the International Maxi Association concluded: “We are pleased and honoured to have been involved once again in the organisation of Rolex Capri Sailing Week and in setting up Capri Classica. Maxi owners love Capri and this regatta in May is now an essential date in their diary.”
by James Boyd