Racing began today at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship in Porto Cervo. This annual event is jointly organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the International Maxi Association, the body sanctioned by World Sailing to represent the Maxi classes.
It was a day of surprises for the seven classes competing. Firstly, there were the conditions: despite an 8 knot forecast, the course down the length of ‘Bomb Alley’ to the island of Spargi and back, eventually was seeing gusts of 15+ knots, albeit patchy.
Most delighted by his team’s performance was winner of the Wally Class, Toni Cacace, owner of the Wally 94 Magic Blue. She was first Wally today despite being the sole boat in the 11-strong class not to have competed at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup before, under her present ownership. The building breeze today favoured smaller boats while the start was very stressful with these glamorous sailing giants all stacked up at the committee boat.
“This is very encouraging for us,” said Cacace. The boat knows the course well, having previously been Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet², winner in 2006 and 2012. Here her crew includes Wally President Luca Bassani and America’s Cup veterans such as Flavio Favini.
Cacace continued: “We suffer when it is very light, but today the average was 12 knots, even if it increased later. The start was tense, but we went upwind well. When you don’t mistakes, even a 14-year-old boat can win.”
While the smaller Wally 77 Lyra and Wally 80 Nahita filled the podium on IRC corrected time, among the big Wallys, the Wallycento Galateia won. “The plan was to be in the top third of the line, but I made a hash of it,” admitted tactician Kelvin Harrap. “We had an avenue to get out to the right where we picked up a nice righty. We crossed ahead at the top and that set us up for the whole race.” Galateia is currently fifth.
In the Maxi 72s, defending Rolex World Champion Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente won today, despite the team of the International Maxi Association Vice President having had a disappointing season. “We were last in the last two regattas so we’ve made some changes below the water,” said Fauth. This involved enlarging the keel fin.
George Sakelleris’ Proteus was ahead at the top mark, but Bella Mente’s crew pulled off a better set to lead from there. “The long windward leg was very tactical, but we protected well and coming back downwind, Proteus was very fast downwind. It was a very close boat race,” said Fauth. “The crew executed very well and tactically Terry did a terrific job.”
Tactician Terry Hutchinson was pleased: “We did a really nice job on the beat out around Spargi. We were always touching lighter air first and Proteus did a nice job of keeping it close and compressing. It was a great boat handling day. The fin modifications were most encouraging.”
Elsewhere Lord Irvine Laidlaw's Reichel Pugh 82 Highland Fling 11 won the Maxi class from the Juan Ball's Swan 90 Nefertiti.
Filip Balcaen's (BEL) Nilaya leads Salvatore Trifiro's Ribelle.
In the Super Maxis, International Maxi Association member Filip Balcaen came ashore assuming his Baltic 112 Nilaya had scored a deep result. In fact, she had won ahead of Salvatore Trifiro's new 32.6m long Malcolm McKeon design, Ribelle. Balcaen explained: “We had a fantastic race. We made a good start and didn’t make many mistakes. Down to Spargi we sailed nicely and kept our speed all the time. We struggled a little downwind not having the right sail but some good tactics from our tactician, we got round many smaller boats without being bothered by their bad air. But towards the end we got stuck beneath a smaller boat and we lost a lot there, which is why I am surprised we won.”
Nilaya is no stranger to Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup victory having won three times before. Taking time off Volvo Ocean Race duties, tactican Bouwe Bekking has sailed with Balcaen since 2003. As to how he found shoehorning one of the biggest boats at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup down rock-strewn Bomb Alley – Balcaen said with a smile “No comment!”
In the Mini Maxi Racing class, Sir Peter Ogden's Vrolijk 72 Jethou was the clear winner ahead of American Bryon Ehrhart's Reichel Pugh 63, Lucky, recent winner of the Palermo-Montecarlo Race.
Mini Maxi RC1 saw Gérard Logel's @Robas finish just ahead of favourite Roberto Lacorte's 2015 winner SuperNikka, but this was not as close as in Mini Maxi RC2, where Giuseppe Puttini's Swan 65 Shirlaf, one of the oldest boats competing here, won by just 48 seconds from Riccardo de Michele's H20.
For Gérard Logel, today’s result was a surprise as this is the first occasion he has sailed his Swan 601 this year. But he and his crew have been practising aboard their TP52. He believes that his yacht prefers the light conditions. “Even lighter conditions would have been better! Today the wind was a bit shifty between the islands but that was the game. We are having a tough fight with the other Swans - having three boats on the same rating is fantastic.”
Racing continues tomorrow with a first start at 1130. The Maxi 72s and Wallys will sail windward-leewards and the other classes coastal courses.
Racing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship takes places from 4th until 9th September with a layday scheduled for Thursday 7th September.
The International Maxi Association will be hosting its annual dinner at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda on Wednesday, 6th September, with the IMA Annual General Meeting taking place on Thursday 7th September.