September 2, 2011
THE SARDINIAN SHOWCASE
Tuesday marks the start of racing at the eagerly-anticipated 2011 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. A typically extravagant week is in store: the 47-strong multinational fleet present at this year’s regatta is the second largest in the event’s history. These multifarious crews arrive on the back of some starkly contrasting seasons. Having tackled offshore endurance events such as the Giraglia Rolex Cup and the Rolex Fastnet Race, the campaign has been intense and, at times, gruelling for certain crews. For others, the build up to the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has been less strenuous and the sole focus has been to arrive in Porto Cervo in prime condition. One common theme unites all sailors in attendance: the desire to totally immerse themselves in the tantalising courses and scenery that penetrate the Costa Smeralda.
The week in numbers
Racing takes place from 6-10 September and the 47 expected entrants is just shy of last year’s record of 49 yachts. Another impressive gathering for the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), event organiser, in conjunction with the International Maxi Association (IMA). The Mini Maxis (yachts from 18.29-24.08 metres) make up 17 of this year’s fleet and will compete in the second running of the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship. This Championship comprises a maximum of eight races, with a scheduled minimum of four windward/leeward races and two coastal races of no more than 70-nautical miles.
The other Maxi categories are equally well represented, comprising 21 Maxi yachts (those from 24.09-30.5m) and nine Supermaxis (yachts in excess of 30.5m). Included in these figures, is a healthy array of 14 Wally yachts. For these classes the maximum number of races is seven, featuring a selection of coastal and windward/leeward courses.
Worlds in motion
The 72-foot Shockwave (USA) finished third at the inaugural Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds. That was under previous owner Neville Crichton. New owner, George Sakellaris, took possession shortly after and the handover was seamless as Reggie Cole, the boat captain, explains: “No major changes have taken place since last year aside from a change in sail makers and reconfiguring our sail plan somewhat. Many of our crew have participated at the Maxis before (including Sakellaris) and we maintain a core group who have done many events on this boat, including Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, Key West Race Week, the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta and recently the Copa del Rey. We are anticipating a strong field and may the best team win.” At last year’s Rolex-sponsored Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, Shockwave competed against both Rán (GBR) and Jethou (GBR), opponents in this year’s Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds.
Rán arrives in confident mood. Niklas Zennström’s 72-footeris fresh from claiming the overall prize at the Rolex Fastnet Race. No mean feat in itself: only Rán’s triumph marked a first back-to-back success at the event in over fifty years. What is more, as defending Mini Maxi Rolex World Champion, Rán starts off the coming week as the yacht to beat.
In 2010 Rán narrowly ousted Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR). A year on, the Mills 68 remains a highly competitive opponent. Alegre claimed a clean sweep of prizes at May’s Rolex Volcano Race. These two crews are likely to be run close by Sir Peter Ogden’s 60-ft Jethou (GBR), another crew well-versed in the Porto Cervo sailing scene. Long-serving afterguard member, Ian Budgen, explains the crew’s approach to the event: “Preparations have been going well, and as a crew we feel completely ready to give our best. This regatta is the highlight of the racing season, so the earlier events are used to continually improve Jethou's performance.”
It is often said that the Costa Smeralda offers the ‘perfect sailing package’ and Budgen is in agreement: “Porto Cervo is a fantastic place to sail and rated as one of the best in the world, with a mix of wind speeds, hot climate, crystal clear waters and stunning scenery. Unique are the coastal courses which comprise many islands to race around and through, making it very difficult for tacticians and navigators to plan the most efficient route coping with the diversity of the changing wind and rocky shorelines.” Jethou clearly mean business. In a rare turn up for this usually British crew, Brad Butterworth of New Zealand is onboard as tactician.
Only two yachts in attendance are smaller than Jethou, the Italian pair Good Job Guys and OPS5 and the rest of the field has a certain Italian flavour with another six ‘homegrown’ crews in attendance. Additional overseas presence is provided by Allsmoke (GBR), Arobas (FRA), Caol Ila (USA), Vertical Smile (DEN) and Whisper (IRL).
High and mighty
At the more powerful end of the scale, this year’s event boasts two magnificent and gigantic craft: Albert Buell’s 148-ft Saudade (GER) is an arm’s length larger than compatriot Hasso Plattner’s 147-ft Visione. They enjoyed a fascinating tussle last year. Meanwhile, competing for the first time is the F-class, one-design Firefly (NED), a 114-ft Supermaxi designed to perform in both heavy and light winds. She made her on-the-water debut at the recent Superyacht Cup in Palma, but has had little time to apply the lessons learnt, as Mark van Gelderen takes up: “We made some changes and improvements to the boat following the Superyacht Cup. No real training has taken place with the whole crew before our arrival in Porto Cervo, sothe three days leading up to the event will be used for training, crew work and sail testing.”
The Firefly crew is divided between those who will be competing in Sardinia for the first time and more experienced members, well-acquainted with the waters off Porto Cervo. “The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is our first chance to line up with comparable boats and to see what Firefly is capable of,” continues van Gelderen, “we will not be 100%, as we need more sailing hours, but we will have a good idea of Firefly's performance when the event is over. Besides that we will be enjoying the high level of sailing in one of the most beautiful waters of the world.”
Italian eyes will be cast on the brand-new 101-ft Comet Shadow (ITA), another Supermaxi competitor. Shadow, with a hull and deck designed for fast cruising, comprises twin cockpits, one for sail-control handling and the second for guests to relax. And, whilst her rigging is traditional stainless steel rod, her mast is a racier carbon-fibre structure.
The 100-ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) is strong favourite to defend the Maxi crown. As owner Igor Simčič reveals, the yacht’s pan-European team have been studying hard for the event: “The crew have been getting ready for the Maxis by taking their time to discuss tactics and strategy together: the coastal races are all very specific and need proper preparation. We have carefully checked all courses, sea levels and weather specifics for this region. The crew went through all the list of competitors, analysing their strengths and weaknesses.” It is the sort of meticulous preparation that exemplifies Esimit Europa 2’s year of sustained success.
The Giraglia Rolex Cup line honours winners are already training in Porto Cervo. “The crew will be practicing specific manoeuvres and testing technical features that they might be using for the first time at this regatta,” continues Simčič, “a peculiar feature of racing in Porto Cervo is the wind, which is often very strong. In addition, the sea level varies very much and can thus be very tricky and even dangerous – that’s one of the main reasons why manoeuvres need to be very accurate and very fast.”
On The Agenda
Racing commences on Tuesday 6 September and concludes on Saturday 10 September. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, along with the IMA and title sponsor Rolex, will provide a lavish array of first class social events including Saturday's final Prize Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup trophies and Rolex timepieces will be awarded.
How To Follow Event
Further information about the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, including the entry list and live tracking during the event, may be found at www.yccs.com
September 5, 2011
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup
Porto Cervo, Italy
GO WITH THE WIND
The 47 crews from 12 countries and territories present at the 2011 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup are keeping a close eye on the weather forecast ahead of tomorrow’s scheduled start to this eye-catching regatta. The outlook is lively. After a potent and contrasting cocktail of thunderstorms and benign winds was served over the weekend, predictions are for gusts of up to 30-35 knots for tomorrow’s proceedings. Hitting the ground running will be the order of the day for what promises to be a closely-contested and dramatic week of on-the-water action. Crews were busy training this morning, testing sails and honing manoeuvres. With the wind speed increasing after lunch, and to avoid any unwanted hitches, most crews sat out the afternoon. The regatta is scheduled to start at 11:30 CEST with coastal racing for all categories.
Sixteen of the 47 crews will take part in the second Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship, open to yachts from 18.29 - 20.48 metres. Many of these crews have significant miles in their sails after an arduous season’s racing. Some other statistics: eight yachts will compete in the Supermaxi category, those in excess of 30.5m. The largest yacht in attendance is Albert Buell’s Saudade (GER). A mammoth148-ft. It is a privilege that she held in 2010.
Elsewhere 23 Maxi yachts will lock horns in the category of racing dedicated to the 24.09-30.5m racers. The fastest of these is predicted to be Igor Simčič’s Esimit Europa 2 (SLO). Sir Irvine Laidlaw’s 82-ft Wally hybrid Highland Fling (MON) is expected to provide her closest rival. In terms of nationalities, the largest contingent is unsurprisingly from Italy, with 16 of the 47 crews from the peninsula. The 12 British-flagged yachts represent the most significant foreign collection.
Ready to race
Peter Craig is the Principal Race Officer. He and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) Race Committee are braced for an intense week. “As usual it is a terrific fleet broken into four different classes,” enthuses Craig, “the Wally’s are as strong as ever, with 11 boats for a very close competition. Then there are the Mini Maxis going for the Rolex World Championship and there’s no telling how that is going to end up. Plus there will be some excellent racing in the Maxi racer/cruiser and the Supermaxi classes.”
Finding the balance is an important part of the race committee’s mission. “There’s four starts every day, a lot of action and some of the best talent you will find anywhere in the world,” explains Craig, “every day we hope two classes will compete in windward/leewards with multiple races and the other two classes in a coastal race. It is a real challenge for the race management team to get it done and get it done right, making sure the coastal race is taken care of whilst giving real quality windward/leewards.” Admittedly, the role of Principal Race Officer is not always an easy one. “In any sport if the competitors are talking about race officials or referees you are not doing your job well,” continues Craig, “so hopefully you won’t hear my name spoken very much! We are looking to give everyone fair racing and just the amount of racing they want.”
The conditions for the first few days look attractive, a forecast which has brought a smile to those looking for a bit of adventure: “The weather looks challenging and is going to produce big breezes early in the week and then taper off. We may have some upper end breeze on Tuesday and Wednesday, right on the edge inside the strait of Bonifacio, so that will be interesting.”
As crews around the resplendent marina unload equipment, conduct training debriefs and discuss tactics, Craig closes:
What stands out is the talent,
just look at the afterguards
across the board in all four classes.
It is like a who’s who and that raises
the game for everybody.
The best people in the world
are sailing here this week….
“What stands out is the talent, just look at the afterguards across the board in all four classes. It is like a who’s who and that raises the game for everybody. The best people in the world are sailing here this week…”
Who is who
Craig’s eulogy undoubtedly includes Francesco de Angelis and Juan Vila, two men who have ticked almost every box in the sport.
De Angelis is part of the afterguard on the 68-ft Alegre (GBR): “We have had two days of practice just to get familiar again with the place, go through the sail inventory and make sure everything is ready to go. The wind is expected to build for tomorrow, the weather in this part of the world is variable though and we will see how strong it is.”
Alegre has had a busy campaign of offshore racing and the transition to five intense days of competition has to be a considered one: “It is a different game, from long offshores to the windward/leewards,” adds de Angelis, “however, the team is very experienced and you just have to change your frame of mind and practices. Certainly in these races, you have less leisure to perform manoeuvres.”
In terms of competition, Alegre which finished in second in the 2010 Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, is braced for a charged week: “Rán are definitely strong competitors,” closes de Angelis, “we have to be consistent, make no mistakes as we face strong competition. However, we are not just two boats competing, you have to deal with the other fourteen as well.”
As navigator on the 100-ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO), Vila has been focusing on the potential weather forecast and diverse course options: “The first days promise fresh breeze and exciting racing, which with our boat means we have to be careful as we will be reaching fast speeds. We’ve taken some heavy weather jibs onboard and the offshore mainsail, in case we race in strong weather. It is good to have some different configurations.”
Profound knowledge of the courses is not always enough as Vila continues: “Most of us have sailed here many times, which will help, but you can never say that you know all the rocks, which makes it very tricky sometimes especially as so many can stick out.”
To pull out a few other star names in attendance: Jochen Schümann, three-time Olympic Gold medallist, is calling tactics on Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ 94-ft Wally Magic Carpet (GBR), Adrian Stead is part of the afterguard on Niklas Zennström’s Rán (GBR), defending Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds champion, and America’s Cup legend Brad Butterworth is a new addition as tactician on the Mini Maxi Jethou (GBR).
For Peter Lerbrandt, owner/skipper of the 62-ft Vertical Smile (DEN), hitting the speeds of some of his Mini Maxi Rolex World rivals, is not on the agenda: “We are prepared but not expecting to win, we are more a cruiser and here to enjoy ourselves as well. We like the shorter courses after all the offshore racing (Vertical Smile competed at both the Rolex Volcano Race and the Giraglia Rolex Cup) and for me it is the first time sailing here.”
Gianfranco Alberini has served as Secretary General of the International Maxi Association (IMA) since its foundation 30 years ago on the back of the first Maxi regatta in Porto Cervo. He was also former Commodore of event organisers, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS). Perhaps better than anybody he is in the position to judge the outstanding progress made in the Maxi class during that period.
“As in the other yachting classes there has been strong change from the beginning,” explains Alberini, “at the beginning of the 1980s the Maxi fleet was limited in numbers and in dimensions. To have Maxi boats of 100-ft was not even considered at the beginning. The changes in technology and the characteristics of the boats are greater than could have been imagined. The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup represents the top annual event of the calendar as it is the event where we have largest number of Maxis present.”
On The Agenda
Racing commences, tomorrow, Tuesday 6 September and concludes on Saturday 10 September. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, along with the International Maxi Association (IMA) and title sponsor Rolex, will provide a lavish array of first class social events including Saturday's final Prize Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup trophies and Rolex timepieces will be awarded.
September 6, 2011
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup
Porto Cervo, Italy
MENACING MISTRAL: RACING ABANDONED
During yesterday's Skippers' Briefing, Claus-Peter Offen, President of the International Maxi Association (IMA) and owner of the 100-ft Wally Y3K (GER), jested about the possibility of the wind being too strong during the first day of scheduled racing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Rather than a whimsy, it proved to be a sharp prediction. At 09:30 CEST this morning, Principal Race Officer Peter Craig announced the flying of the AP flag. With 20 knots circulating in the marina and a menacing 25-28 knots recorded out on the course, the Race Committee made the wise decision to postpone sailing until midday. Crews waited patiently, and a little anxiously, to discover if the scheduled coastal racing for all classes would take place. The inevitable was put off until 13:30 CEST when the abandonment of today’s racing was confirmed: the anticipated drop in wind, forecast for this afternoon, showed no signs of arriving.
The Race Committee has made the pro-active decision to commence proceedings earlier tomorrow. The strong breeze experienced today is predicted to drop off overnight, but build again in the afternoon. Accordingly, a prompt 10:30 CEST start and coastal courses are on the agenda for all four classes. Hotels across Porto Cervo will be preparing early breakfasts. In the meantime, the crews have the unexpected pleasure of sampling the Costa Smeralda’s many spectacular beaches.
Weathermen’s wind verdict
Mike Broughton, navigator on the 78-ft Mini Maxi Whisper (IRL), is a shrewd meteorologist and had been expecting a brash start to the week. “It is a real shame that we have lost racing on the first day,” reveals Broughton, “we have a Mistral arriving from France which is curling down the mountains in a Venturi effect between Sardinia and Corsica. It keeps on pumping between the two islands, so we’ve got winds in the high twenty, low thirty knots out there. It is on the edge and a little on the wrong side.”
The forecast is equally challenging for tomorrow. “Unfortunately it could be even windier,” admits Broughton, “we’ve got a stronger pressure gradient which means it is looking heavier. There’s a bit of a mix later in the week, strong on Thursday and potentially lighter on Saturday.”
Standing on the dockside, the wind may not have seemed so dramatic. A deceptive notion. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Porto Cervo and on hold,” explains Broughton, “often in the harbour it doesn’t seem so bad because it is sheltered, but if you get a mile or two offshore, you can face quite a big increase in wind, often 30-40 per cent more. It is a really good decision (by the Race Committee) because you don’t want to break anything so early in the competition. It can also be a bit tricky, in these conditions, getting the boats back to moor in the harbour.”
The forecast has also been fixed on the mind of Nacho Postigo, acclaimed Spanish navigator on the Wally 93–ft Open Season (GBR). “The Mistral is a normal ingredient of Porto Cervo, and it is a regular visitor of this regatta,” explains the former America’s Cup sailor, “often you have days when the wind stays between 20-25 and it makes for tricky but very enjoyable racing but days like today when wind conditions are well above 25 knots makes for extreme and dangerous sailing, considering size of the boats. The difference of just three knots can be really big. It is a very good decision to postpone.”
“Tomorrow is still tricky,” warns Postigo, “The Mistral is an unpredictable animal and is still dominating the panorama. Today’s waiting game was difficult, it is important for the crews to keep their attention, concentration and avoid relaxing.”
The imposing Mistral is not the only thing fixed on Postigo’s mind. Other challenges lie ahead once out on the water. “There are so many rocks in this area, that you sometimes have to forget about the wind,” jokes the Spaniard, “as navigator, there are many tasks. We have to manage the power for the electrical systems for the winches which determine the manoeuvres, continually update the crew on what we are doing, as well as stay as close as possible to rocks without being too close.” Like the other 46 navigators in attendance at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Postigo will be hoping to put his forensic planning into action tomorrow.
On The Agenda
Racing is now scheduled to start tomorrow, Wednesday 7 September and concludes on Saturday 10 September. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, along with the International Maxi Association (IMA) and title sponsor Rolex, will provide a lavish array of first class social events including Saturday's final Prize Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup trophies and Rolex timepieces will be awarded.
September 6, 2011
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup
Porto Cervo, Italy
EARLY START, EARLY FINISH
A sharp start was the order of the day in Porto Cervo at the 2011 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. After yesterday’s Mistral-inspired abandonment, this morning’s racing commenced at a prompt 10:30 CEST. With wind speeds predicted to rise dramatically across the day, Principal Race Officer Peter Craig warned: “It is an early start, or no start.” A flying start it was. A short and exciting coastal course of approx. 23.5-nautical miles was organised for all four classes: Mini Maxis, first starters, followed by the Maxis, Wallys and Supermaxis. A decision greatly appreciated by all involved: the 47-strong fleet initially headed north of Porto Cervo round the Monaci outcrop before a ten-nautical mile tight, but downwind leg south past Mortoriotto island, round Soffi, and back up towards the finish off Porto Cervo. Conditions remained on the right side of testing. At the start, the breeze averaged between 23-24 knots, rising to 28 knots as the leaders hit the first windward mark.
The short course ensured a competitive challenge in all categories. Today’s winners included two of last year’s overall victors: Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 (GBR) in the Mini Maxi World Championship and Claus-Peter Offen’s Y3K (GER) in the Wally division. Other celebrating crews were: Highland Fling (MON) in the Racing Maxis; DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA) in the Racing/Cruising Maxi division and Nilaya (GBR) as the top Supermaxi. The fastest yacht on the water was the 100-ft Maxi Esimit Europa 2 (SLO), finishing the course in a rapid 1:45.36. Today’s featured division is the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship.
Racing resumes; Rán 2 prevails
The winning habit is clearly hard to kick. Niklas Zennström’s 72-ft Rán 2 (GBR) is defending champion in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds and has famously claimed a second successive triumph at the Rolex Fastnet Race. Heading into the first race at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, anyone finishing ahead of Rán 2 would have had cause for celebration. Nobody did. Leading almost from the start, Zennström’s crew finished the course four minutes ahead of her nearest rivals - Andy Soriano’s Alegre (GBR). On corrected time it was Sir Peter Ogden’s 60-ft Jethou (GBR) which claimed second place. A terrific effort from one of the smaller Mini Maxis in attendance. With places in the coastal races scored in at a 1.5 multiple, this could prove a significant victory for Rán 2 as the upcoming windward/leewards are graded at one point per place.
Adrian Stead calls the tactics on Rán 2. He had some tough decisions today. “When you are the lead boat on the water, you’re the one that makes the decision first,” he explains, “and it is easier for the people behind to say ‘look that what’s happening, we will match them’. However, we had some good spinnaker changes and made a key jib change when we needed it.”
“It was a tricky race for us,” continues Stead, “but we came out of it well. The Race Committee have had a difficult task looking at the weather forecast. Yesterday was unsailable and they made a good call then, and a brilliant job getting a race in today before conditions became too extreme.”
Jethou has her own expert tactician. Step forward Brad Butterworth. “It is pretty hard for us to beat Rán,” admits the Kiwi who is a keen judge of competitiveness, “but we had a very good race, hitting 23-24 knots at one time.” Jethou made a fine start. “We were on the right hand side by the committee boat,” continues Butterworth, “we struggle to start fast down the line because being a smaller boat we get rolled over pretty quickly, but we started to windward and that worked out well, especially having a nice right hand shift all the way into the layline.” Owner Sir Peter Ogden was equally enthusiastic about the day’s racing: “It was an exciting race, no damage was done and we were right in amongst it. Hats off to the Race Committee for setting this course, we got wet and it was very exhilarating out there.” Jethou enjoys the stronger winds. “When we get light air, Alegre will disappear,” admits Ogden, “and Rán are hard to beat, they are a fully professional crew, we are mainly an amateur one.”
For Alegre, Rán 2’s closest rivals in 2010, third place is a springboard for the coming races. “It was a classic Sardinian day, good to sail a windy race. We did some good things and know what we can work on,” explains tactician Francesco de Angelis, “overall it was a positive race for us.” Alegre will undoubtedly be in the mix in the coming days.
Sail issues meant George Sakellaris’ 72-ft Shockwave (USA) had to settle for fourth place. It was a more positive day for two Italian crews. Riccardo de Michele’s H20 (ITA) will be delighted with a fifth place showing, the first of the Racer/Cruiser Mini Maxis, shortly ahead of Aleph (ITA). Onboard the 61-footer is the charismatic Vasco Vascotto: “It was a great day, everything looks good on our boat, when you are still alive in nearly 30 knots of breeze, you know it is a good race! We were lucky that the wind didn’t increase.” Vascotto’s Twitter feed was updated regularly during the race. Was he able to bark orders and entertain his legion of followers at the same time? The veritable multi-tasker. “It wasn’t me doing the tweeting,” he jokes, “but I have someone doing it, keeping all of our fans updated!”
Alexander Schaerer‘s 67-ft Caol Ila (USA) may not have ambitions to win the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds but she is far from prepared to simply make up the numbers. Brett Ellis, part of the afterguard, explains: “For us it went really well, we managed to hold our position up to the top end of the course before we took off down the coast. Despite not being a full-on performance boat, it is still nice to have some speed. We had no breakages, kept it conservative and came through the day in one piece. We had an interesting tussle with Stig and were probably in front for half of the course, although they snuck around inside us at the bottom and finished a boat’s length ahead of us.” The proverbial race within a race.
Challenging conditions are again forecast for tomorrow. The Mini Maxi fleet is scheduled to take part in windward/leeward racing and that should throw up some new tactical headaches. Elsewhere, it is coastal racing on the agenda, and some interesting rivalries developing. Esimit Europa 2 and Highland Fling have the Maxi Racing division all to themselves. Quite literally. Igor Simcic’s crew were faster on the water today although Sir Irvine Laidlaw’s Wally-hybrid has the corrected time advantage. In the Wally division, Y3K took today’s bullet but cannot rest easy knowing the likes of Magic Carpet 2 (GBR) will sail her close. It is an open field. The same goes for the Supermaxi and Maxi Cruising/Racing division categories. Tomorrow should provide a clearer picture. Weather permitting.
September 8, 2011
Day 3 of the 2011 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup provided a second installment of scenic and scintillating racing for the now 45-strong fleet of Maxi yachts. As the wind abates in Porto Cervo, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) Race Committee has been able to extend its reach. The majority of the fleet – Maxis, Supermaxis and Wallys - were gleefully dispatched on a 36-nautical mile coastal adventure through the glorious Maddalena passage. Bomb Alley, to those well acquainted.
The route comprised a short beat to windward, followed by a fetch to Monaci, where the fleet tacked onto starboard and headed into the channel and the next turning mark at Secca di Tre Monti. This was followed by another tack, a short beat to the island of Spargi, leaving San Stefano to starboard, and then a reach out to the rocks of Barettinelli di Fuori and the downwind leg back to the finish off Porto Cervo. A fruitful experience for photographers and crew alike.
Top of the class were: Y3K (GER), amongst the Wallys, today’s first starters, Aegir 2 (GBR) in the Racing/Cruising Maxi division, Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) in Maxi Racing and Hetairos (CAY) in the Supermaxi class. The Mini Maxi yachts had their own agenda: three demanding windward/leeward courses of 8.8-nautical miles were the order of the day. Niklas Zennström’s 72-ft Rán 2 (GBR), winner of two of today’s three races, is in imperious form and currently lead the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship from Jethou (GBR) and Alegre (GBR). Today’s spotlight is focused firmly on the Wally and Supermaxi (craft in excess of 30.5 metres) classes.
A tale of three spinnakers
On the water the Wally class looks wide open. Come results time the field appears to be shrinking. Y3K (GER) got around the course faster than her opponents and took the bullet for a second race in a row. She now leads Magic Carpet 2 (GBR) by three points, is in command and the master of her own destiny. Even the sea gods appear on her side. Thomas Jungblut, tactician, explains: “In the end it finished well for us. However, we made the wrong choice with our jib (on the first beat) - it was too small so we ended up at the top mark as the third boat and minute and a half behind Indio and Magic Carpet 2. At the top of the course, they both had problems with their spinnakers. We hoisted our kite and blew away both boats.”
Y3K looks to be closing in on a third straight Wally class win at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Jungblut remains cautious: “Making it a hat-trick was our goal before the event although we still have four races ahead and some tough windward/leewards. The time is now for us as a new generation of Wallys are coming through.” Claus-Peter Offen is Y3K’s owner and skipper. Clearly he has had a good two days: “Both have been brilliant races, as good as you can get in Sardinia. We weren’t sure of wind conditions at the start so we played it safe with our number three jib. We benefitted later in the race when the wind picked up and our two opponents had spinnaker problems.”
Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ 94-ft Magic Carpet 2 (GBR) is second overall and Owen Jones is not in the mood to concede the title he has won twice previously. “I don’t think it has ever been this close before,” he observes, “the first three or four boats are very close in absolute terms and all of them can win on handicap. It is a highly competitive fleet. At the beginning people thought the Wally class was gentlemen’s racing but it has become much more professional and close.” As well as Magic Carpet 2, outsiders Dark Shadow (MON), owned by André Auberton, and Philippe Ligier’s Ryokan 2 (FRA) are poised in the standings to capitalise on any slip by the leaders.
Owen-Jones’ review of proceedings was concise: “We had a very good first upwind like yesterday and made some good choices on wind shifts. The front boats ended up rounding the Monaci literally all together, and stayed like that all the way up to the top, and we all then had spinnaker issues. We were on bare poles for a couple of minutes.” It was here that Y3K passed.
Driving a boat this size through the intricate Maddalena channel means Owen-Jones is unable to admire the scenery. The thrill is different. “I love mechanical sports, I used to race cars for many years, the thrill is using nature, which is the wind, through mechanical means with a lot of technical calculations and feeling this wonderful machine reacting to all the inputs and trying to optimise it - a great feeling of you plus the machine.”
“We are not the favourites,” admits Magic Carpet 2’s talismanic tactician Jochen Schümann, “Yesterday we had the opportunity to beat the fleet but unfortunately we made one tactical mistake. It is a big ask for us to win in the most important event of the year: after all, Y3K are the defending champions and Indio have won almost every race this year. Today’s result wasn’t brilliant, after leading at the top mark again, but as a smaller boat we struggled to hold them back and Y3K passed. They were a bit more polished, made less mistakes and deserved victory.” Still a gentlemen’s club then.
Punching their weight
The nine Supermaxis started third behind the Wallys and the Maxis at the beginning of today’s racing. In this class size counts. The two largest specimens were fastest round: Hasso Plattner’s 147-ft Visione (GER) ahead of Albert Buell’s marginally larger Saudade (GER). However, on handicap it was the 125-ft Hetairos (CAY) which enjoyed bragging rights.
Watching from the water Supermaxi racing looks exhilarating and easy. It is no less exciting onboard, but easy? “It is exciting to be on the helm of such a big yacht. Three hours is a long time, I would say four hours is maximum and then you have to change the helm to somebody else,” explains Buell. “The steering is a little heavier than on smaller boats, the boat reacts slower than a smaller one but it moves like a dinghy with a little time lag. Naturally I am calm, I’m not a very nervous person, but my philosophy is to calm down before we go racing. It’s like golf. You need to concentrate on the ball and then hit it. That is the same in sailing.”
Karol Jablonski is Saudade’s tactician. His challenge is to guide this heavyweight round the course. “They were tough conditions for our boat, with a wind strength of about 20-25 knots and quite a long beat through the straits,” he explains, “Saudade is a great boat, but in this strong breeze we simply carry too much sail area and not enough stability so we have to make compromises. We sailed a good race but there were not many options to do anything better. We had a great start and first beat, but later on when it was only speed I think we were missing just a bit.”
The loads are huge on Saudade and pushing her hard is tough on the crew. Do not be fooled by her gentile and elegant exterior. Jablonski continues: “It is not a risky game, but it is a tense one and after this kind of race like this I am totally exhausted; my head is in ice, it is very busy trying to control everything, to minimise mistakes and risk. On this type of boat the preparation time is quite big, so you have to anticipate and explain exactly what you want to do.”
Saudade enjoys the perfect owner-tactician relationship. Buell closes: “I trust Karol. What he says is like a law and everyone understands that we have to do what he says because he is the tactician. That is the reason why we do good starts, why we normally go through all the other boats safe and fast.”
Onboard Nilaya (GBR), Bouwe Bekking calls tactics. Nilaya are a Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup debutant. Not that you would have guessed. She is leading the Supermaxi division after two fine days. Bekking, though, is no novice to the class: “Handling these big boats is difficult,” explains the Dutchman, “loads are high, we have a big team of 26 people on this boat. It takes a bit of management as the spinnakers are nearly 1,000 square metres and they have to go up and down. Racing is certainly good, it is a huge challenge: you can make huge gains if you hoist and drop better than everybody else and sometimes you have to make drops two minutes in front of a mark. It is a big thrill for me as a sailor.”
“Today was a good day, everything went really well,” continues Bekking, “The Race Committee did a relatively easy course, it was a short beat with a lot of reaching. I love it over here, it is one of the best spots in Europe and so far it has not disappointed me.”
The newest Supermaxi on the scene is the 114-ft Firefly (NED). For the second day running, Firefly finished seventh. She lacks the power of Saudade and experience onboard Nilaya. It is an interesting learning curve as skipper Mark van Gelderen explains: “It was bit easier than yesterday which was breezy. The crew are still new to the boat. Tomorrow they expect less breeze which will be to our advantage. We are learning a lot about boat handling and how to manoeuvre her round the course in 20 knots. It is important everyone knows what the next manoeuvre is and to keep good communication, it is a long way from the front to the back of the boat.” The price to pay when sailing these ocean greyhounds.
A 10:30 CEST start it scheduled for tomorrow. The Mini Maxis and Wallys will engage in windward/leewards, the others classes are coastal racing.