The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has now come to an end in dramatic style with the completion of the scheduled programme for all classes. The verdicts are now in and this year’s class victors are: Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship: Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 (GBR); Maxi Racing: Sir Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling (MON); Maxi Racing/Cruising division: Danilo Salsi’s DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA); Supermaxi: Filip Balcaen’s Nilaya (GBR); Wally: Claus-Peter Offen’s Y3K (GER).
For the second day running, the crews had to be patient in view of the light conditions, although the delay of one and a half hours pales in comparison to yesterday’s testing four hour waiting game. A 24-nautical mile coastal course that included the rocks of Monaci, a duck into Bomb Alley and a long beat to Mortoriotto was organised for the Maxi and Supermaxi crews. For the Mini Maxis and Wallys two intense windward/leeward races of approximately seven nautical miles were on the agenda.
A number of today’s races went right down to the wire. Winners on day five were: Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship: Rán 2 (GBR) with a 2,1 scoreline; Maxi Racing: Highland Fling (MON); Maxi Racing/Cruising: DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA); Supermaxi: Nilaya (GBR); Wally: J-One (GBR) with a 1,3 scoreline.
It was on the cards. Bar a catastrophic loss of form or retirement, Rán 2’s second successive triumph in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds was in the bag after a convincing start to the week, when she won three of her four bullets. Quite a month for the fully professional crew who only three weeks ago claimed a second straight overall victory at the Rolex Fastnet Race. Rán 2 are in imperious form. Her three main rivals: Alegre (GBR), Shockwave (USA) and Jethou (GBR) all had moments in the sun but never really got close enough.
Zennström’s crew arrived in Porto Cervo with a single objective: 'We came here to defend our championship title and pulled off a very good series, sailing very well often under pressure. We came into today with a comfortable lead so we knew we just had to sail well and not make any stupid mistakes.' The Rán 2 crew enjoyed the challenge posed by this week’s temperamental conditions:
'This venue is fantastic, you always have good wind during the week here in Porto Cervo. It was a little challenging with the Mistral before two days of good wind and yesterday’s fickle conditions. The Race Committee did a really good job organising everything,' closes Zennström. The season doesn’t end here for Rán 2 – a return to offshore racing is scheduled with an appearance at the Rolex Middle Sea Race next month.
The plot in the Maxi Racing division has had one constant theme: speed. Igor Simcic’s 100-ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) is bigger and faster than Sir Irvine Laidlaw’s 82-ft Highland Fling, a Wally-hybrid. The question was: could Esimit Europa 2 win by enough of a distance to see off her opponent on handicap as well? Awaiting the results has been an antagonising experience for both crews over the course of this week. The first three days saw the speed machines separated by mere seconds on corrected time. Today, the plot took a dramatic, final, twist with Esimit Europa 2 leading two bullets to one.
Simcic’s pan-European crew made a fantastic start, gaining a significant advantage on Highland Fling by Monaci, but as the race developed and conditions suited the lighter boat, Esimit Europa 2 saw her elapsed time margin reduced to thirteen minutes. Not enough to see off Highland Fling. Once the math was done, corrected-time victory, today, was not by seconds but by four minutes. Laidlaw was ecstatic:
'Esimit Europa 2 is a serious boat, very well crewed and run and for us to beat them is a great thrill after being nowhere near her last year. Overcoming Esimit is very difficult indeed, she is 20-ft longer and has a canting keel: through great crew work and sail choices we managed it.'
Laidlaw was surprised by the quality of today’s conditions: 'It is really nice when you have a day where you don’t expect to get any wind and a good sail but end up with a lovely one. You don’t get any better than sailing here in Porto Cervo: varied conditions and a perfect backdrop.'
Following yesterday’s dramatic collision between Kora 5 (ITA) and Illusion of the Isles (ITA) during the pre-start, the ultimate drama of the day was once again reserved for the Maxi Racing/Cruising division. Brian Benjamin’s 82-ft Aegir 2 was tied with Danilo Salsi’s Swan 90 DSK Pioneer Investments going into the final act, but held a narrow advantage having won two races to DSK’s one. The ultimate cliffhanger. Winner takes all.
DSK made the better start to today’s coastal race, although Aegir 2 were able eventually to pass and extend her lead en route to Monaci. At Monaci, DSK launched her code zero previously unseen this week, and proceeded to reduce the distance. Worse still for Aegir 2, she then got caught up with the largest yacht in attendance, the 148-ft Saudade (GER), after rounding Secca di Tre Monti. The race could not have been closer, the tension rise higher.
Dockside, post-race, the crews did their calculations but still could not determine whether the prize was theirs. When the results arrived, it transpired that DSK Pioneer Investments had prevailed: by a matter of seconds. As is custom in these situations, Salsi was launched into the harbour by an elated crew.
'Two years ago we lost the same race in real time by one second so it is a nice feeling,' explained DSK’s owner, 'Aegir is a faster boat downwind so we had to try to do our best upwind, and we did all we had to do to win. This crew has done a lot of races together over ten years, all around the world, and we know the boat very well.' A sweet finish to an intense week for the crew whose home base is here in Porto Cervo.
The 112-ft Nilaya (GBR) was one of a number of new entries in the nine-strong Supermaxi class. She had a good week, taking four bullets and never finishing below fourth, blowing the field apart by a massive fourteen points ahead of nearest rivals, Visione (GER) and Hetairos (CAY).
'It was quite an interesting week,' reflects owner Filip Balcaen, at the helm of an established crew, 'during the first half it was very windy and a bit of a challenge. The bigger boats in our fleet sailed more conservatively, and we did pretty well both in the strong conditions earlier this week and then when it became lighter. Success always makes one happy, it is the second time here for us after winning the Swan Cup five years ago.'
Y3K have made history, taking the Wally crown for the third straight year and for the fourth time in seven years. An outstanding achievement for Claus-Peter Offen’s crew who have seen off powerful opponents. After two straight wins going into the final day, it looked plain sailing for the Germans. However, serious spinnaker issues characterised an uncharacteristically difficult day with Y3K having to settled for third and a sixth place over two windward/leeward races as Andrea Recordati’s Indio (ITA) closed in. Her final victory margin was a mere two points.
'It is a good feeling to make it the third time in a row,' explains Offen, 'our victory in 2009 was by a larger distance, last year was a close run thing and this year even closer. Despite our issues today, dropping the spinnaker, we held a certain advantage from the previous days, which was enough. The victory is down to a good boat, crew, experience and once again we had our luck.'
Trophies were awarded this evening at a ceremony held at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS). The winners of four of the classes: Rán 2, Y3K, DSK Pioneer Investments, Nilaya plus the best performing racer/cruiser in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds - Gunter Herz’s All Smoke (GER) - were presented with a Rolex Yacht Master. In addition, the winner of the annual Rolex IMA Championship – Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) received a Rolex Submariner.
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is organised by Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, along with the International Maxi Association (IMA) and title sponsor Rolex.
At least four of the yachts which featured at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup are commencing preparations for the Rolex Middle Sea Race (22-29 October, 2011). For additional details regarding this 606-nautical mile offshore race, click here
Yacht Club Costa Smeralda website