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J Class duo Velsheda and Topaz return to Porto Cervo for Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup 2021

by Nicola Dawson 6 Sep 2021 02:34 PDT 6-11 September 2021
J Class yachts Velsheda and Topaz © J Class / Studio Borlenghi

Crews of the J Class duo Velsheda and Topaz are relishing their return to racing as they line up at the Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup which starts today, Monday 6 September, in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.

The teams have not squared up against each other since Antigua in 2019 and both report that they are in good shape, and looking forward to what promises to be a great week of racing amidst the 44 boat fleet which has mustered for the very popular annual regatta, not least because the wind forecast for the first few days of 10-14kts is ideal for both teams to gradually get back up to race sharpness.

Both have new faces aboard because of continuing travel restrictions. On Velsheda the accent this week is more English that the usual Kiwi as navigator this week will be Jules Salter working with tactician Mike Toppa and strategist Andy Beadsworth. And just as Velsheda's long time talisman Tom Dodson is grounded at home, so Topaz's usual tactician Ross MacDonald cannot be there and so Francesco d'Angelis is sailing as tactician this week in support of helmsman Peter Holmberg.

Barney Henshaw-Depledge, Captain of Velsheda, enthuses: "We have had some good preparation and are gearing up for a good week with a good forecast which is ideal for us stepping back into this with some new faces on board. It will take us a little time, slowing everything down and making sure we remain ordered and calm in our manoeuvres. Our objective this week is to get the boat round the track nicely, to have no major incidents and bed in the new equipment we have, and get back into race mode."

Velsheda has upgraded brushless motors for their hydraulic systems, a stronger more reliable package, according to the Captain.

"We are just looking to get everyone into sync. And this for us is the best regatta of the season, it has the best scenery, potentially the best wind and weather. And we are rating fairly close with Topaz. In the light they give us a little time, in the medium we are about even and in the breeze, we give them a little (under ORC). We are just taking it bit by bit, blowing the cobwebs away gently in conditions which we think will be ideal."

Topaz's Holmberg is on great form, itching to be back racing: "After the little rebuild the boat is back in perfect shape and we have a core crew that now have been together for four or five years. We did a sail testing and systems testing week in Palma and then have had four days of good training here. It is good to have Francesco here with us, we are old friends and rivals from match racing and the America's Cup. He knows these boats well and was he first person I called when Ross could not be here. We have a good relationship and the experience on these boats really counts. We have made a few mods, we now have an articulating boom and bigger, more powerful runner winches."

And while Holmberg is looking forward to being back racing the J Class yachts, most of all he is anticipating a return to racing under the J Class own rule sometime in the near future.

"For us there is a little hardship to race under ORC against Velsheda and we kind of have to punch above our weight to beat them which is fine, that is how ORC rates these boats. But I am anxious to be back racing under our own J Class Handicap rule which we have written just for the J Class and it is sitting on the shelf and seems to work really well. So, we are looking forwards to getting back to that. Meantime I like the look of the conditions this week, 10-12kts will be just fine. There is, for sure, a bit of rust and we need to get back into it gradually. But we are lucky, very, very lucky to be here racing these magnificent boats."

The Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup will be raced from the 6-11 September.

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