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Strongest ever fleet for this week's Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 4 Sep 11:05 PDT 4-10 September 2022
The Mini Maxi 2 class sets sail in 2021 © IMA / Studio Borlenghi

One of the largest, most competitive and innovative maxi yacht fleets ever assembled will tomorrow start five days of racing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. First held in 1980, this event will, as usual, will run from Monday until Saturday with Thursday a layday/reserve day.

50 yachts have gathered for this annual pinnacle of the maxi racing calendar, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association (IMA). This is the event's second largest fleet ever since 2016's 53.

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is also the penultimate event of the IMA's Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge (MMIC). Defending champion, IMA President Benoît de Froidmont and his Wally 60 Wallyño, currently leads the 2022 MMIC by just one point from Alessandro Del Bono's ILC maxi Capricorno, with Peter Dubens' North Star and Sir Peter Ogden's Jethou close behind.

"I will try and focus on this regatta and there is another inshore after this. We have a good chance of success here - the crew knows the boat very well now," said de Froidmont. As President of the International Maxi Association he added of this year's fleet: "I am extremely impressed by the quality, the number and the level of the competition. We have reached a level we have never seen before."

Wallyño will be racing in the ten boat Mini Maxi 3 + 4 class against Riccardo de Michele's Vallicelli 78 H20, a repeated past class winner here, although beaten by one point last year to Luca Scoppa's Dehler 60 Blue Oyster. Also back this year are Luigi Sala's Vismara Mills 62 Yoru and Aldo Parisotto's Mylius 65FD Oscar3. This class' other half comprises Swans including two original 65s, Anthony Ball's Six Jaguar and Giuseppe Puttini's past class winner here Shirlaf, plus the 651 Lunz am Meer, campaigned by Marietta Strasoldo and the more modern 601s, regular competitor Gerard Logel's @robas and Les Amis of Valter Pizzoli.

From the old to the brand new: Stealing the show this year will be Roberto Lacorte's new FlyingNikka racing alone in Mini Maxi 0. This will be the first event for the world's first fully foiling maxi with AC75-style flip-up T-foils, but the price is a stratosphere IRC TCC of 3.866.

Also new is Pier Luigi Loro Piana's My Song, the first example of Nautor's ClubSwan 80. Loro Piana has been racing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup since the early 1990s. "The event is getting better and better," he says. "Happening at the end of the season is perfect. Rolex does an incredible job and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda is the best place to race out of."

Of his new My Song, he adds: "I feel very good - it is exciting. This boat has more things to adjust and the canting keel and daggerboard are new for me. It is important the boat is competitive against other boats of the same size although it would be fantastic to start a one design class."

Longest here are the Js, whose fleet has doubled in size with Velsheda and Topaz joined by the 'Super-J' Ranger, now with a new American owner, for whom this is his first yacht. Following a substantial refit she raced for the first time at this year's St Barths Bucket and won. Similarly Svea, now campaigned by a trio of Swedes, also won the Superyacht Cup on her first outing with her new team.

Calling tactics on board is round the world race veteran Bouwe Bekking, who previously raced in the J aboard Lionheart and whose last J Class event was winning the IMA-backed World Championship in Newport, RI in 2017. "Js are always a challenge to sail," says Bekking. "On Svea there is a nice mix of pros and guys with normal jobs who are good sailors and enjoying their Swedish heritage." Svea was originally designed by Swede Tore Holm in 1937, but back then was never built. Around 80% of the crew are Swedish. "This has a really nice layout. The Js are all so similar and they are all sailed very well, so you need a good start."

Among the Super Maxis (LH = 30.51+m) is once again the modern classic Spirit 111 AC Geist of Christian Oldendorff, which will be up against the Wally 107 Spirit of Malouen X (ex-Hamilton/Open Season), now belonging to TP52 campaigner Jean-Luc Petithuguenin, plus two Swan 115s: Shamanna, while Juan Ball has exchanged his Swan 90 Nefertiti for Moat 1 (ex-Highland Fling XV).

As in 2021, the competition in the Maxi class (LH: 24.09-30.50m) will be fierce. It is also the biggest class with 13 entries. For the first time the Wallys joined the Maxi class last year and their 100 footers filled the podium: Sir Lindsay Owen Jones' Magic Carpet 3, Claus-Peter Offen's Y3K and David M. Leuschen's Galateia. After winning the first two races, victory had came close for Lord Irvine Laidlaw's Reichel/Pugh 82 Highland Fling XI until her forestay broke. All four return along with the Dutch-owned Farr 100 Leopard 3, Charif Souki's WallyCento Tango and Andrea Recordati's newly acquired Wally 93 Bullitt.

Offen has been competing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup since 2000. Today, he says "it is more professional and the boats, are much faster, but the quality of both the boats and the crew has increased significantly." As to whether he can repeat his second place... "that was amazing given that we have a comparatively old boat. It was a combination of doing a good job and a little bit of luck."

This year they will line up against the pure maxi racers, including Rambler 88, now in the hand of former Lucky Maxi 72 owner Bryon Ehrhart and Wendy Schmidt's ever improving Botin Partners 85 Deep Blue. Some of the best looking yachts here are the Southern Winds, including the 90 All Smoke, Canadian Will Apold's 96 Sorceress, which debuted here in 2017, and Massimiliano Florio's 82 Grande Orazio, the 2018 winner.

As usual, the toughest here will be the six out of class former Maxi 72s, still racing together under IRC in Mini Maxi 1. Favourite is Cannonball, winner of the last two editions but gunning for her is Hap Fauth's Bella Mente now 74ft long. However Cannonball too has stepped up and she is now 75ft, with a deeper keel and also water ballast. Rating-wise Cannonball and Bella Mente are the same, but two points ahead of the 77ft Jethou. American regulars Jim Swartz's Vesper and George Sakellaris' Proteus, which finished second and third respectively last year, have a similar rating with Peter Dubens' North Star lowest of this group.

"The level is getting higher and higher," says Cannonball strategist Michele Ivaldi. "We know that Bella Mente has improved a lot. Cannonball is a brand new boat now and we are learning her again - it is like having a new toy."

Returning is last year's complete Mini Maxi 2 podium: Alessandro Del Bono's Capricorno, Luciano Gandini's Mylius 80 Twin Soul B and Jean-Pierre Barjon, with his newly acquired Botin Partners 65, Spirit of Lorina. They are joined by Carlo A. Puri Negri and his Farr/Felci 70 Atalanta II, winner of last year's Aegean 600 and the two Wally 80s, Rose of Sven Wackerhagen and Jean Philippe Blanpain's Ryokan II, and the Vismara 80 MoMi of Angelomario Moratti and Nicola Minardi de Michetti.

Racing gets under way at 1200 tomorrow with a light forecast, conditions expected to build later in the week potentially to Mistral level.

For more information on the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup click here.

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