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Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup Day 4: Winning with a day to spare

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 9 Sep 2022 13:27 PDT 4-10 September 2022

Thursday's layday at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was one of sorrow, especially for the Anglo-Saxon competitors.

As a mark of respect for HM Queen Elizabeth II, today Peter Dubens' North Star and Sir Peter Ogden's Jethou, raced for precisely 96 seconds before they dropped sails. Their crews stood to attention, heads bowed, for a minute of silence before returning to port.

Otherwise racing continued in spectacular style for the fleet of 46 yachts competing in this, the pinnacle event of the International Maxi Association calendar, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. With the westerly forecast to build into the mid-20s, the race committee chose to start an hour earlier at 1100. All classes sailed relatively short coastal courses that nosed briefly into 'Bomb Alley' before heading south to round the islands of Mortorio and Soffi before returning to a finish line close to Porto Cervo.

While the leaderboard remains tight in some classes, in four of the seven, the winner has been decided with a day to spare.

In the Super Maxi class there has been a war of attrition with Jean-Luc Petithuguenin's Wally 107 Spirit of Malouen X retiring with technical problems on Tuesday. Vittorio Moretti's Maxi Dolphin 118 Viriella didn't start today and Moat 1 later retired with outhaul issues while Geist completed the course, sailing bare headed for much of it. Thus, with a 1-1-2-1 near perfect scoreline, the Swan 115 Shamanna has comfortably claimed Super Maxi class victory from Geist, a fine result from the Swedish pro-am team.

The victory today of Jim Swartz's Vesper in Mini Maxi 1 was more surprising given the elite grade competition among the now out-of-class Maxi 72s. This has happened once before when Hap Fauth's Bella Mente won the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship in 2016. The peppermint-coloured Vesper scored a third bullet in today's breezy race securing her overall victory from George Sakellaris' sistership Proteus (ex Rán 5) with Bella Mente third.

While Vesper won Les Voiles de St Barth-Richard Mille with an almost perfect scoreline, competition at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is typically more heated. "I did not imagine this at all," admitted a delighted Swartz. "Coming into the regatta we were worried about Bella Mente and Cannonball with all their modifications, but we kept it simple and clean and the boys did an incredible job. Today Gavin [Brady, tactician] got a super start and we had a great tacking match going up Bomb Alley - it was just awesome with lots of shifts, lot of strategy. Vesper likes breezy conditions and so do I."

The pro sailing community was in shock this week when on Tuesday, eight time America's Cup competitor and four time winner, legendary Kiwi main sheet trimmer Warwick Fleury, had to be rushed to hospital after suffering an aortic aneurism. Fleury underwent major surgery on Wednesday and is currently recovering, albeit still in intensive care. He had been racing on defending Mini Maxi 1 champion Dario Ferrari's Cannonball which did not race on Wednesday out of respect for Fleury and his family at a very delicate moment as he was undergoing surgery.

Today Cannonball bounced back fighting, to score the best result of their week with a second place. According to strategist Michele Ivaldi they made up most ground on the leg south to Mortorio. "When we had the long starboard reach with the A4, that is when our extra length and the water ballast really kicked in and we overtook both Vesper and Bella Mente."

In Mini Maxi 3-4, past winner here, Riccardo de Michele's H20, is the only class leader that has retained a perfect scoreline. However the silver Vallicelli 78 has left a tight fight for the other podium positions between Aldo Parisotto's Mylius 65 FD Oscar 3, Luca Scoppa's Dehler 60 Blue Oyster and Giuseppe Puttini's Swan 65 ketch Shirlaf which finished second today. These three are separated by just four points.

Present leader of the Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge, IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wally 60 Wallyño currently lies in sixth. "It was a good day - we are happy," he said. "We have been prudent and been sailing safe and haven't broken anything. Today the wind was very good, not too wavy, so it was great fun. We have a younger team, which made it more complicated, but we have progressed very well."

While Roberto Lacorte's FlyingNikka may be the fastest yacht competing here, certainly the most breath-taking are the four J Class yachts. The Swedish J Svea won again today. Finishing second to Velsheda yesterday, she has posted an otherwise perfect scoreline and going into the final day tomorrow is on an unassailable six points to second place Ranger's 13.

Of their day Svea's tactician Bouwe Bekking commented: "We had a really good start then we could hold Velsheda - they definitely go faster. Then we had a little righty and we held them out past the lay line. Ranger had a very good race but they lost out short tacking with the other boats. We did the right thing from Monaci - we just sailed the course as and the other guys sailed high."

Today for the first time all of Svea's trio of Swedish owners - Niklas Zennström, Filip Engelbert and Hjalmar Winbladh - were on board.

Meanwhile Lord Irvine Laidlaw is keeping his fingers crossed that his team make no unforced errors on the final day tomorrow. His Reichel-Pugh 82 Highland Fling XI posted a fourth today leaving them seven points clear of Galateia with the Wally 93 Bullitt a further four points adrift in third but with Grande Orazio, My Song, and Y3K all capable of reaching the podium too.

Today it was the turn of Pier Luigi Loro Piana's ClubSwan 80 My Song to take their first ever race win. "I am happy," said Loro Piana. "We needed some encouragement by seeing the potential of the boat and to learn during these early days. Today was very nice with a lot of wind and everything went well. It felt very sensitive, very smooth and soft. Sometimes when we were at 19-20 knots reaching I could feel not too much heel and the boat was floating like a motor boat. There is a lot to learn, but already the fundamentals are there."

Racing on board has been North Sails President Ken Read: "I am very impressed. Today we let the boat do its thing and didn't get in the way! She likes the breeze off the wind, no question. The crew did a great job and PG is a really good owner-driver. She's is a Juan K design with a canting keel so hauls the mail on a reach, but is also an attempt to be far more of an all-rounder [than a VO70]."

The tightest competition remains in Mini Maxi 2 where Alessandro Del Bono's Capricorno leads Luciano Gandini's Mylius 80 FD Twin Soul B by just one point with Sven Wackerhagen's Wally 80 Rose three points behind, tied in turn with today's winner Jean-Pierre Barjon's Spirit of Lorina.

Of their performance today Barjon was delighted: "It is a great day for us - our first victory with this boat. We have been waiting for this for a long time because it is our fourth regatta this season. We are very happy to sail in some stronger wind conditions. It was a very good sensation and gives us confidence for the other events."

Strong breeze is again forecast for the final day of racing tomorrow and so the race committee has brought the first start time ahead by two hours to 1000.

Full results available here and J Class results available here.

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