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ORC excellence at Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

by Offshore Racing Congress 12 Sep 10:41 PDT
SHAMANNA, winner of the Super Maxi Class and winner of the Paolo Massarini Trophy © Carlo Borlenghi / Rolex

With a record turnout of 50 entries, this year's Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup showcased the very best in modern technology and the sailing talent needed to harness it to the highest levels of competitiveness in the sport. The regatta featured a week of spectacular sailing at one of the world's finest venues at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.

Yachts competing in this event last week featured designs from the 1930's to those that represent the very latest in cutting edge technology, ranging in size from 18 to 43.5 meters in length. All have passionate owners and elite crews bristling with the talent and experience needed to push these magnificent vessels around a variety of inshore and coastal race courses.

It is in this context that the use of the ORC Superyacht rating system has met the challenge of fairly rating a broad variety of designs in the Super Maxi class, won by the Swan 115 SHAMANNA on scores of 1-1-2-1. Boat captain Christopher Brand said "We're delighted with the result, the boat goes brilliantly and the crew was perfect." The team also won the Paolo Massarini Trophy (shown above), a perpetual award given to the team with the best performance in the Super Maxi Class.

Yet unrevealed in these impressive scores was how close the racing was in corrected time: three of four races were won by margins of only 1-2 minutes after completing courses from 20-35 miles in length. This is made possible by using ORCsy's scoring method that tailors ratings to the wind speed range for each race. In this way the boat's rated performance relative to her competitors is recognized, creating a more fair playing field as race conditions change.

Guillermo Parada, an ex-Olympian and tactician on Juan Ball's rival Swan 115 MOAT 1, said "Every boat has five different ratings and I think overall it works pretty well. Sometimes it's challenging when the conditions are near the limits of the ranges, but overall in a week of sailing I think it's fair." MOAT 1 delivered SHAMANNA her only defeat in Race 3 by a margin of 1:58 on a 20.3 mile course scored for the light to moderate conditions of that race.

Another accomplishment by the ORC system was to rate the newest and most futuristic boat in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup fleet: Roberto Lacorte's Mills 60 FLYINGNIKKA (shown above and below). This is currently the world's only offshore-capable fully-foiling racing yacht, one where the technical team at ORC working with designer Mark Mills had to understand the complex physics involved with predicting the performance of this remarkable vessel in order to issue her an ORC rating certificate so she could compete in this and other racing events.

The approach was to divide the boat's predicted speeds into three regimes: a non-foiling displacement mode in light air, a semi-foiling more where the hull is being lifted by the foils but not completely free of the water surface, and a completely flying mode.

This can be seen in the boat's polar performance plot (right): in light air (6-8 knots) the curves are just out-pacing the true wind speed but are mostly circular in shape, whereas starting at 12-14 knots the curves start to bulge outwards to much high speeds as the boat lifts free into its full-foiling mode.

"Our Superyacht rule has been tested and developed over several years now," said ORC Chairman Bruno Finzi, "and the owners, sailors and race organizers appreciate the strong technical support we give to this system and the close results it generates.

"Yet I'm most proud of our staff in working hard to scientifically model the performance of a revolutionary yacht like FLYINGNIKKA, because this enables this team to have an ORC rating to compete in the world's most important offshore races for the elapsed time race records they seek."

"Working with the ORC team has been productive," Mark Mills said. "The numbers look broadly similar, which is interesting to me because I would have expected the ratings to have more handicap penalties built in."

And while the team raced unopposed in their own class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Finzi says the team were pleased the ORC VPP predictions were close to their observed performance on the race courses. This is important to ensure fair competition when FLYINGNIKKA competes in future races against other offshore yachts.

Summary of top-three cumulative scores in the Super Maxi Class:

1 SHAMANNA (GBR) Swan 115....1 - 1 - 2 - 1, 5pts
2 GEIST (POR) Spirit 111 AC........4 - 2 - 3 - 2, 11pts
3 MOAT 1 (GBR) Swan 115..........3 - 3 - 1 - 6, 13pts

More information and complete results can be found on the event website.

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