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IMA Maxi European Championship in Naples - Day 1

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 15 May 2023 13:52 PDT

The Bay of Naples lived up to its reputation as one of yacht racing's trickiest venues on the first of four days of inshore racing for the IMA Maxi European Championship.

With the northwesterly wind starting light to moderate, the 21 maxis were sent off on a 22 mile coastal course. This began with a long upwind leg deep into the bay towards Mount Vesuvius, followed by a downwind to a leeward mark off Punta Campanella at the end of the Sorrento Peninsula, then a reach across to a mark off Capri before returning to the finish line off Sorrento.

The sole consistent of the day was the rain, with cells passing through that caused gusts, lulls and significant wind shifts. The conditions, including the wind disappearing on the downwind between Sorrento and Punta Campanella, ultimately benefitted the smaller boats with the lowest rated, Guiseppe Putini's Swan 65 Shirlaf, ultimately winning by 18 minutes under IRC corrected time.

Held out of Sorrento, one of the Campania region's most famed towns, the IMA Maxi European Championship is organised by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia (CRVI) in conjunction with the International Maxi Association, the body officially tasked by World Sailing to administer and develop maxi yacht racing internationally. It is supported by Rolex as Official Timepiece and Loro Piana.

Jim Swartz' Vesper got off to the best start, even among the most competitive sub-group here - the former Maxi 72s - but it was Dario Ferrari's Cannonball that edged ahead on the water to reach the top mark first, followed by Vesper, George Sakellaris' Proteus and the 90ft Shockwave 3 Prosecco DOC. The order on the water underwent a reshuffle during the lengthy shutdown towards the end of the run. Here Shockwave 3 Prosecco DOC and Cannonball managed to nose offshore and were able to steal a march on their direct competitors. However their advantage evaporated as the wind once again dropped for them approaching the finish line.

Cannonball's tactician Ed Baird explained: "We finished with two knots of boat speed and two minutes later everyone behind was going 8-10 knots. The wind angle changed enough that the boats that were really far back were able to fetch in to the finish. But that's how this works."

As to the conditions generally today, the America's Cup-winning helmsman added: "It was challenging. It's hard to decide when you see a dark area on the water if it is more breeze or a big rain dump, especially when it gets lighter. Whenever we got rain there would be a little more wind and on the back side [of the cell] there would be less and each time there would be a 30-40 degrees shift."

Cannonball had managed to overtake Shockwave 3 Prosecco DOC on the final leg. As the latter's tactician Matteo Ferraglia explained: "They came from behind and it was much easier for them to tack when it got light."

In the overall results Cannonball was first of the former Maxi 72s and won the Maxi 2 class, but was ultimately 11th overall, with her 90ft rival 16th.

Meanwhile the 50-year-old ketch Shirlaf, by far the lowest rated under IRC in this Championship, finished with three boats in her rear view mirror. Shirlaf, a previous winner overall of this event, is well sailed with Puttini's crew including tactician Gabriele Bruni (brother of America's Cup helmsman Francesco). They were less affected by both of the park-ups, as Bruni explained: "We managed to stay on the outside of the fleet because we have some locals on board and they knew that there would be more pressure there, so we gybed on starboard on the first downwind and we arrived with pressure. Shirlaf likes more than 11-12 knots of wind, so less than 9 is a problem. And we prefer sailing in the sunshine - today was more like Cowes Week!"

Until Shirlaf finished another potent 60 footer had been ahead in the results - IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wally 60 Wallyño, ultimately second today. "The start was good - the wind conditions were complicated but our tactician did a fantastic job," said de Froidmont, admitting he was soaked to the skin but otherwise delighted. "I am going to invest in some new clothes! But it was a great day and it is a great regatta. It was a day without mistakes. And all the 72s are more than 10 points behind us now - they stopped at the finish, whereas we didn't, but we did at the end of the offshore."

Wallyño tactician Cédric Pouligny described how they had benefitted from the lulls: "When the wind dropped it was good for us because we could see that the bigger boats were getting stuck close to the shore then we could work out how far off the Cape we had to be. Then the final long beat we got good shifts. The crew did very well with the manoeuvres because I changed my mind a lot with our sail choices."

Overall after the Regata dei Tre Golfi offshore and the first coastal race, it is Riccardo de Michele's H20 that leads the Championship on 5.25 points to Wallyño on 6.5 with Shirlaf third on 10.75. Peter Dubens' North Star, the Regata dei Tre Golfi winner, is currently fifth.

See full results

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