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Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup at Yacht Club Costa Smeralda - Day 1

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 4 Sep 15:10 PDT 4-9 September 2023

With conditions off the Costa Smeralda that started at 10 knots from the north and built to more than 20, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda's Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, organised in conjunction with the International Maxi Association, got off to the best possible start today.

Courses were divided: the three Js and Maxi B both sailed two windward-leewards while the remaining classes - the Super Maxis, Maxi A and Maxi C - raced around an anti-clockwise lap of La Maddalena archipelago. (For further information on the class names- see below).

Today was a landmark in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup's 40+ year history, being the first ever race for multihulls at this event. The new class has attracted a trio of high performance cruising catamarans - Adrian Keller's 84ft Allegra, plus two brand new boats competing in their first ever event - Lord Irvine Laidlaw's Gunboat 80 Highland Fling 18 and the Gunboat 68 Convexity2 of three time M32 catamaran World Champion Don Wilson and Suna Said.

The multihulls, followed 15 minutes later by the Super Maxis sailed a 35 mile course. Highland Fling 18 was first around the top mark to the east of Santa Maria, but on the downwind, west of La Maddalena, Convexity2 took the lead and resolutely hung on to the finish, despite being smallest of the trio. Due to her being older and heavier, Allegra won the race under ORCmh corrected time.

Don Wilson commented of his first race in his new Gunboat: "It was a ton of fun. We're obviously brand new to sailing the boat, so we went from sailing her very conservatively to straight into getting the hull up in the air and pushing as hard as we could. It's super interesting to go between all the islands and there were patches of no wind followed by lots of wind, which added to the excitement."

His all-star crew includes recent Ocean Race-winning skipper Charlie Enright and Match Racing World Champion Taylor Canfield. Of their performance today Canfield explained: "Right now - their's room for improvement. Allegra has an edge on a reach but it was good to feel we are going upwind and downwind pretty well and we passed them on the run." Compared to the longer Highland Fling he added: "We don't lack that much power. Our main is equal, if not bigger, to their's."

At a cocktail party held by Gunboat and the International Maxi Association at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda this evening, Commodore Michael Illbruck and IMA President Benoît de Froidmont welcomed the multihulls. "A multihull or a J-Class - this is all part of our sport, a testament of an incredible spread of technology and the multihulls are a big part of that," said Illbruck.

Among the monohulls it was the 100ft Leopard 3 that prevailed in Maxi A. As anticipated, the highest rated under IRC, Peter Harburg's 100ft Black Jack led on the water and was never threatened. Behind her David M Leuschen and Chris Flowers' 100ft Galateia and Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones' 100ft Magic Carpet Cubed sandwiched Leopard 3. The end result was close with Leopard 3's time correcting out to just over one minute from Galateia with Magic Carpet Cubed a further one minute 38 seconds back in third.

Leopard 3 tactician Mitch Booth admitted this was the first time they had lined up with the other 100 footers since coming out of their major refit that included the centre section of her deck and cabintop being replaced. "The course suited us with the reaching angles but we were surprised we were equal or more than competitive upwind. We are very happy with the way the boat is performing."

The Super Maxi class sailed a shorter course of 32 miles. In this Juan Ball's Swan 115 Moat led on the water from start to finish but constantly had Claus-Peter Offen's brand new 101ft y3k on her transom. Ultimately Moat finished third but on corrected time was just 46 seconds behind the winner y3k, 11 seconds in front of Marco Vogele's 108ft Inoui.

Claus-Peter Offen was delighted with his new boat's exceptional performance in her first race. Compared to his previous 100ft y3k the new boat, he says, is "completely different in terms of beam and weight: she is 15% lighter, with 15% more draft and 15% more sail area. It makes it much easier to sail." On board is a very similar team to his previous y3k. "It is a great new boat," added his tactician Jablonski. "We have some work ahead of us in optimising it but we have only had two days on her. Today we had a good start and sailed a clean race and made some good calls when to drop the kite and when to hoist."

Maxi C, the largest class, sailed a 30 mile course. Jean-Pierre Barjon's 65ft Spirit of Lorina, winner of the 2023 IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge, prevailed, finishing 2 minutes 21 seconds ahead of defending champion Riccardo de Michele's 78ft H20. Aldo Parisotto's Mylius 65FD Oscar 3 was third with former IMA President Thomas Bscher and his brand new Baltic 68 Cafe Racer Open Season a promising fourth in her first race.

"It was nice weather, nice wind and I am very happy about it," said Parisotto, a past winner here. "Oscar 3 likes these conditions - we saw 24 knots to the north of La Maddalena and the boat loved the very nice downwind. Our maximum speed was 14.5-15 knots."

On the windward-leeward course there was hot competition between the former Maxi 72s in Maxi B. They may no longer conform to a box rule, but their racing remains as close as ever. After two races, three boats remain tied at the top - Pepe Cannonball, steered here by Peter Harrison; George Sakellaris' Proteus and Hap Fauth's Bella Mente.

"We had a very good first race with a good start," said Michele Ivaldi, Pepe Cannonball strategist. "The first beat was good and we went to the correct side. Even the first downwind we went all the way to the left and Proteus came on a lot, but we managed to maintain the lead. It was very encouraging. The second race with more breeze we started a little bit behind and we were squeezed between Bella Mente and Proteus." Pepe Cannonball won the first race, also first on the water, winning by 1 minute 38 seconds from Bella Mente under corrected time. The second Proteus won by 1 minute 17 seconds with Bella Mente again sneaking in to claim second, eight seconds ahead of Pepe Cannonball.

Following the upgrades made to Bella Mente, owner Hap Fauth says he and his all-star crew, are still learning the latest iteration of their 74 footer. "We have nice boat speed downwind. We aren't as fast as we were upwind but we are still very competitive. The twin rudders make it easy. When you heel you are no longer trying to push the bow down and you don't lose any manoeuvrability." Fauth, the former Maxi 72 Class President adds of his former flock: "The racing is great. They are all well-sailed and we know each other. We have been doing this long enough..."

The boat with the biggest winning margin today was also the longest racing here - Niklas Zennström and Filip Engelbert's 43.6m Svea which won both races in the J Class. Main sheet trimmer and project manager Tim Powell explained: "With three boats in these boats the starts are obviously important and we had two good ones. We got quite tight under Topaz in the first race and they had to bail out. In the second Velsheda obviously went the right way up the first beat and got ahead of us." Powell attributes their success to the training they are putting in, to get their new team up to speed

Tomorrow racing is again due to start at 1200 with all classes sailing coastal courses in northerly winds set to top 20 knots.

For more information visit event page.

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