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Second IMA Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge victory for Wallyño

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 17 Oct 2023 08:15 PDT 1-8 October 2023
Benoît de Froidmont at the helm of his 60ft Wallyño © International Maxi Association / Studio Borlenghi

While it was close when International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont's Wallyño won the first ever edition of the IMA's Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge (MMIC) in 2019, this year it wasn't.

The silver 60 footer was leading the 2023 MMIC by nine points going into the final regatta of the season, Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. Her class win in this could not have been more emphatic: unbeaten across the 39 boat fleet; the only maxi to achieve a perfect scoreline. This sealed the 2023 MMIC title for her.

With discards applied - only the best three results count in the MMIC - Peter Dubens' 72ft North Star finished second, closely followed by Chris Flowers and David M. Leuschen's 100ft Galateia completing the podium.

Following the victory of Alessandro Del Bono's Capricorno last year, Wallyño won the MMIC's third edition after a magnificent 2023 season.

Wallyño's year began in Sorrento with the inshore races of the IMA Maxi European Championship, organised by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia. Here she finished third in her class. Next up were the three days of inshore racing off Saint-Tropez at Rolex Giraglia. In these Wallyño won her class and then went on to finish second to the race's overall Maxi winner Itacentodue in Maxi 2 in Rolex Giraglia's combined inshore-offshore results.

As usual the most points towards her overall tally came in early September from the IMA's premier event, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo. Here lively conditions through the week didn't suit Wallyño, but she still managed a fifth place, enough to give her a commanding lead in the MMIC going into the final event of the season - Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. In this Wallyño was so dominant that she seemed to be in the class of her own.

"It was a fantastic week," commented a delighted de Froidmont of his victory at Les Voiles, adding: "The crew is really on fire now at the end of the season. But also it was the conditions for the boat, with light breeze and a flat sea. Wallyño is going really well - she is a St Tropez boat! We have been doing well all season, even in Porto Cervo when it wasn't our conditions, we still got a good result."

That de Froidmont has sailed all his life no doubt helped, but he was supported through the season by his expert tactician, well known keelboat specialist and Tour de France skipper Cedric Pouligny, and Wallyño's crack squad of crew. "We are happy. The boat is going well, we are starting well and have no issues with the manoeuvres," explained Pouligny. Basically they ticked all the boxes.

Of the crew de Froidmont paid special tribute to his boat captain Rémi Bouvet for whom Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez was his last regatta with the team. The rest of the crew through the season were: pitman Benjamin Redreau; main trimmer Mathieu Frei; navigators Nicolas Le Moigne and Olivier Douillard; bowmen Arnaud Vasseur, Christophe André and Vendée Globe skipper Clément Giraud; trimmers Matthieu Salomon, Philippe Buchart, Solune Robert and Louis Chambet, plus Morgan Audic, Olivier Arnaud, Valentin Pantonnier, Antoine Arnoud, Eric Dumont, Mathias Herest, Hugo Stubler and Franck Jacob.

While the competition wasn't as close as it was in 2019 when Wallyño was up against Jean-Pierre Barjon's Lorina 1895 throughout the season, only coming out on top finally in the last leg of the last race, Wallyño still did not have it all her own way this year.

"It was tough with Lady First III and then Sud really improved strongly after they modified their boat. They were becoming quite dangerous. So it was different towards the end, but the level was quite high between all three of us," said de Froidmont.

The IMA Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge comprises six events, starting with the Real Club Nautico de Palma's Palmavela continuing on to the inshore races at the IMA Maxi Europeans, held this year out of Sorrento with racing held on the Bay of Naples and around Capri. The first visit to Saint-Tropez takes place with the inshore racing immediately preceding the offshore race of Rolex Giraglia. The MMIC then returns to Palma for Spain's leading regatta, Copa del Rey MAPFRE held at the height of summer. The season ends with what are currently maxi racing's two biggest events: the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, both of which attract 40-50 yachts. Open to IMA Members, the MMIC fulfils one of the Association's remits of enticing maxi yacht owners to use their boats more.

In 2024 the IMA's MMIC will again kick off with the inshore racing at PalmaVela over 1-5 May.

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