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Smaller maxis endure storm en route to Regata dei Tre Golfi victory

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 19 May 11:03 PDT 17-23 May 2024
Storm cells were forecast but were not predicted to bring with them 35-40 knots nor to last for up to two hours - 2024 Tre Golfi Sailing Week © Tre Golfi Sailing Week / Studio Borlenghi

The Regata dei Tre Golfi, supported by Rolex as Official Timepiece and which started from Naples on Friday, saw the upper half of the 25-boat maxi fleet suffer from repeated hold-ups, calms and transitions. Behind, the smaller slower entries enjoyed more continuous breeze. As a result Class 4 boats filled the top six places under IRC corrected time. Ultimately the slowest, Giuseppe Puttini's 48-year-old Swan 65 ketch Shirlaf, won this year's 69th Regata dei Tre Golfi ahead of Luca Scoppa's Dehler 60 Blue Oyster and Vincenzo Addessi's Mylius 18E35 Fra'Diavolo.

Starting and finishing this year in Naples, the 156 mile race was the first of the International Maxi Association's IMA Maxi European Championship, organised by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia (CRVI). This Championship, also supported by Loro Piana, continues with four days of inshore and coastal racing from Monday to Thursday (20-23 May).

This was the second time the local Swan 65 has won this event, following her 2021 victory. A delighted Puttini explained the dominance of the lowest rated maxis: "The wind improved as the race went on - the big ones reached Capri and they stopped dead. Sometimes that happens to the small boats but this year it was the big boats. Conditions were ideal for Shirlaf."

The biggest shock was an almighty storm in the race's latter stages that affected the smaller boats with the greatest severity. Suddenly, between Capri and the Li Galli southerly turning mark, this brought prolonged 30-40 knot winds and torrential rain.

While she may be approaching her half century, Shirlaf is immaculately maintained and combines original equipment, like mast-mounted halyard winches, with modern gear like her sails and bowsprit. Her crew is mostly Neapolitan with the exception of their sole professional, Sicilian tactician Gabriele Bruni (brother of Luna Rossa Pirelli Prada helmsman Francesco) - who coached the Italian Nacra 17 team to Olympic gold in Tokyo.

Of the big storm Bruni commented: "We had the A3 up in about 18 knots, but then it increased to 25 between Capri and Punta Campanella. There was heavy rain and 35-40 knots for one hour. We had to drop the jib for 10 minutes. Then the last three miles were in very light wind, but by then we had a very nice advantage and only lost about 30 minutes." Shirlaf, substantially the lowest rated yacht under IRC, won by a massive 1 hour 23 minutes 6 seconds. "For sure it was a race for small boats because the wind came from behind. We were lucky we managed to do well," concluded Bruni.

IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wally 60 Wallyño was fourth overall, missing the podium by four minutes 30 seconds. "The forecast was not exactly what happened, apart from the rain at the finish!" he said. "As usual, it was a fantastic race. At each island there was a restart - when you arrived you don't know when you'd leave! The team did a great job."

Wallyño's crew included French aces Cedric Pouligny on tactics and Olivier Douillard navigating. "It was a very interesting race, with the big mountains, cliffs, light wind and many changes - so I didn't get much sleep," commented Douillard. "The storm at the end was challenging. We had almost no wind - we had the J1 up and had been thinking about the A1! But then we saw 30+ knots. It was a big surprise!"

Class 3 was won by Franz Wilhelm Baruffaldi Preis' Mylius 60 FD Manticore, just five minutes ahead of Paul Berger's Kallima. Kallima's tactician Romain Mouchel also said they enjoyed much more wind than forecast. They had taken their Swan 80 south of Capri, along with Carlo Puri Negri's 70ft Atalanta II and Alberto Leghissa's Frers 63 Anywave-Safilens, while Guido Paolo Gamucci's canting keel Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X took the most extreme southerly route. "Behind Capri the northerly wind freed and then we were under Code Zero," said Mouchel. "That worked really well, but then at Li Galli it was painful with no breeze. We had the J1 up and saw 35-36 knots...It was pretty fruity. We managed to peel to a smaller jib, but it was game over because the small boats had caught us up."

The storm saw crews scrambling for the foredeck. Fabio Cannavale's Baltic 78 Lupa of the Sea suffered a major headsail wrap, while on Jean-Pierre Dréau's Mylius 60 Lady First 3 they changed down to their J2 only for it to explode.

Lady First 3's tactician Christopher Pratt described their race: "There was a big shadow behind Ischia island, which was bad and we didn't manage that well. Then we knew there'd be a storm, but not that big! It went from no wind to 35 knots in 10-15 minutes. Usually they last for 20 minutes and are gone but we had two hours of 35 knots and just before we got back into the Gulf of Naples, we destroyed the J2 and had to put up the storm jib."

The IMA Maxi Europeans teams have spent Sunday in Sorrento's Marina Piccola preparing for four days of windward-leeward and coastal racing starting tomorrow under the command of British PRO Stuart Childerley. With the smaller boats getting the top prizes in the offshore race, the bigger boats such as the trio of Wallycentos, the Wally 93 Bullitt plus the four former Maxi 72s, including Peter Dubens' defending champion North Star, will have their work cut out to get to the top of the leaderboard by Thursday.

Full results available here.

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