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Med Maxi Madness

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  • Med Maxi Madness

    Disaster for Highland Fling XI as Lyra wins her class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

    by James Boyd / International Maxi Association

    While it was not the fierce northwesterly and flat water for which the Costa Smeralda is notorious for yacht racers, today, after three relatively light races, the wind was knocking on the door of 20 knots for the penultimate day of competition at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. This was the most breeze seen all week and the reason the event, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with maxi yachting’s governing body, the International Maxi Association, has had its layday postponed until tomorrow.

    Today in an east southeast breeze the bulk of the fleet sailed south and then clockwise around the islands of Mortorio and Soffi, before returning to Bomb Alley and racing a clockwise lap of La Maddalena and Caprera before returning to the Porto Cervo finish line. Only Mini Maxi 1, including the former Maxi 72s raced two windward-leewards (the only windward-leeward racing set to happen this week).

    The southeasterly breeze, combined with a lumpy sea state sadly took its toll to the leader, both overall and in today’s race under IRC corrected time, in the Maxi class: With a bang that echoed around Bomb Alley, the top of the carbon fibre forestay broke on Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling XI at the time close to the top of the course. A rapid scrabble by the crew saved the now unsupported rig. They then coaxed their dark green Reichel/Pugh 82 back to port. The team’s intention now is to see if they can install a new forestay in time for racing on Saturday, but this involves sophisticated state of the art technology - fitting the carbon fibre stay and then ‘cooking it’ in situ. The incident was a huge shame for Laidlaw's team dropping them to fourth overall in the Maxi class.

    The Maxi winner today was David M. Leuschen’s Wallycento Galateia, while Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ Wallycento Magic Carpet Cubed has displaced Highland Fling XI from the leaderboard’s top spot. “It was pretty good,” said Owen Jones of their performance today. “We were keen to be very close to our immediate competitor [Galateia], so being second to them was just fine.” He added that the marginally newer Galateia often has the edge on them in windier conditions and downwind. This could bode well for Saturday’s final race that is again looking light.

    Magic Carpet Cubed’s tactician, triple Olympic gold medallist Jochen Schümann, felt that the Wallycentos had done well today because “they are well designed boats, very powerful sailing in light to heavy winds, always consistently strong. Reaching and downwind they are reasonable as well.”

    There was also upset, although less disastrous, in the Super Maxi class of 100+fts where none of the other competitors have managed to usurp the two J Class yachts from the top of the standings. Today, Topaz was just close enough to Velsheda’s transom to win on corrected time for the first time this week, but by just 16 seconds –the closest finish across all classes so far this week.

    “That’s made my day!” said Topaz’s beaming helmsman Peter Holmberg as he came ashore later. “We had some winch issues before the start so we were full panic and didn’t have a chance to fight them at the start. I have a knife [Topaz], they have a gun [Velsheda] - so I have to be close to them to do any damage. Our strategy was just to stay close and we kept coming into them. As soon as we are downwind we do have a little bit on them. So we fought for position on them and got it and led around and then on to the finish they just reeled us in.”

    Velsheda passed them but on the finish line the lower rated Topaz was literally 10ft behind. “We get closer with these two 180 tonne boats than I get in my Finn!” quipped Holmberg. “We are riding each other’s stern with very little control. It is a scary, scary situation. We were locked together all day. It is great racing, frustrating, but they are a great competitor to have. They push us hard, but our team deserved to win today.”

    In the Mini Maxi 2 class Mylius Yachts’ President Luciano Gandini has got a taste for victory. Having scored a bullet under IRC corrected time yesterday, he repeated this today aboard his Mylius 80 Twin Soul B. His second victory has caused him to close to within four points of the leader, Alessandro Del Bono's ILC maxi Capricorno, who was second today, with Vincenzo Addessi's Mylius 18E35 Frà Diavolo third for a second day running.

    The only boat to date still maintaining a perfect scoreline is Canadian Terry Hui’s Wally 77 Lyra. Thanks to this stand-out performance Lyra is now unbeatable in Mini Maxi 3 with Luca Scoppa's Dehler 60 Blue Oyster seven points astern of her in the six boat fleet. However there is a three way fight for the remaining podium positions. Today Riccardo de Michele's Vallicelli 78 H2O scored her second consecutive second, leaving her third overall, a point behind of Blue Oyster on the Mini Maxi 3 leaderboard going into the final day.

    After his H20 finished fourth on both the light first two days, De Michele said his boat preferred today’s conditions. “With 10-12 knots, we can try to race together, but under 10 [knots] it is not possible because she [Lyra] is too fast.”

    Out at sea, it was barely noticeable between the former Maxi 72s within the Mini Maxi 1 fleet as they returned to their natural habitat of windward-leewards that they had been on a two year enforced break due to the pandemic. Two races were held today and, posting a 1-2 in these, George Sakellaris' Judel-Vrolijk-designed Proteus was the top scorer, just ahead of Jim Swartz's Vesper with a 3-1. Disappointing results for class leader, Dario Ferrari's Cannonball means that the top four boats in Mini Maxi 1 are now separated by just three points overall going into the final day.

    “We were lucky - the wind was the best of the week and Proteus likes these conditions and I love driving in it,” said Sakellaris, who shared helming duties today with his daughter Christina, a keen Laser Radial sailor. “It was a great day with great competition. It was down to who got the first shift and we were leading both races. Last race – they [Vesper] were inside of us on the shift. This is a great venue and [this event has] great organisation.” In the second race they finished second despite having to contend with a broken winch and a pitman with damaged ribs.

    “I think the old girl likes a bit of breeze,” said Campbell Field, navigating Proteus for the first time. “We saw an average of 14-15 knots of wind, but there were a couple of light spots. In the first race we saw 17-18s so it was really nice. Towards the end of the second race we got caught in a light patch as the chop started to build. It made it hard on George but it was a beautiful day sailing.

    “In the first race we were handed a gift – we were called OCS, which forced us out to the right. We went straight into a right hand shift which brought us back into the fleet. The 72s are all evenly matched. They are very good fun racing.”

    Racing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will conclude with a final coastal race for all fleets on Saturday.

    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    Saving The Best For Last

    Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup enjoys a spectacular renaissance

    The wind off Porto Cervo never filled in on the final day of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Thus, following Friday s layday, the results at the end of play on Thursday stand, at this the pinnacle event of the maxi yachting calendar, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with maxi yachting’s governing body, the International Maxi Association.

    For the third time, the stand-out performance across the maxi fleets was that of Canadian Terry Hui’s Lyra. The 2000 vintage Wally 77, once raced by the Murdoch family, was first campaigned by Hui in 2018 and won the Wally class that year and in 2019, when she scored firsts and seconds in all but one race. This year, with the Wallys incorporated into the main IRC fleets, Lyra won Mini Maxi 3 with four straight bullets. Often this was by a significant margin, although Riccardo de Michele’s Vallicelli 78 H20, which has previously dominated the Mini Maxi class, was second to Lyra by two minutes under IRC corrected time on Wednesday.

    In fact Lyra is a well optimised boat with a top professional crew led by Kiwi tactician Hamish Pepper and including round the world sailor Phil Harmer, former Team Shosholoza America’s Cup navigator Marc Lagesse and skipper Mark Sadler. “That definitely helps,” says Pepper. “We have a lot of sailors from the TP52s and RC44s and every manoeuvre we do with grand prix style and we push the boat to get every inch out of it. Terry got us a new main and new jib and the boat had a few improvements like new rigging and the mast is a lot better balanced so we can get the right tension out of it.”

    Owner Terry Hui added: “I have been lucky to have a good boat and a good crew, but most importantly lucky to be back. It makes me feel that whatever we take for granted, that is normal, is actually so precious and it makes you appreciate that what we have been doing is very special.”

    At the opposite end of the maxi spectrum, in the 100+ft Super Maxi class, Ronald de Waal’s magnificent J Velsheda enjoyed a near perfect scoreline, dropping just one race to Topaz on Thursday. The two Js have dominated the Super Maxi class with Christian Oldendorff's Spirit Yachts 111 Geist finishing the regatta tied on points with the Swan 115 Shamanna, but winning on countback.

    British America’s Cup and Olympic sailor Andy Beadsworth, sharing tactical duties with American Mike Toppa on board Velsheda, said of his first week J Class sailing: “It has been great. I thoroughly enjoyed sailing on the boat and with the team. We had a couple of phenomenal races against Topez when we were never more than three boat lengths apart.”

    Beadsworth, who has previously raced here and won aboard boats like Michael Cotter’s Whisper and Windfall, the late Sir Peter Harrison’s Sojana, continued: “They have differences upwind and downwind, but overall they are very evenly matched. They are less manoeuvrable than a lot of boats and you really need to steer them with the sails. So it is team effort to get the boat around the track, but a team like this makes it look deceptively easy…”

    The closest racing was between the former Maxi 72s, which ran away with the top five spots in Mini Maxi 1. Ultimately Dario Ferrari's Botin-designed Cannonball, finished two points clear of Jim Swartz's Vesper in turn one ahead of both George Sakellaris' Proteus and Hap Fauth's Bella Mente.

    Cannonball was the defending champion here and racing with the same equipment as in 2019. “The crew was very good, the tactician was very good - so we won,” explained Ferrari. “I believe that this is the best class and between everybody the racing is close.”

    Victory has inspired Ferrari to compete with Cannonball again in 2022. “The boat is fast enough. We haven’t done anything this year to make it faster. With new sails and changing a few things we could be more competitive, so why not? The nice thing about this class is that you improve every year.”

    Sharing tactical duties this week on Cannonball were both Michele Ivaldi and Vasco Vascotto. Of their victory, Vascotto said: “For sure it is surprising because we know how strong the other guys are, but this week we did everything nice and smooth. We made some mistakes but not many and this is still a very good boat.” This was Vascotto’s first win in the class having previously come second three times.

    Some of the closest racing has been in the Maxi class for 80-100 footers where an unprecedented six 100 footers were competing plus the new Swan 98 BeCool. Ultimately 100ft Wallys tied up the podium with Sir Lindsay Owen Jones's Magic Carpet Cubed coming out on top, two points ahead of Claus-Peter Offen's older Y3K, in turn two ahead of David M. Leuschen's Galateia.

    For Owen Jones, one of the longest term supporters of both the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the International Maxi Association, this was the seventh time he has won this event in his various Magic Carpets, the last being in 2016. “I am very happy,” he said. “None of us had the faintest idea how it would work out against all these incredible boats that have won the Rolex Fastnet Race or Sydney Hobart, etc [ie Rambler 88, Comanche and ARCA SGR] but Magic Carpet is a well rounded boat that does most things pretty well. The other boats do some things extremely well. That is reflected by how we didn’t win any races but were always up there which you can only do if you sail the boat well.”

    On Thursday, Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling XI was enjoying a commanding lead in the Maxi class until her forestay broke. Impressively the team moved heaven and earth to get a new carbon fibre forestay sent out from Carbolink in Switerland aboard Laidlaw’s private jet. Once arrived last night, the stay was tensioned on the dock using hydraulic rams and then cured by running electric current through it - a process taking just five hours, before it was reinstalled. Highland Fling XI ended the regatta in fourth, designers Reichel/Pugh having drawn three of the top four in the Maxi class.

    For Wendy Schmidt, owner of Deep Blue, this Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was a great relief. Although her Botin 85 was launched in February 2020, due to the pandemic this was the first race for her ‘Maxi 72 on steroids’. Deep Blue finished fifth in the 12 boat fleet. “This was our maiden voyage, finding out about the boat and its modes. We had great competition to do that with, so we have nowhere to go but up,” said Schmidt, who raced here previously with her Swan 80 Selene. “It was a great event, wonderful for our crew to get back together and to tune the boat up.”

    There was also great diversity in the boats at the top of Mini Maxi 2, where Jean-Pierre Barjon's Swan 601 Lorina 1895 claimed Tuesday's race, IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wallyño ended up fourth while the two overall leaders were longer - Luciano Gandini's Mylius 80 Twin Soul B taking second to Alessandro Del Bono’s immaculate Reichel/Pugh 78 Maxi Capricorno, originally built in 1995 as Morning Glory.

    Del Bono’s Capricorno is a family affair, his father (with a young Alessandro on board) having raced in Admiral’s Cups, while today Alessandro’s own son Rinaldo races on board.

    Del Bono last competed at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in the early 2000s and despite Capricorno being old, it has been thoroughly modernised, reducing draft from 4.5 to 4m with optimised rig and sails. “We knew we were competitive and in the end we achieved the result we fought for,” del Bono explained. “The races were very good.”

    At the prizegiving, the IMA's Secretary General Andrew McIrvine presented Sir Lindsay Owen Jones with the Trophy for finish 'Highest Placed IMA member' while the Paolo Massarini Trophy (named after the manager of several notable classes, such as the Wallys, who died last year) was presented to Capricorno's Alessandro del Bono by Paolo's wife Alessandra.

    The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was the third event in the International Maxi Association’s Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge which continues with Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez and then Palmavela in October.

    Race report: James Boyd / IMA

    Race documents and full results:
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