Big breeze Friday at Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup
It was fortunate that Friday followed layday at this year’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. The crews set out, batteries charged, braced for big winds at the limit permitted by PRO Peter Craig and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s race committees. This 30th edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is organised between the YCCS and the International Maxi Association, the official body that represents and promotes maxi boat racing globally.
Fortunately the wind, generated by a depression off Corsica, was an offshore westerly, making for flat water but blowing 20-25 knots with gusts of 30+. This resulted in an exhilarating day for most, but too much for a few, with a sad mast breakage for the brand new Grand Soleil 80 Essentia of Romanian Cătălin Trandafir. Miguel Galuccio’s Vera, leader in the Maxi Racer-Cruiser class, had to retire with a broken rudder blade, sadly coinciding with original owner Pier Luigi Loro Piana sailing on board. Jean-Charles Decaux’s Wally 77 J One was hit by a gust during a gybe and, even under main and jib, broached, resulting in a down speed collision with the Monaci islands, damaging her bow’s underside.
None of these three will continue, while the J Topaz pulled out yesterday with technical problems. Elsewhere there was much sail damage, including a ripped main on Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling XI which limped around the course handing overall lead in the Maxi Racer class to Rambler 88.
George David’s maxi had a phenomenal day, thundering, at speeds approaching 30 knots, about the course, that extended north to Monaci and south to Ilsas Mortorio and Soffi. Rambler 88 finished more than 20 minutes ahead of the second placed Slovenian maxZ86 Way of Life (ex-Morning Glory) under IRC corrected time. "It was a fantastic race," said bow-legend Jerry Kirby. "It was like a deep powder day up in Aspen. We love this place. Things come up so quickly that you can’t make one mistake with this boat or it’ll bite you."
Despite having no Topaz to jockey with, Velsheda won the Super Maxi class, even in the big winds. "We can’t remember the last time we had the J4 up," recounted navigator Campbell Field adding that they were able to sail in the big wind thanks to the flat water. "It’s good to sail in these conditions because it reminds us of the respect that we have to have for the beast. The boat has a terminal velocity of hull speed and they just don’t go faster. We got some puffs into the high 20s and it’s not like we just pop up and accelerate. The apparent wind speed goes up a lot and it loads up."
With Vera out of action, scoring their first bullet in the Maxi Cruiser-Racer class was the Wally 100 Gibian, whose owner Armando Grandi is 93. "He drives well - he doesn’t have too much strength, but that is normal [for his age]. When he is not driving he is trimming the mainsail. He is great," explained strategist Patrick Phelipon. Gibian broke three mainsail battens today, but was sailed conservatively with a reef and not setting the genniker.
The Wally competition is now a two horse race between defending champion Terry Hui's Wally 78 Lyra and David M Leuschen's Wallycento Galateia. For a second day it was the larger boat that scored the bullet, but winning only by 1:40 from Lyra.
Galateia’s 50 tonnes speeding around the course at 25 knots was a magnificent sight. Navigator Simon Fisher explained: "We had a good start, but were unlucky with the first shift while Magic Carpet got bounced, but came back strongly on a right hand shift. Once we got into spinnaker sailing we were going really well and we just managed to slide past them on the fractional zero reach down to Monaci. We kept it as tight as we could on the race course today in quite difficult conditions without taking too many risks. David is happy – he likes going fast!"
The Mini Maxi Racer 1 class was back racing windward-leewards today but ultimately sailed just one, due to the conditions. In this waterline length prevailed with Sir Peter Ogden’s 77ft Jethou winning on corrected time in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup’s most competitive class.
"It was fun, but I am wet up to here," said a joyous Ogden, pointing to his neck. "There was water everywhere! We saw about 28 knots [of wind] and 27 knots of boat speed. The boat was on fire coming downwind. We were going three knots faster than the other boats - we just disappeared. We designed Jethou to be a light inshore regatta boat so it was a bit hairy, but good fun. We would have loved to do another race, but it was sensible not to."
In Mini Maxi Racer 2, Roberto Lacorte and his crew on SuperNikka scored their third bullet, finishing ahead of Peter Dubens’ Spectre. The big conditions should have favoured Hungarian Márton Józsa’s DSS-equipped Wild Joe, were it not for some tactical and sail handling errors in the big conditions. "They were our mistakes - we couldn’t go better, but we learned a lot and didn’t break anything," stated Józsa. However they did record some of the highest speeds across the Mini Maxi fleet. "When we got on the foil it was good and we hit 27 knots."
Among the Mini Maxi Racer-Cruisers Stephen Cucchiaro's Swan 601 Flow scored her third bullet and leads overall by three points. But Vincenzo Addessi's Mylius 18E35 Fra Diavolo is chasing hard and was second today. "We made a huge mistake when we turned the third mark and put on an A0 instead of the genniker," admitted strategist Guilio Gatti. "At that point we were clearly in the lead, then we lost three boats and Wallyño had a problem with her genniker. In the end we passed another two boats coming up to the Pevero mark and finished second. But it was very exciting and that’s what we are here for. For the first time we used our J4. Everything ran smoothly on board. We didn’t break a hair!"
In the Mini Maxi Cruiser-Racer class defending champion Riccardo de Michele's H20 won ahead of the first of the five-strong fleet of CNB 76s, Carl-Gerrit Deilmann’s Tamina. De Michele's Vallicelli 80 found ‘her’ conditions today according to tactician Stephano Leonardi. "The owner drove very well and all of the crew did everything on time with trimming, speed and tactics. Everything was smooth and perfect." However Marietta Strasoldo’s Swan 651 Lunz Am Meer, leading the class by five points, will be tough to beat.
Tomorrow, the final day of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, racing will start at 1200, with the Wallys sailing windward-leewards again, but in breeze forecast to moderate to 15-20 knots.
by James Boyd / International Maxi Association