Cannonball on a roll as Velsheda claws one back at Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup
Modest 12 knot winds that dropped leaving a severely lumpy sea state, reminiscent to older sailors of the Kenwood Cup, put yet another complexion on the Costa Smeralda for day three of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. This year marks the 30th edition of maxi racing’s premier event, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association, the World Sailing-recognised body representing maxi boats globally.
With the Wallys sailing windward-leewards, the rest tackled a coastal course clockwise around La Maddalena.
Dario Ferrari’s Maxi 72 Cannonball again won in Mini Maxi Racer 1. However Hap Fauth’s new Bella Mente made a magnificent pin end start and was able to tack and cross the fleet on port. Cannonball pulled ahead on the beat and it was then a case of containing Jethou, not easy with a five foot length deficit. "We were overlapped with them at Palau and then were 1.5 minutes in front," recalled tactician Michele Ivaldi. "Sailing inside the archipelago you have big patches of nice breeze where you can stretch."
However victory almost eluded Cannonball when she fell into a hole approaching the final turning mark. "We nearly lost everything," admitted Ivaldi. "Vesper arrived with pace and got to within two lengths of us. But we then got out and we managed to make up our time again."
The biggest loser here was Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou which dropped to fourth while Peter Harrison’s Sorcha was third. "It is good fun," said Harrison. "It was much closer racing than I expected and I was very happy to sail over the top of Bella Mente in the last three miles."
Cannonball now leads Vesper by two points.
The tables turned in the heavyweight J Class bout in the Super Maxi class with Velsheda finally prising a point off Topaz. Despite these two being the largest, heaviest, oldest style of boat competing, they are sailed with all the verve and menace of the Maxi 72s. Even before the start today, Topaz was all over her rival. As helmsman Peter Holmberg described it: "We met with them at the start line and we crushed them and we decided to keep crushing them..."
A complex race saw Velsheda draw level down the run after Monaci as Topaz lost a spinnaker sheet only for the two to go into the mark at the bottom overlapped where Topaz was able to luff Velsheda to weather. However Ronald de Waal and his crew were able to get their own back at the top of Bomb Alley going inside an obstruction, effectively winning them the race. "The boys are pretty happy," said Velsheda’s strategist Rod Dawson.
In the Maxi Racer class, it was a tricky day for George David’s Rambler 88 which took a long gybe out to the left of the run towards the entrance to Bomb Alley only to fall into a lull. This ultimately handed victory for a second day to Irvine Laidlaw’s Reichel/Pugh 82 Highland Fling XI.
Rambler 88 led down the back of La Maddalena but the Farr 100 Leopard was close behind finishing a respectable second under IRC. Mike Slade’s former steed is now Russian owned and chartered to another Russian this week with a crew including original skipper Chris Sherlock and fellow Aussies Mitch Booth and Torvar Mirsky. "This is our first regatta with our new guy who is simply looking at how he’d like to be involved in the sport," says Booth.
After Rambler 88 lost out on the first run, Leopard led most of the way up Bomb Alley until David’s team forged ahead. As Booth observed: "We were very happy to be mixing it up with Rambler."
In the Maxi Racer-Cruisers, it was again Miguel Galuccio’s Reichel/Pugh 84 Vera that prevailed. According tactician Bouwe Bekking, they won it on the first beat and were then never threatened. "One of the good things about this old boat is that in the light it is quite good because it is not as fat as the new generation boats. And Miguel is doing a very nice job. We’ve sailed a lot of miles now."
In Mini Maxi Racer 2 SuperNikka’s winning streak came to an end with Peter Dubens’ Frers 60 Spectre taking the bullet. "We had a good start and Peter steered the boat really well. It was really wavy upwind and he found a nice groove," said tactician Nick Rogers. They made the best up the left side of the first beat and then went all of the way into the cliffs on the run making further gains. "We managed to make the most of that massive bend into the strait [Bomb Alley] and that set us up. The boys did a super clean drop. We just did everything at the right time and it worked really well," continued Rogers. For the smaller maxis the course was shortened at Monaci. Despite Spectre’s win, SuperNikka still leads overall.
Across the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the closest racing remains among the Mini Maxi Racer-Cruisers where just three points separate the top five with Stephen Cucchiaro's Swan 601 Flow still ahead of IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wallyño. However today it was the turn of Jean-Pierre Barjon's Swan 601 Lorina 1895. The winning move came when the French team picked a good lane on the left of Bomb Alley, passing La Maddalena.
There was also a new winner among the Mini Maxi Cruiser-Racers, with Mario Pesaresi’s immaculate 2002 Southern Wind 78 Kiwi coming out on top. Unusually the boat is Italian owned, has an Albanian captain and a largely Moldovan crew. "It was a very nice race today," said helmsman Paolo Pesaresi. "The northeast wind was good at the start with big waves, unexpectedly. It was very nice day." He felt that the big boats did well today due to the decreasing wind.
Meanwhile sailing windward-leewards in slightly more wind were the Wallys. Here defending champion Terry Hui’s Wally 78 Lyra scored a 1-2 and now leads by two points over David M. Leuschen’s Wallycento Galateia. Galateia and Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet Cubed had an altercation as they rounded the leeward gate mark together in the first race. As Galateia’s strategist, America’s Cup legend Murray Jones described it: "We were inside and we had to avoid hitting them. Our bowsprit looked like it was going to through somewhere forward of their wheels..."
Then in the second race Galateia finally managed a good start to leeward, then "we got the first shift pretty nicely," continued Jones. "David sailed the boat well, despite the difficult conditions. There wasn’t that much breeze and quite some chop, but we managed to keep the boat going. And we held similar down the run. On the second beat we camped all over them and didn’t give them a chance."
Tonight the hot ticket is for the International Maxi Association's annual dinner at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda where the winner of the IMA's Mediterranean Maxi Offshore challenge will be announced. Tomorrow is layday with racing resuming on Friday and concluding on Saturday.
by James Boyd / International Maxi Association