Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup (Photo by Carlo Borlenghi)

A record-sized fleet of the world’s largest performance yachts is readying itself in Porto Cervo, Sardinia for next week’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association (IMA) with Rolex as title sponsor, this year’s event takes place over 4th-10th September and has 52 entries. Of these, 25 belong to members of the IMA, the body which since 1979 has been guiding and structuring maxi yacht racing globally, in collaboration with the world’s leading yacht clubs.

In terms of length, the fleet spans the giant 49.7m Ohana to entries at the shorter end of the IMA’s permitted size range – 60 footers such as Gérard Logel’s Swan 601 @robas and the Wally 60 Wallyño.

The biggest class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will once again be the Wallys (an associated class within the IMA), which features 13 examples of the modernist high performance luxury yachts. Leading the charge off the Costa Smeralda will be the two Wallycentos, Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet Cubed and the latest example launched last October, David Leuschen’s Galateia, plus the elongated version, (now 32.7m) Open Season of International Maxi Association President, Thomas Bscher.

Photo: ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi

The Supermaxi class has a formidable line-up including Irvine Laidlaw’s new Swan 115 Highland Fling 15, plus two Baltic Yachts-built high performance carbon fibre one-offs: the Nauta 115 Nikata and the Javier Jaudenes-designed Win Win – both making their Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup debuts. This year sees the return of Sir Peter Harrison’s Farr 115 ketch, Sojana, following a lengthy refit.

The Js are back this year. Lionheart and Velsheda will match race their way around the race track.

The Maxi class (79-100ft) will see two high profile yachts making their Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup debuts. Best known for her offshore program, Mike Slade’s Farr 100 Leopard 3 has travelled to the four corners of the earth to compete in races such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the RORC Caribbean 600 and the Fastnet Race, in which she has twice scored line honours victories.

Despite only being two years old, George David’s Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed Rambler 88, also has notched up thousands of sea miles. This year alone she has won the IMA’s annual Volcano Race (from Gaeta, Italy, south around the volcanic Aeolian Islands off northeast Sicily) and last week claimed line honours in the Palermo-Montecarlo race, the fourth and final event of the IMA’s inaugural Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge.

The Maxi class also includes four entries from Southern Wind Shipyard, including the Farr-designed 100ft Blues and Michael Cotter’s Windfall. There are two SWS 82s: Massimilano Florio’s Grande Orazio was winner of the IMA’s Volcano Race in 2015, while Ammonite is brand new, campaigned by leading Australian skipper Marcus Blackmore.

Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship

As ever a major feature of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship. This year six examples of the ultra competitive, owner-driven, grand prix racers will be lining up, their challenge being to dislodge Hap Fauth’s dominant Judel Vrolijk design, Bella Mente. The reigning Rolex Maxi 72 World Champion  goes into this year’s Worlds straight from victories at Copa del Rey MAPFRE and the inaugural Maxi 72 North American Championship held in Newport, RI in June.

“This is our favourite regatta,” commented Fauth, who is President of the Maxi 72 Class, which is affiliated to the IMA. “There will be six 72 footers and competition will be fierce. It is always challenging conditions both for the around the buoys and the coastal race. It is normally all you want.”

As to Bella Mente being favourite for a third World title, Fauth added: “We have the oldest boat and I am the oldest helmsman, but we have got a very good team. Our execution over the course of a regatta has been good and if there is one reason why we might have a small advantage it is because of that. But it is a very small advantage: The margin of victory in this fleet is two or three seconds – the boats are very close.”

Photo: ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi


The Mini Maxi class (60-79ft) also has a strong line-up. Roberto Lacorte’s Mark Mills 68 Supernikka returns to defend her title, while she will be up against another Mills 68, the more thoroughbred racer, Prospector, which as Alegre and then Caol Ila R was one of the most competitive boats in what is now the Maxi 72 class. Also to be watched will be American Bryon Ehrhart’s Reichel Pugh 63, Lucky. Winner of last year’s Transatlantic Race, Lucky in her previous life was Loki, winner of the 2011 Rolex Sydney Hobart.

In 2015 the Mini Maxi Racer-Cruiser class had one of the tightest finishes and the top four boats return this year, including winner, Riccardo de Michele’s Vallicelli 80 H2O, which finished on equal points with Giuseppe Puttini’s Swan 65 Shirlaf (which this year will face stiff competition from new IMA member Marietta Strasoldo’s Swan 651 Lunz Am Meer.)

Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General of the IMA commented: “It will be an exciting year with a number of new boats competing, especially in the SuperMaxi division where a new generation of more race-oriented boats are appearing. The challenge of manoeuvring these huge craft around the tight courses around the islands of the Maddalena makes for a great spectacle and keeps so many sailors coming back year after year.”

Racing will take place over a mixture of windward-leeward and coastal courses. As usual there will be a magnificent social programme including the annual International Maxi Association Dinner and parties sponsored by Rolex and Audi.

Entry List

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2016 Tracking


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Wild Oats XI (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Wild Oats XI (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Entries for the 70th edition of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race officially closed on the evening of Friday 31 October. The resulting line-up of 119 yachts – set to be the event’s largest in a decade – is befitting of such a historic occasion. The presence of five 100 foot Maxis will steal the news headlines, but the impressive nature of the fleet stretches far beyond the fastest boats. Adding lustre to the occasion are a host of yachts that have won the race before, ten international entrants, and an array of Australian crews spearheaded by sailors with over 40 editions of the race to their name.

In keeping with tradition the race starts at 13:00 local time on 26 December, Boxing Day, from Sydney Harbour. The destination is Hobart, Tasmania over a famous 628-nautical mile racecourse. The competition has been sponsored by Rolex since 2002 and forms an integral part of its triumvirate of offshore races comprising the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Comanche raider

At the front of the fleet, the quest for line honours promises to be open and competitive. Bob Oatley’s 100-ft Wild Oats XI has been the fastest yacht on the water in seven of the last nine race editions. Experience, guile and knowledge of the conditions ensure the Mark Richards-skippered yacht starts as favourite in the race to be first to finish.

Comanche VPLP 100 (Photo © George Bekris)

Comanche VPLP 100 (Photo © George Bekris)

Anthony Bell, line honours winner in 2011, will be one of those hoping to knock Wild Oats XI off her stride. His yacht Perpetual Loyal has strong pedigree in the race and an excellent crew, which includes 2010 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Tom Slingsby.

Comanche VPLP 100 (Photo © George Bekris)

Comanche VPLP 100 (Photo © George Bekris)

A layer of the unknown has been introduced with the entry from the United States of Jim Clark’s Comanche. Clark has made a bold statement – shipping his brand new 100 foot Ken Read-skippered yacht to Sydney immediately following its October launch in New England. This will be the boat’s first race – the ultimate baptism of fire! Clark has sought to dilute expectations, asserting Comanche was not designed with the Rolex Sydney Hobart in mind, and pointing to a lack of preparation time: “The boat and crew will have had only a couple of weeks on the water before we ship it to Australia. There’s a lot of work to do before the race start. In the short term, I don’t have high expectations, but in the long term, I think this boat could really set a mark.”


The fourth 100-ft Maxi to watch is Ragamuffin 100. Owner Syd Fischer, at 87 years of age and with 45 Rolex Sydney Hobarts to his name, has virtually rebuilt  Ragamuffin 100 fitting its original deck to a new hull. The ultimate competitor, including line honours winner at the Rolex China Sea Race last April, he has more knowledge of the race than almost any other entrant. Completing the line up of 100 foot Maxis, is the outsider – American entrant RIO 100 previously competed in the race under the guise of Lahana and counts expert American navigator Peter Isler as part of its crew.

Chasing Victoire

The history of the Rolex Sydney Hobart proves that the overall winner of the race can come from anywhere within the fleet. Prevailing conditions often determine whether the larger or smaller yachts are favoured. In 2013, Darryl Hodgkinson’s 50-ft Victoire claimed victory following in the wake of a diverse range of recent winners Two True (40-ft, 2009), Loki (60-ft, 2011) and Wild Oats XI (100-ft, 2012). Victoire is seeking to become the first boat to successfully retain the Tattersall’s Cup since the mid-1960s.

International influence

In keeping with its international reputation and wide global interest, the Rolex Sydney Hobart always welcomes an array of foreign entrants who have to overcome the added logistical challenge of shipping or sailing their boat to Sydney. Along with American entrants Comanche andRIO 100, yachts from the Cayman Islands, Germany, New Zealand, Poland and the United Kingdom add foreign glamour to the 119-strong fleet.

NIKATA  in heavy seas (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

NIKATA in heavy seas (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Festive atmosphere

Pre-race celebrations will include a Parade of Sail of historic Rolex Sydney Hobart entrants before hundreds of thousands of spectators ashore and on the water in Sydney. The race start will be broadcast live throughout Australia and also webcast live to a global audience. Given the wide interest in this 70th edition, victory will have an extra coat of fulfilment.


Maiden sail of Maxi Racer "Comanche", skipper by Ken Read on Rhode Island Sound off Newport, Rhode Island  (Photo by George Bekris)

Maiden sail of Maxi Racer “Comanche”, skippered by Ken Read on Rhode Island Sound off Newport, Rhode Island (Photo by George Bekris)

Ken Read skipper of  the new Maxi 100′ monohull racer hit the ocean running as the sails are on and sea trials have begun.  She will be seen for the next week or so around Newport before she heads south.


Comanche Maiden Sail (Photo by George Bekris)

The shore crew will finalize  the preparations for Comanche and ready her to set sail for Charleston.  From Charleston she will be shipped to Australia and begin training for her inaugural race against 4 other Maxi’s and the rest of the fleet in this year’s  Sydney-Hobart Race.

More Photos of Comanche by George Bekris Photography  HERE


Challenge and Adventure Video of First Sail  of  “Comanche”  HERE


Ken Read putting Comanche through her paces on Rhode Island Sound, October 13, 2014 (Photo by George Bekris)

Ken Read putting Comanche through her paces on Rhode Island Sound, October 13, 2014 (Photo by George Bekris)