CAOL ILA AND STIG CROSS TACKING (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Enthusiasm was in abundance at the 2013 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup as a gathering of the finest sailors, most passionate owners, and inspiring yachts met in Porto Cervo, Sardinia for the pinnacle rendezvous of the annual Maxi yacht racing calendar.

Velsheda's Classic Low Freeboard Awash (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

“The two things which make the event unique are the racecourses and the participants,” explained Riccardo Bonadeo, Commodore of event organizers Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS). “The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup from the very beginning has always been the event of excellence for ocean-going boats. And the environment is perhaps the most spectacular and technical in the world.”

“This is the pre-eminent regatta. Everyone is training for it for the whole season. It’s where everyone comes together,” explained Niklas Zennström, owner of the highly successful Mini Maxi Rán 2. “It’s the one we all want to win.”

Inoui Spinnaker flys (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

37 yachts, divided into six classes, contested a myriad of challenging racecourses organized during the weeklong event on the Costa Smeralda. While conditions throughout the 24th edition of this pre-eminent competition were light, the Race Committee was able to successfully organize a gripping week of racing.

Fast and fascinating

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, sponsored by Rolex since 1985, has always been the showcase and proving ground for a fleet of contrasting yachts, and a chance for designers and owners to meet and draw inspiration for future projects. “I’m always looking for the latest, newest technology and something that’s a bit different to what other people are doing,” admitted Lord Irvine Laidlaw, owner of the 82-ft Highland Fling. A sentiment and quest echoed by many in attendance.

Many owners are using advances in technology to drive the design of faster boats; an idea at the forefront of Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’s mind when he commissioned Magic Carpet 3, a 100-ft yacht designed to answer his quest for a boat that would be comfortable and sail fast whether cruising or racing. Line honours success at the Giraglia Rolex Cup was an early indication of the boat’s speed potential compared to his previous yacht. “It’s much faster. It is much more fun, much more exciting. It feels like a racing boat and that’s what we wanted,” explained Owen-Jones. “Paradoxically, it is a much better cruising boat because of its extra width, which gives people air and space and makes it a very stable cruising platform.

Magic Carpet 3 on Day 3 (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Owen-Jones had firm ambitions for Magic Carpet 3. “We’ve written our name five times on the wall next to the door to the Yacht Club (Costa Smeralda), the idea of putting it there a sixth time, which I think would be a record for any name, is a terribly exciting idea.”

Jean Charles Decaux – J-ONE Despite the presence of Magic Carpet 3 and Sir Charles Dunstone’s Hamilton, whose crew included both British Olympian Ian Walker and Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran fame, the Wally Class was dominated by Jean Charles Decaux’s J-One, which won four of the seven races. “Consistency, focus and great teamwork is the magic combination and we are very happy to be the winner again after six years,” explained Decaux. “We are the oldest boat in the fleet and smaller compared to the new ones. We really had to make no mistakes, or at least fewer mistakes than our competitors.”

 

Spinnaker Drop on the J Class Rainbow (Photo by Rolex.Carlo Borlenghi)

Elegance Personified

While eyes feasted on some of the newer boats, the J-Class offered purists with an eye-catching reminder of yesteryear. Of the four J-Class yachts entered at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Shamrock and Velsheda are restorations of yachts launched over 80 years ago, while Rainbow and Ranger are design replicas of original boats destroyed for metal during the Second World War.

Those competing in the J-Class were not intent on solely distracting photographers. “We enjoy close racing and have to be very mindful dealing with equipment that is incredibly valuable and doesn’t respond that quickly. However, none of us want to simply nurse the boats around the course. We want to push it in the gap, that’s the challenge,” revealed Velsheda’ s Tom Dodson.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

LO 1001 ESIMIT EUROPA 2 Jochen Schumann Leads by a slim margin (Photo by Rolex/Kurt Arrigo)

 
A tactically challenging and meteorologically intriguing 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is developing. Thirty hours into the contest, all 83 yachts are still racing with the bulk of the fleet negotiating the infamous Strait of Messina. Leading the fleet, and midway between the Strait and Stromboli, are the 30.48m/100-ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO), and two 21.94m/72-ft Mini Maxis Rán 2 (GBR) and Stig (ITA). Currently sailing at a meagre two knots, the three are separated by less than one mile.

Esimit Europa 2 has not broken away from the pack in the manner she has become accustomed to in previous editions. The first night proved frustrating for Igor Simcic’s crew, caught in a fading breeze that allowed her rivals to close in. On the approach to the Strait this morning, Rán 2 took advantage of a positive current to close the gap on Esimit, and even take the lead. By midday the two boats were only 100m apart exiting the Strait together, destination Stromboli.

“We enjoyed some good breeze through the Strait and are very satisfied with our progress. However, we expect conditions to be very light on the stretch to Stromboli,” reported the crew on Esimit.

Fleet Rounds Strombolicchio (Photo by Rolex/ Kurt Arrigo)

Steve Hayles, navigator on Rán 2, confirmed: “It was a very tricky first night. The smaller boats made quite a big gain at one point. Our long-term strategy was to be furthest offshore. We made a considerable loss initially but managed to stretch away this morning. The race is going to be a bit like an elastic band. It’s about trying to stay on the right side of your competitor and focused on where next breeze is coming from. For us the focus is staying ahead of Stig.” The Italian boat lost ground during the morning but were able to close the gap after exiting the Strait.

Further down the fleet, things are equally intense. Philippe Falle, skipper of the 13.10m/43-ft Trustmarque Quokka (GBR), added: “It was quite a tactical night, pushing and trimming hard. It was an important night to get right. This is one of those races which will see a lot of bungee effects.”

18 yachts have now passed the Strait of Messina. The current advantage on handicap belongs to defending champion – Lee Satariano’s J/122 Artie (MLT). It is a precarious lead as the fleet heads into the second evening and a frustrating search for breeze.

Live race tracking from the 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is available here as a record-breaking 83 international entries contest this classic offshore race.

ITA4465 JSTORM MASSIMO COLOSIMO (Photo by Rolex/Kurt Arrigo)

Wally Fleet Start 2011 (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Wally Fleet Start 2011 (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

A fleet of 34 international Maxi yachts are braced for tomorrow’s start to competitive action at the 2012 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, held in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. Five days of racing are scheduled for the 23rd edition of this annual contest, open to Maxi yachts upwards of 18.29 metres. Boats representing fourteen different countries make up the entry list from the smallest competitor – the 18.30m Mini Maxi @robas  (FRA) – to the gigantic 66m Supermaxi  Hetairos (CY). A stunning spectacle is always guaranteed when the world’s most technologically impressive Maxis lock horns in the challenging and scenic racecourses offered by the Costa Smeralda and the Maddalena Archipelago.

Ever since its inception in 1980, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has represented a rare for opportunity for Maxi yachts to engage exclusively in direct competition. It has also been synonymous with the latest developments in yacht design and technology. 2012 is no exception as three eagerly-anticipated new launches prepare to make their bow: Charles Dunstone’s 30.47m Wally Hamilton(GBR) and two new entries in the intriguing Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship: Hap Fauth’s 21.94m Bella Mente (USA) and the similarly sized Stig (ITA), owned by Alessandro Rombelli.
Edoardo Recchi, Sporting Director of event organizer the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), believes a vintage edition is in store, revealing: “We are very happy to have a fleet of 34 boats with a number sailing here for the first time. The Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship, in particular, will be very competitive because all the Mini Maxis are, from a certain point of view, as good as new, with many having changed keels or rigs.” As Recchi confirms, the week will be a test of each crew’s resolve and endurance: “For the Maxis and Supermaxis five coastal races are planned and for the Mini Maxis and Wallys there will be three coastal races and four windward/leeward races.” Tomorrow, coastal races are scheduled for the event’s five classes (Maxi Racing, Maxi Racing/Cruising, Mini Maxi, Supermaxi and Wally).
A number of this season’s most successful boats are in attendance. Sir Peter Ogden’s 18.90m Mini Maxi Jethou (GBR) triumphed in May’s Rolex Volcano Race; Filip Balcaen’s 34.13m Nilaya (GBR) won line honours at that same event and returns to Porto Cervo to defend her Supermaxi class title. Igor Simcic’s 30.48m Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) has enjoyed a stellar year, smashing the race record at the recent Giraglia Rolex Cup before arriving in Sardinia in style, setting a new fastest time between Monte Carlo and Porto Cervo.

The third running of the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship is likely to be one of the week’s most eye-catching contests. The previous two editions have been claimed by the 21.91m Rán 2 (GBR). Niklas Zennström’s fully professional crew start off as favourites, but the competition will be determined and races decided by the merest fractions. Strength in depth across the Championship is provided by the revamped Jethou, George Sakellaris’ 21.80m Shockwave (USA), Stig and the 21.01m Caol Ila R (USA), the former Alegre – second place finishers in 2010 and 2011 – as Alex Schärer and his crew make the transition from their racer/cruiser of the same name.

Ran 2  (Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi)

Ran 2 (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Brand-new Bella Mente (USA), counting on the expertise of 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Mike Sanderson, concedes nothing to Rán 2 in terms of length although the crew have the challenge of tackling the competition for the first time. “We’re really excited,” remarks Sanderson. “The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is one of the great events on the calendar, where the fascination is seeing all of the hardware together – a collection of amazing boats in terms of power and sail.” Sanderson is expecting a baptism of fire: “In the Mini Maxi class, the level is very high. The other guys currently have a bit more refinement and finesse including Rán who are a very polished act with a very consistent crew.”

Navigators are facing a difficult time predicting what the week’s weather will provide: “The forecast is really tricky,” confirms Sanderson. “There is a low settling off to the west of Sardinia. Some forecasts are saying 50 knots and others five! So we are in for a pretty changeable week.”

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association, prestigious organizations with close ties to Rolex. A first-class social programme is in store, including the Rolex Crew Party and the final Prize-Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups and Rolex timepieces will be presented to the winners.

EVENT PROGRAMME

Sunday, 2 September
Inspections, registration and briefing
Welcome Reception

Monday, 3 September
Race(s)

Tuesday, 4 September
Race(s)

Wednesday, 5 September
Race(s)

Thursday, 6 September
Lay day or resail

Friday, 7 September
Race (s)
Rolex Crew Party

Saturday, 8 September
Race(s)
Final Prize-Giving

 

SHOCKWAVE (USA) AND RÁN (GBR), APPROACH THE LIGHTHOUSE AT MONACI (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

SHOCKWAVE (USA) AND RÁN (GBR), APPROACH THE LIGHTHOUSE AT MONACI (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

 

 

Niklas Zennstrom's Rán. (Photo: by  RORC/Tim Wright photoaction.com)

Niklas Zennstrom's Rán. (Photo: by RORC/Tim Wright photoaction.com)

 

It has been a busy 24 hours at the Antigua Yacht Club. At dawn on the fifth day of the RORC Caribbean 600, only three yachts were still at sea vying to complete the course before tonight’s Prizegiving celebrations and all of the class winners are now provisionally decided. The bar at the Antigua Yacht Club has been in full swing, buzzing with stories between the crews and songs in a myriad of different languages.

Team Selene skippered by Benjamin Davitt finished yesterday morning. The Swan 80 sailed an excellent race to claim third place overall and will lift the prestigious Swan Caribbean Challenge Trophy later this evening.

Without doubt, the closest racing for this year’s event was in IRC One. Colin Buffin’s Swan 62, Uxorious IV, was first to finish, but the team did not celebrate a class win. Buffin and his young team knew that Amanda Hartley’s Swan 56, Clem, was extremely close to eclipsing their corrected time. Just over three and half hours passed before Clem crossed the finish line to win the class by just 21 seconds on corrected time. There were ecstatic scenes dockside as the Spanish crew of Clem celebrated their class win. The entire crew of Uxorious IV including Colin Buffin sportingly applauded their rivals. Amanda Hartley spoke of their win.

“‘We had no idea until we crossed the line and turned on our phones which went crazy with people calling in from Spain. By our calculation we thought we had lost out by five minutes. We got stuck at Guadeloupe for four hours and we could only sit and watch Uxorious get away. We are obviously extremely delighted and really appreciate Colin and his team coming over to give us such a lovely welcome back to Antigua.”

Jaime Torres’ Puerto Rican First 40, Smile And Wave, finished shortly after midnight last night to claim third in IRC One.

Scarlet Logic, co-skippered by Ross Applebey and Tim Thubron, finished the RORC Caribbean 600 shortly after 2300 last night. The Oyster 48 has been vying for the overall win for the last two days. In the end Scarlet Logic missed out, but the team had put in an incredible effort and have been rewarded with a convincing win in IRC Two. Scarlet Logic has the best corrected time in IRC One, Two and Three and as a result will be awarded the fantastic prize of a week’s accommodation at the luxurious Inn at English Harbour.

“Fantastic, elated but bloody tired,” admitted Tim Thubron, co-skipper of Scarlet Logic. The weather lined up nicely for us and we were aware that we were in with a chance of beating the big, well funded professional teams and that really spurred us on and made us push even harder. A lot of credit must go to the whole team, especially Ross Applebey. Scarlet was immaculately prepared and we hardly had a single breakage, however we did need to drop the main to replace a sail slide. The job was done and the main back up in eight minutes, that to me says it all.”

There was joy and pain for both IRC Canting Keel and the Class40s. Ernesto Cortina’s Volvo 70 Gran Jotiti finished the race in just over two days. The Spanish team is racing the yacht formerly known as Telefonica Black in the last Volvo Ocean Race. Ernesto spoke about his team shortly after finishing. “This has been a great experience, even though our result was badly affected by a lot of sail damage. Many of the sails are tired from thousands of miles of racing. However, the crew have been a joy to sail with and this race is helping us build for the future. Gran Jotiti’s aim is to create a world class amateur Spanish offshore sailing team and we have learnt a lot through this race.

Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50, Privateer, showed exceptional pace and boat handling throughout. Unfortunately the American team failed to start correctly and accepted a 10% penalty from the race organisers resulting in Gran Jotiti being declared winner of IRC Canting Keel.

IRC One, Two, Three and Class40 Start. Smile and Wave, Scarlet Logic, Clem and Uxorious IV (Photo by Tim Wright)

IRC One, Two, Three and Class40 Start. Smile and Wave, Scarlet Logic, Clem and Uxorious IV (Photo by Tim Wright)

 

The Class40s turned into a battle royale between Christophe Coatnoan’s Partouche and Christof Petter’s Vaquita. The two Class40s were locked in a heroic tacking duel for the final push to the finish line, a 40-mile beat from Redonda to the finish in Antigua.

Vaquita crossed the line just after sunset beating Partouche by a slender margin, just 15 minutes in a race lasting over 3 days. However, Vaquita failed to start the race correctly and to the Austrian crew’s disappointment, the class win was awarded to Partouche: “It was a tough race and we had a couple of moments that really slowed us down,” commented Christophe Coatnoan who raced two-handed with Eric Calmard. “We picked up a fishing float after Nevis without realising and we probably lost 8 miles before we knew it was there. Later at Guadeloupe, I had to dive into the water to free Partouche from yet another fishing buoy. The race was an excellent test for our new design especially for our sails as I think we used every one of them during the race.”

Superyacht Start. Windrose, Adela, Hetairos, Sojana and P2 line up for the start. (Photo by Tim Wright)

Superyacht Start. Windrose, Adela, Hetairos, Sojana and P2 line up for the start. (Photo by Tim Wright)

Vaquita’s Andreas Hanakamp commented: “Obviously we are disappointed to have been penalised but we were delighted with our performance. Partouche is a brand new Finot design, whilst Vaquita is a 2006 Akilaria. The RORC Caribbean 600 is a testing race course and a very tough race, exactly what we needed to prepare for our main competition of the season, The Atlantic Cup later this year.”

The latest competitor to finish the RORC Caribbean 600 is Bernie Evan-Wong’s Mumm 36, High Tension. Falmouth Harbour exploded with noise as the smallest yacht in the race tied up right outside the Antigua Yacht Club. Thunderous blasts from megayachts, superyachts and foghorns literally shook the dock as the whole of the sailing community in Falmouth heralded the arrival of local hero Bernie and his crew.

“I said we would be here tonight but I always like to be early for appointments,” joked the Antiguan dentist. “It was a hard but satisfying race and the beat from Redonda to the finish seemed to take forever. We could see Antigua but it just didn’t seem to be getting any bigger, however a few miles out a massive rain squall hit and veered the wind favourably for us to speed our way to Antigua. After last year’s dismasting, I think maybe someone was looking out for us!”

Tonight the RORC Caribbean 600 Prizegiving Ceremony will take place at the Antigua Yacht Club. The two yachts still racing are Igor Zaretskiy’s, First 40.7 Coyote II and the RACYC Offshore Racing Team – White Knight’s Spirit of Venus. Both are expected to make tonight’s party, which should be a momentous occasion.

IRC OVERALL RESULTS

 

Rayon Vert Pulsar 50  (Photo by Tim Wright )

Rayon Vert Pulsar 50 (Photo by Tim Wright )

 

Crewman up the mast (Photo by Ian Roman) / Audi MedCup )

 Final day of the 2011 Audi MedCup Circuit season at the Conde de Godo City of Barcelona Trophy, and the 52 Series title can be wrapped up by a pair of modest finishes by Quantum Racing (USA). 
 
They may be champions elect, within reach of their second circuit title, but the American flagged team are determined, after winning in Cascais, to bookend their season with a regatta win.

They have to make up a four points deficit on regatta leaders RÁN and Bribon. RÁN are equally determined to win their first regatta of the season. And Bribon, having all but ceded the title race, also want a regatta win as the perfect signature to end Jose Cusi’s 38 years of Bribon campaigns. Win, lose or draw emotions will well up on Bribon come the final finish line for them.

Two races are scheduled for both the 40 Series and the 52 Series. Garbi sea breeze conditions of 8-11kts are forecast.

While these are the principal title battles there are very many side battles to be won and lost.

In the 52 Series Circuit standings there are still only 6.5 points separating second and fourth places. Over two races Bribon in second on 167.5 points, Audi Azzurra on 173 and Container on 175 all still have options on second place. It is far from a foregone conclusion that Bribon will take second for the Circuit.

And in Circuit terms there is also only 7.5 points separating fifth and seventh place, RAN on 194, Synergy on 198.5 and Audi ALL4ONE on 200.5.

So to a great extent the battles for the season standings will be a key driver in some of today’s afterguard strategies. Even that fight for the basement placings is important. No team wants to finish on the bottom rung of the ladder.

Yesterday may have been the day for dastardly deeds, Quantum Racing summarily halting Bribon’s title run, but today might be about Machiavellian sub-plots. Or will the 52 Series fleet just go and try to sail their own individual races?

The Soto 40 City of Barcelona Trophy Regatta is close with 10 points difference between first and fifth.

Iberdrola Team lead the regatta by two points from Javier Banderas’ Iberostar, while Ngoni, Tony Buckingham’s crew, are still in touch with the lead – only five points behind the Spanish team.

Adrian Stead (GBR), Tactician, Quantum Racing (USA):
“Today looks like the breeze is going to blow a bit lighter than yesterday, it should be a couple of knots softer. We are in a pretty strong position to win the Audi MedCup, but we are also thinking about this trophy here in Barcelona and about finishing the season on a high note. We are really close to Bribón and RÁN, we sailed really well yesterday and we´ll try to a little more of that today. There is going to be a lot of fun and games around us today, there are three boats with the potential of being second in the circuit and they´ll be battling for that. We are in a fortunate position because we can go out and sail our own races, which is what you always want. The pressure is on the other boats”.

Steve Hayles (GBR) navigator RÁN (SWE):
“I think it is pretty tight. I think Quantum Racing will still want to win the event, they are only four points out of it, but there is plenty going on. The forecast is up in the air, there is a big variance in what might happen, but hopefully we can get out there and have two good races. We sat and looked at it last night. We have got ourselves out of bottom spot for the season which was sort of one of our goals of the last event, but we have now kind of come to the opinion that is not relevant, we would take a regatta win ahead of anything.
We have no allegiances, our intention is to go out there and sail a perfectly normal day and go out and try and win two races and if that includes camping on people, it doesn’t matter who they are, then so be it. I suspect it will be the same for just about everyone. It is the same game for everyone. There are a couple of battles in there of course, but we are not paying any attention to any of it. It is enjoyable being up where we are. It is good for the team, it is really nice to see Niklas enjoying himself, getting something back for all the huge amount of time and effort he puts in.
It will be a tricky day. There is a big range of possibilities – from almost possibly no sailing which I think is unlikely, but I am plumping for a little delay and it will come in with S-SW’ly sea breeze coming in at 10-12kts, similar conditions to yesterday. That is what we are hoping for, and we are quick.

Iñaki Castañer (ESP), Skipper, Iberostar (ESP):
“We are going out there today to win the trophy.  We are almost virtually second in the general standings and for us winning in Barcelona is very important. We are really focused in winning here, not thinking so much about it overall. I think that we have the necessary speed to do this and also the talent. The forecast is similar to yesterday´s, about 11 knots tops. After many regattas, we finally have managed to reach Iberdrola in terms of speed, especially going upwind, so that gives us real chances to win. All the teams have improved in the last weeks, we have to keep an eye on all of them, not just on Iberdrola”.

Audi MedCup docks ( Photo by Ian Roman )

 

Maxi Fleet Start ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Maxi Fleet Start ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

 

It’s a wrap. The 2011 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup concluded in dramatic style with the completion of the scheduled programme for all classes. The verdicts are in. This year’s class victors are: Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship: Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 (GBR); Maxi Racing: Sir Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling (MON); Maxi Racing/Cruising division: Danilo Salsi’s DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA); Supermaxi: Filip Balcaen’s Nilaya (GBR); Wally: Claus-Peter Offen’s Y3K (GER).

For the second day running, the crews had to be patient in view of the light conditions, although the delay of one and a half hours pales in comparison to yesterday’s testing four hour waiting game. A 24-nautical mile coastal course that included the rocks of Monaci, a duck into Bomb Alley and a long beat to Mortoriotto was organised for the Maxi and Supermaxi crews. For the Mini Maxis and Wallys two intense windward/leeward races of approximately seven nautical miles were on the agenda.

Nilaya and Visione (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Nilaya and Visione (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

A number of today’s races went right down to the wire. Winners on day 5 were: Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship: Rán 2 (GBR) with a 2,1 scoreline; Maxi Racing: Highland Fling (MON); Maxi Racing/Cruising: DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA); Supermaxi: Nilaya (GBR); Wally: J-One (GBR) with a 1,3 scoreline.

Rán at the double
It was on the cards. Bar a catastrophic loss of form or retirement, Rán 2’s second successive triumph in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds was in the bag after a convincing start to the week, when she won three of her four bullets. Quite a month for the fully professional crew who only three weeks ago claimed a second straight overall victory at the Rolex Fastnet Race. Rán are in imperious form. Her three main rivals: Alegre (GBR), Shockwave (USA) and Jethou (GBR) all had moments in the sun but never really got close enough.

Zennström’s crew arrived in Porto Cervo with a single objective: “We came here to defend our championship title and pulled off a very good series, sailing very well often under pressure. We came into today with a comfortable lead so we knew we just had to sail well and not make any stupid mistakes.” The Rán crew enjoyed the challenge posed by this week’s temperamental conditions: “This venue is fantastic, you always have good wind during the week here in Porto Cervo. It was a little challenging with the Mistral before two days of good wind and yesterday’s fickle conditions. The Race Committee did a really good job organising everything,” closes Zennström. The season doesn’t end here for Rán – a return to offshore racing is scheduled with an appearance at the Rolex Middle Sea Race next month.

Final fling
The plot in the Maxi Racing division has had one constant theme: speed. Igor Simcic’s 100-ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) is bigger and faster than Sir Irvine Laidlaw’s 82-ft Highland Fling, a Wally-hybrid. The question was: could Esimit Europa 2 win by enough of a distance to see off her opponent on handicap as well? Awaiting the results has been an antagonising experience for both crews over the course of this week. The first three days saw the speed machines separated by mere seconds on corrected time. Today, the plot took a dramatic, final, twist with Esimit Europa 2 leading two bullets to one.

Igor Simcic's ESIMIT EUROPA 2

Igor Simcic's ESIMIT EUROPA 2 (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

Simcic’s pan-European crew made a fantastic start, gaining a significant advantage on Highland Fling by Monaci, but as the race developed and conditions suited the lighter boat, Esimit Europa 2 saw her elapsed time margin reduced to 13 minutes. Not enough to see off Highland Fling. Once the maths was done, corrected-time victory, today, was not by seconds but by four minutes. Laidlaw was ecstatic: “Esimit Europa 2 is a serious boat, very well crewed and run and for us to beat them is a great thrill after being nowhere near her last year. Overcoming Esimit is very difficult indeed, she is 20-ft longer and has a canting keel: through great crew work and sail choices we managed it.”

Laidlaw was surprised by the quality of today’s conditions: “It is really nice when you have a day where you don’t expect to get any wind and a good sail but end up with a lovely one. You don’t get any better than sailing here in Porto Cervo: varied conditions and a perfect backdrop.”

Down to the wire
Following yesterday’s dramatic collision between Kora 5 (ITA) and Illusion of the Isles (ITA) during the pre-start, the ultimate drama of the day was once again reserved for the Maxi Racing/Cruising division. Brian Benjamin’s 82-ft Aegir 2 was tied with Danilo Salsi’s Swan 90 DSK Pioneer Investments going into the final act, but held a narrow advantage having won two races to DSK’s one. The ultimate cliffhanger. Winner takes all.

DSK made the better start to today’s coastal race, although Aegir 2 were able eventually to pass and extend her lead en route to Monaci. At Monaci, DSK launched her code zero previously unseen this week, and proceeded to reduce the distance. Worse still for Aegir 2, she then got caught up with the largest yacht in attendance, the 148-ft Saudade (GER), after rounding Secca di Tre Monti. The race could not have been closer, the tension rise higher.

Dockside, post-race, the crews did their calculations but still could not determine whether the prize was theirs. When the results arrived, it transpired that DSK Pioneer Investments had prevailed: by a matter of seconds. As is custom in these situations, Salsi was launched into the harbour by an elated crew. “Two years ago we lost the same race in real time by one second so it is a nice feeling,” explained DSK’s owner, “Aegir is a faster boat downwind so we had to try to do our best upwind, and we did all we had to do to win. This crew has done a lot of races together over ten years, all around the world, and we know the boat very well.” A sweet finish to an intense week for the crew whose home base is here in Porto Cervo.

Debutant’s joy
The 112-ft Nilaya (GBR) was one of a number of new entries in the nine-strong Supermaxi class. She had a good week, taking four bullets and never finishing below fourth, blowing the field apart by a massive fourteen points ahead of nearest rivals, Visione (GER) and Hetairos (CAY).

“It was quite an interesting week,” reflects owner Filip Balcaen, at the helm of an established crew, “during the first half it was very windy and a bit of a challenge. The bigger boats in our fleet sailed more conservatively, and we did pretty well both in the strong conditions earlier this week and then when it became lighter. Success always makes one happy, it is the second time here for us after winning the Swan Cup five years ago.”

Triple triumph
Y3K have made history, taking the Wally crown for the third straight year and for the fourth time in seven years. An outstanding achievement for Claus-Peter Offen’s crew who have seen off powerful opponents. After two straight wins going into the final day, it looked plain sailing for the Germans. However, serious spinnaker issues characterised an uncharacteristically difficult day with Y3K having to settled for third and a sixth place over  two windward/leeward races as Andrea Recordati’s Indio (ITA) closed in. Her final victory margin was a mere two points. “It is a good feeling to make it the third time in a row,” explains Offen, “our victory in 2009 was by a larger distance, last year was a close run thing and this year even closer. Despite our issues today, dropping the spinnaker, we held a certain advantage from the previous days, which was enough. The victory is down to a good boat, crew, experience and once again we had our luck.”

Prized moments
Trophies were awarded this evening at a ceremony held at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS). The winners of four of the classes: Rán 2Y3KDSK Pioneer InvestmentsNilaya plus the best performing racer/cruiser in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds – Gunter Herz’s All Smoke (GER) – were presented with a Rolex Yacht Master. In addition, the winner of the annual Rolex IMA Championship – Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) received a Rolex Submariner.

At least four of the yachts which featured at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup are commencing preparations for the Rolex Middle Sea Race (22-29 October, 2011).
ROLEX CUP RESULTS 

Maxi Racing/Cruising

 

BOAT NAME COUNTRY BOAT OWNER R1 R2 R3 R4 TOTAL
DSK Pioneer Investments ITA Danilo Salsi 1 2 2 1 6.0
Aegir GBR Brian Benjamin 3 2 2 3 7.0
Kora 5 ITA Paolo Scerni 2 4 3DNF 8DNC 17.0

 

Maxi Racing

BOAT NAME COUNTRY BOAT OWNER R1 R2 R3 R4 TOTAL
Highland Fling  MON Irvine Laidlaw 1 2 2 1 6.0
Esimit Europa 2 SLO Igor Simcic 2 1 1 2 5.0

 

Wally

BOAT NAME COUNTRY BOAT OWNER R1 R2 R3 R4 TOTAL
Y3K GER Claus Peter Offen 1 1 3 6 11.0
Indio ITA Andrea Recordati 4 5 2 2 13.0
Magic Carpet 2 GBR Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones 2 3 5 4 14.0

 

SuperMaxi

BOAT NAME COUNTRY BOAT OWNER R1 R2 R3 R4 TOTAL
Nilaya GBR Ficaya Ltd 1/1 2/4 2/2 1/1 14.0
Visione GER Hasso Plattner 3/2 3/1 4/4 6/5 28.0
Hetairos CAY Rockport Ltd. 2/4 1/2 5/6 3/6 29.0

*The Supermaxi class is being dual scored in each race under IRC & ORC. The combined scores determine the leaderboard. Individual race scores show IRC race position/ORC race position.



Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship

BOAT NAME COUNTRY BOAT OWNER R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 TOTAL
Rán 2 GBR Niklas Zennström 1.5 1 1 (4) 2 1 6.5
Alegre   GBR Andres Soriano 4.5 2 2 (3) 3 2 13.5
Shockwave  USA George Sakellaris 6 (4) 4 1 1 4 16.0

 

Massimo Violati's OPS 5 turning at the mark Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

OPS 5 ITA 15555  Massimo Violati ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

Come early September and as the height of the Mediterranean summer season passes with the grace of a fading sunset, the eyes of the sailing world will be focused firmly on one stand-out attraction: the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. This annual meeting of the bold and the beautiful, elegance and finesse, onshore refinement and offshore adventure, takes place in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.

Event organisers the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) are expecting a record presence for the 22nd edition, which takes place from 5-10 September. It represents a trend. Last year’s competition welcomed 49 of the world’s most state-of-the-art yachts. Forty-two yachts from 12 countries and territories have already committed to taking part this time around. Whilst the event’s appeal has always been unquestioned, the growth in popularity of the Mini Maxi yacht and the subsequent birth of the competition within a competition, the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship (open to yachts from 18.29-24.08 metres), have led to the mushrooming of the regatta. This year promises to be an eye-catching feast.

Irish whispers
Close attention will be paid to the second running of the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds. Whilst the final list of entries is still to be confirmed, several impressive campaigners will be attacking the waters of the Costa Smeralda. Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 (GBR) and Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) finished first and second last year. Intriguingly, 2010’s third placed yacht is also returning albeit under new ownership. The 72-ft Reichel Pugh Shockwave (USA) has changed hands from serial regatta winner Neville Crichton to George Sakellaris, who previously campaigned the CM60 Captivity. Shockwave has been preparing for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Palma.

The crew of Whisper (IRL) have long been captivated by the lure of Porto Cervo. Michael Cotter’s 78-footer has become a fixture at the event and won the Racer/Cruiser division in 2009. The experienced crew have been focused on the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup for quite a while, as captain Mark Dicker explains: “Whisper’s preparations for the Maxis started in January and this will be our sixth participation. We have a good set up and hope to be on top of our game in Porto Cervo. Over the past winter the boat undertook a large refit with the upgrade of many of its racing systems. We then did a ‘shake down’ regatta at Easter in Palma so we feel confident the boat will be in great shape for the Maxis. Currently Whisper is completing a cruising period around Greece before heading back to prepare for the event and two days training.”

The Irish crew, competing in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, have always performed impressively on the Emerald Coast. Dicker reveals the key to yacht’s success: “The Whisper team have been campaigning the boat for six years with a core crew mostly of Irish sailors, who are happy to keep on coming back. The owner is very competitive, but a laid back approach seems to help the boat stay in good form and even the small handful of professional sailors onboard relish a week’s sailing on Whisper. Certainly the secret to the event is consistency, the conditions around Porto Cervo are very challenging and any mistakes can quickly end a regatta.”

For the crew of Whisper, like many others, the appeal of the event is obvious. “Within the Med there is certainly no other regatta like the Maxis,” closes Dicker, “from the picturesque scenery to the high level of competition returning year after year. Racing up Bomb Alley and round the islands is certainly like no other race course we embark on.” Following on from the Maxis, the Whisper crew will take part at another Rolex supported event – Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.

The rest of the best
Completing the global gathering of competing nations are the Danish crew onboard the 61-ft Vertical Smile, the 78-ft All Smoke (GBR), owned by the German businessman Günter Herz, the 60-ft Arobas (FRA) and Caol Ila (USA), fresh from an impressive performance at the Giraglia Rolex Cup. Sir Peter Ogden’s 60-ft Jethou (GBR) will also be in attendance, having campaigned at both the 2009 and 2010 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

Italian presence is guaranteed with the involvement of six yachts. Alessandro Rombelli’s Baltic-65 Stig finished second behind Aegir in the Racer/Cruiser division last year. She will face stiff competition from Riccardo de Michele’s H20 and Adriano Calvini’s 61-ft Itacentodue, both race day winners in 2010. Completing the elenco of Italian entrants are the 60-ft Aleph-Aniene 1° Classe, the 61-ft Tyke and Enrico Gorziglia’s Good Job Guys.

Homeward bound
Outside of the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, racing will be equally intense in the prestigious and long-established Maxi (24.09-30.5m yachts), Supermaxi (those in excess of 30.5m) and Wally competitions.

The Swan-90 DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA) will compete in the Maxi category and has enjoyed a demanding season in the Mediterranean, taking part in the inaugural Rolex Volcano Race in addition to the Giraglia Rolex Cup, where she was the fifth boat to finish on elapsed time. The yacht has miles in her sails. Fortunately, the Maxis require less travelling for the crew. Owner Danilo Salsi is a member of the YCCS and Porto Cervo happens to be DSK’s crew base. “We like the race area and feel we have good local knowledge,” explains team manager Andrea Casale, “the big challenge for us is to take advantage of this.”

DSK Pioneer Investments triumphed in Porto Cervo at the Rolex Swan Cup in 2010, although the crew realise that repeating their success on the Costa Smeralda in the Maxi division will be a tough challenge. “The Swan Cup was a completely different scenario,” continues Casale, “as we were not competing against the likes of Esimit Europa 2. The yachts in our division this time around will be faster than us on the water so they will be more difficult to beat. We have to be very smart and wise with the tools that we have at our disposal.”

After the gruelling ocean challenges earlier in the season, Casale and the crew are focused on a different type of racing at the Maxis: “We are pleased with the two offshore races, but the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is going to be a very different game. ‘Day racing’ requires more manoeuvring and decision-making in a short space of time. We are adding some new crew members to our standard roster to save time when changing sails. In addition we are ‘tuning’ our rating certificate. Hopefully it will all help.”

Meanwhile, the Wally division is already shaping up to maintain its recent trend of intense battle. Claus-Peter Offen’s Y3K (GER) and Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet (GBR) have winning experience in Porto Cervo although the divisional crown is sure to be contested to the very last nautical mile of the final race. The impressive fleet comprises100-footers Dark Shadow (MON) and Kenora (GBR) as well as slightly more slender but equally impressive campaigners such as Jean Charles Decaux’s J One (GBR), winners in 2007, and Thomas Bscher’s Open Season (ESP).

Next month’s preview press release will provide full details on this year’s list of competing yachts.

RAN GBR 7236R ( Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

On The Agenda
Racing commences on Tuesday 6 September and concludes on Saturday 10 September. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, along with title sponsor Rolex, will provide a lavish array of first class social events including Saturday’s final Prize Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups and Rolex timepieces will be awarded.

RAN 2 Overall Handicap Winner of Rolex Fastnet 2009 (Photo by Carlo Borlenghi)

RAN 2 Overall Handicap Winner of Rolex Fastnet 2009 (Photo by Carlo Borlenghi)

  

Zennström’s Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer finished the race in an elapsed time of 63 hours, 1 minute and 33 seconds, which corrected out to 2 hours, 19 minutes ahead of the second-placed Italian America’s Cup team Luna Rossa on board their STP65.

“It is fantastic, we are very excited about it,” commented Zennström. “But it was also a gradual thing, because as we crossed the finish line we knew we had a good result. We had monitored some of the boats behind us, most notably Luna Rossa and Rosebud, which we thought were always going to be the closest competitors to us. And after we came in we spent the morning and actually the whole day yesterday monitoring the updates on the RORC’s OC Tracker and made our own calculations about the likelihoods for the other boats to catch up with us.”

Having failed to complete the last Rolex Fastnet Race, in 2007, the victory for Ran 2 was unfinished business. That race, sailed on board Zennström’s Marten 49, had been the first occasion that the present Ran crew had sailed together. Led by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Tim Powell, the all-star line-up includes seasoned race boat navigator Steve Hayles and America’s Cup sailors such as Adrian Stead and Emirates Team New Zealand’s Andy Hemmings, Richard Bouzaid and Richard Meacham.

Zennström launched his new 72-footer earlier this year, raced it at several events in the Mediterranean, including the Giraglia Rolex Cup, before it was shipped back to the UK, to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. “One of the key objectives when we were building Ran 2 was to be able to do offshore races, and the most obvious race we put on the calendar was the Rolex Fastnet Race. So it is great we have done so well in it.” Zennström explains.

This year they have also won the Swedish equivalent of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Gotland Runt, aboard their previous Ran, a modified TP52.  

“I think it is a really strong team,” concludes Zennström. “We have been sailing together for two years now and the team is getting stronger and stronger. We have been very thorough in our planning, both in terms of the design of the boat and our race preparations. 

Skipper Tim Powell was equally ecstatic about their Rolex Fastnet Race win: “Obviously it is a big achievement being such a prestigious race and one of the classics.” He adds that they had prepared well, believing some way in advance that a major part of the race would be upwind and, with Ran 2 being very powerful and fast upwind, they stood a reasonable chance. “We were focusing more on our class and the boats around us a lot more. But to have won the thing overall is an awesome achievement.”

Ran 2 did especially well outbound down the English Channel and by the key tidal gate at Start Point, they had pulled out a 10 mile lead over their Mini Maxi rivals. “That first 20 hours up the Channel was all important, tactically and navigationally, and as a crew we sailed very, very well,” says Powell. 

Eddie Warden-Owen, CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, says that this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race did favour the larger boats. “If you think that we’ve had spring tides, and really light winds, one of the big gains that the big boats made was on the first night when they came to Portland Bill and they were able to make the tide. You could see on the tracker that those who had managed to make it away from Portland Bill had a huge advantage, whereas the others were stopped and some had to put their anchor down. So the story of the race in many respects ended there, but we didn’t know which big boat was going to win.”

The opportunity for the smaller boats to win fizzled over the last 24 hours when windier conditions that might have provided them with a fast finish to make up for their deficit, caused by missing the tide at Portland Bill on the first night, failed to materialise.

“Ran sailed really well against the opposition and it is a well-deserved victory,” concluded Warden-Owen. “It is a young crew of British guys on the boat, even though it is owned by a Swede and they are very experienced America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors. So, a good effort.”

At the end of this afternoon, 59 boats of 300 starters had reached Plymouth and berthed in Sutton Harbour in the heart of the Devonshire city. The latest arrivals included the first to finish in IRC Class 1, Nicolas Loday and Jean-Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43, Codiam.

At present La Floresta Del Mar, Amanda Hartley’s Swan 56 can’t be beaten in IRC Z, having finished at 03:24 GMT this morning. While Codiam remains first on handicap in IRC 1, Marc Alperovitch and Jérome Huillard’s A-35 Prime Time is leading in IRC 2 and at 15:00 had just passed the Lizard with 43 miles left to go to the finish. Finally, Fabrice Amedeo’s X-332 Bateaux Mouches du Pont de l’Alma remains first in IRC 3, with 15 miles left to go to Bishop Rock.  The majority of the fleet have now rounded the Fastnet Rock with the backmarker, the Bristol Channel pilot cutter, Morwenna, midway across the Celtic Sea with just over one third of the race course completed.

Niklas Zennstrom   (Photo By Carlo Borlenghi)

Niklas Zennstrom (Photo By Carlo Borlenghi)

This afternoon the Royal Ocean Racing Club, organisers of the biennial British 608-mile classic offshore race, confirmed that Niklas Zennström’s Ran 2 is the overall handicap winner of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.