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Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup  - Porto Cervo 2023 - 1



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Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup Overall: Sweden dominates as H20 is unbeaten

The Swedish owned-Svea won the J Class competion with a day to spare at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2022 - photo © IMA / Studio Borlenghi

The crew of the J Class winner Svea at this afternoon's Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2022 prizegiving - photo © IMA / Studio Borlenghi

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Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

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Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup: A feast for the eyes

Yachting World

  • November 3, 2022

Porto Cervo is one of the most spectacular venues in the world, and this year’s Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup was a feast for the eyes. Andi Robertson reports

maxi yacht rolex cup results

Walk the hallowed docks of Sardinia’s Yacht Club Costa Smeralda during the Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup and it was impossible to get anywhere fast. The collection of maxi yachts this year was truly mesmerising, each meriting more than a passing glance. Correspondingly, the army of top professional sailors assembled was literally a who’s who of generations of America’s Cup , Ocean Race and Olympic sailing stars.

To leave the real world and immerse yourself in the Porto Cervo bubble is something special. Even the grizzled, white-haired pros who recall the formative years of the ‘Maxi Worlds’ and who come year in, year out, show no complacency. They love it and always will because it is the pinnacle event of maxi racing.

Post-pandemic, more than ever, there is a renewed appreciation for this spectacular event. Here there are no distractions beyond the wind blown rugged granite scenery, the turquoise waters and the rocky network of islands forming the La Maddalena archipelago.

The 32nd Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup was not the biggest ever, mustering 46 racing maxis in six classes, but it was almost certainly the most competitive event for many years, with quality in depth through each of the divisions.

The fleet was also more diverse than ever. For the first time since 2014 there were four J Class yachts competing under their own JCA handicap – an elegant step back in time contrasting sharply with the debuting foiler Flying Nikka , which raced in its own class, and the just launched powerful ClubSwan 80 My Song which lined up in the 13-boat maxi fleet.

maxi yacht rolex cup results

Rambler off Isola delle Bisce lighthouse north of Porto Cervo. Photo: Luca Butto

A different league

“For sure after the pandemic there seems to be more people wanting to sail big boats than ever before and being able to afford to do so. And this regatta was in a different league to previous events in terms of quality,” noted the International Maxi Association’s secretary general Andrew McIrvine.

“One interesting development is now having absorbed the Wally class – which had a bunch of 80-footers and a bunch of 100-footers racing together – and getting them into performance, rather than size related classes, we have a good 13-boat maxi class. That is definitely better.

maxi yacht rolex cup results

The foiling Flying Nikka raced in a class of its own

“And we have a more race orientated fleet, there used to be cruising maxis, and we have more professionals, whether or not you consider that a good thing. We are still very strict on the owner-driver rule, except in the Super Maxi fleet where in fact the two top owners are young and steer their boats anyway.”

In a typical September week at Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup there will be days of light winds and very often days lost to the Mistral. A fixed Thursday layday may seem like an anomaly but many owners – and their crews – start to feel their age mid week. This edition was no different, early starts made the best of the building Mistral on Friday, but Saturday proved unsailable.

Without question the standard of boat and sail handling gets higher every year. To see the J Class rivals tacking up ‘Bomb Alley’, as the rock-strewn passage north of Porto Cervo through the La Maddalena and Caprera archipelago is known, in 18 knots of breeze and flat water – seemingly within touching distance of the shore – is incredible.

maxi yacht rolex cup results

Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling XI. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Running downwind America’s Cup rival helms Peter Holmberg and Ed Baird showed a precision in their boat placement akin to sailing a Laser, all while choreographing nearly 30 crew. Are there elements of brinksmanship or bravado? Maybe, but the truth is many of the afterguard crew will have raced on these waters dozens of times, and laying one corner when others can’t will reap a dividend of several boatlengths.

The Super Maxi division victory was the biggest win yet for a ‘young’ (at just turned 50) Swedish owner on his Swan 115 Shamanna .

He also owns the well known Spirit 100 Gaia and Gerdney , a classic Swedish Skerries 95ft cruiser. He races Shamanna with eight of his long time friends – among them a cardiac anaesthetist, a pal who was ‘The Bachelor’ on the Swedish reality show of the same name – and a posse of good pros managed by British former Volvo/Whitbread, America’s Cup ace Guy Barron.

maxi yacht rolex cup results

The 82ft custom Wally Highland Fling XI. Photo: Luca Butto

Raising the standards

Barron has sought to keep raising the standards of the ‘amateurs’ so they are fully integrated and respected by the pros, rather than allowing a ‘them and us’ scenario develop. Barron sailed with the owner and his friends originally in Sweden and was able to impart his knowledge and involve them in a way which has become important on the big Swan. “We sat down and said let’s make sure your guys get trained up and are part of it. So between Shamanna and Gaia we share the same pros, the same group and we’re all used to sailing with each other.”

Barron reckons – after some counting – that he has now raced from Sardinia 34 times, the first time being at the 12 Metre Worlds in 1987. “It is one of the best venues in the world and I never ever tire of racing around through Bomb Alley. It is breathtaking. I remember I was on Boomerang and we had THE crash.

maxi yacht rolex cup results

Close fleet action. Photo: Luca Butto

“We hit a rock going 9.5 knots, having just got full speed on we stopped dead. We pulled the engine off the mount, cracked every frame in the boat, blew the terminals off the top of the batteries, flattened the wheel, the pedestals, seized the mainsheet and the runner winch. I ended up in an ambulance with George Coumantaros the owner. He’d fallen over and inverted his cheek. I slid forward, hit the solid stainless reaching stanchion and very luckily did not break my leg. I sail past there and still hear the noises in my head. It is a truly wonderful place to sail!”

Mini maxi rivalry

The six boat Mini Maxi 1 division is the domain of what were previously the Maxi 72 class. Now only Jim Swartz’s Vesper and George Sakellaris hull sister Proteus are close to Maxi 72 trim, all of the other four boats have had extensive modifications. Ironically the top two overall were Vesper , with Gavin Brady as tactician, and Proteus .

The changes across the rest of the fleet have been various: Peter Dubens’ North Star is the first boat to now use stored power for running rigging and sails with seven fewer crew – which at the Maxi Worlds gives a four-point rating credit. Spirit of Jethou (23.5m), Cannonball (22.86m) and Bella Mente (22.55m) have all been lengthened and have deeper keels. Bella Mente has a taller rig, as has Cannonball which can also now carry 1,000kg of water ballast per side.

Despite their differences, this was a very competitive class of boats which were conceived as the last word in maxi racing and richly laden with talent.

maxi yacht rolex cup results

Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup fleet racing in Sardinia’s La Maddalena Archipelago. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

“We were fortunate to be consistent. We did not screw up,” smiled Gavin Brady after racing. “In fact the boat is arguably the same as when it won the World Championships five years ago (as Momo ). It is cool, I think, for Vesper to win the World Championship with the same keel, the same mast, the same sails.

“Our sport needs to see some sustainability and it is a good message that if you have something that works and you just go and sail well you don’t need to change the mast and the keel. That is something special for Jim as he does not want to go down the ‘arms race’ route. He wants to go and race, and may the best team win.

“This fleet of seven boats have evolved. It’s clear the owners want to develop their boats in the way they want and not be told what to do by a box rule. You have Jethou at one end and North Star at the other and we all went round the top mark within 30 seconds of each other. It’s not the Maxi 72 box rule of old but it is working and we have happy owners.”

maxi yacht rolex cup results

Crew on the rail of the iconic J Class Velsheda. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Water ballast, and how it is treated under rating systems, is one factor many grand prix teams are watching carefully, in readiness to adapt their boats. “The water ballast is the elephant in the room right now,” Brady explains.

“Everyone is trying to be secretive but we all know what is going on. Everyone has drawings to put water in everything from a TP52 to a maxi but we just don’t know what the rule is going to do. I think it is a good way, a clean way to make boats go faster. Salt water is in abundance and if we want to pump water into the boat to make it faster and more fun it is a lot more sustainable than carbon fibre and sails that will go to landfill.”

Lord Irvine Laidlaw bade farewell to his faithful Reichel Pugh 82ft custom Wally Highland Fling XI with a swansong win in the 13-boat maxi class. Cameron Appleton calls tactics alongside navigator Andrew Cape: “Porto Cervo is a unique place usually offering a real range of conditions, inshore racing and navigational type courses, and you have to be good at every part of it,” Appleton recalled.

“You get to know the tricks of the place and where the wind bends are but it is how you get there to use them that is the skill.”

With co-owner Niklas Zennström driving his first regatta on Svea , flying the flag for his native Sweden, the J Class title was never really in doubt, though the racing was always close.

Svea seems to have a speed edge and has a great crew marshalled by Bouwe Bekking. The J Class are looking towards a World Championship in Barcelona during the 37th America’s Cup with potentially seven or eight boats. Next to return to the fold will be Rainbow , bought by Kiwi owner Neville Crichton, who is refitting the boat in Palma to be ready for the later part of next season.

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Adrian Keller's Irens 84 Allegra is favourite for this year's first IMA Caribbean Maxi Multihull Series

(photo: IMA / Studio Borlenghi 2023)

The IMA introduces the newly-launched 2024 Mediterranean Maxi Multihull Challenge, with 2024 Rolex Middle Sea Race included in the series

(Rolex / Kurt Arrigo)

Porto Cervo, 29 February. Registrations are open for 2024 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup ( September 8 to 14)

(photo: IMA / Studio Borlenghi)

Leopard 3 declared overall winner of 2024 RORC Caribbean 600. Owner Joost Schuijff was presented with the RORC Caribbean 600 trophy in Antigua on February 23

(photo: Arthur Daniel / RORC)

2024 RORC Caribbean 600. Farr 40 Leopard 3 (MON) is declared overall winner

(photo: Alex Turnbull)

The IMA is pleased to announce the 2024 IMA Caribbean Maxi Multihull Series, open to maxi multihulls of 60+ft (18.29m) LH

Todd slyngstad's hh66 catamaran nemo won the first event of the ima cmms, the caribbean multihull challenge, in early february 2024.

(photo: Laurens More)


Two horse race as the ima’s 2024 caribbean maxi multihull series heads for its bvi conclusion.

  • Posted by IMA
  • London, March 29, 2024

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maxi yacht rolex cup results

39 years ago the International Maxi Association was started as a small gathering of maxi yacht owners wishing to bring more co-ordination to their sailing. Since then it has grown both in the size of its membership and its remit, to become an organization with much wider influence and endorsed by World Sailing to organize World Championships and to manage maxi racing globally. The IMA’s overall aim is to encourage greater participation in maxi racing around the world. To this end, the Association has become increasingly involved in all the regattas with significant maxi participation. Another of the IMA’s major responsibilities is to encourage the highest standards of race management, safety and measurement for both inshore and offshore maxi yacht events. For maxi regattas the IMA assists with the standardization of entry and the writing of notice of races and sailing instructions. The Association can also assist with race management and support and endorse events that are held to its high standards. For 2021 as well as all our usual events and our Mediterranean Maxi Inshore and Offshore Championships, we are adding a new regatta run by the Yacht Club Italiano as a season opener in Portofino at the end of April. We are also supporting the famous Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles to Hawaii and the Aegean 600. Our flagship event, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, we trust will be able to proceed this September in Porto Cervo in near normal conditions. Here and at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez we will be joined by the J Class, a class formally affiliated with the IMA, as we await news of their next World Championship. The IMA’s membership remains healthy – a trend we hope will continue. We need maxi owners to support us so that we can support them! We remain extremely grateful for the generous long term and loyal support from our main sponsor Rolex and are pleased to welcome Credit Suisse as a further sponsor. We also thank the marine clothing company Code 0 for kitting out the IMA team in smart new gear. As usual I thank my hard-working and dedicated staff. Throughout the pandemic we have met weekly on Zoom but are greatly looking forward to seeing each other in person, as well as all maxi owner and sailors in the forthcoming season. We wish you an excellent season ahead.

February 2021 Andrew McIrvine IMA Secretary General

International Maxi Association Legal Headquarters: c/o BfB Société Fiduciaire Bourquin frères et Béran SA - 26, Rue de la Corraterie - 1204 Genève - Switzerland

maxi yacht rolex cup results



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Bella Mente among stars at Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

  • September 11, 2023

Again organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, the latest Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup offered competitors “sun, big waves and big breeze”. Words: Quinag; Photos: Rolex

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Since the early 1980s, maxi yacht owners and sailors have been drawn to the Costa Smeralda and specifically the annual Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Considered the perfect sailing package, the event unites first-class organization, a majestic sailing environment and the world’s leading maxi yachts and professional crews.

Rolex and event organiser the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) have enjoyed a close partnership for nearly 40 years. The longevity of this collaboration has been at the heart of the event’s continued success and evolution. Support for the organization of the week-long regatta is provided by the International Maxi Association (IMA).

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

The 2023 edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will be considered a special vintage. Four days of racing offered the full repertoire of the Costa Smeralda sailing experience, from the strong breeze, big waves and robust sea state of the regatta’s initial exchanges to the light, unstable conditions which closed proceedings.

The Maddalena Archipelago’s myriad of race courses feature numerous narrow passages and rocky outcrops. On such testing fields of play, sailing powerful yachts at high speeds requires total synergy in teamwork and deft boat handling skills.

Sailors, drawn from the cream of professional sailing talent, were left enthralled by the week’s competition. Former Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Mike Sanderson, part of the afterguard on Bella Mente , was one such example.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

“The location is so special,” Sanderson said. “Sun, big waves and big breeze. For so many teams this is the pinnacle event of their year. We have worked all year to develop the boat to be ready for this regatta.”

For Mitch Booth, two-time Olympic medallist, overall Rolex Middle Sea Race winning skipper in 2021 and tactician on Leopard 3 , the event is without equal: “Coming together in such an iconic place, it is a real season highlight and a clash of the titans, the best against the best in perfect sailing.”

Accolades went to the six class winners who showed great consistency and expertise in dealing both with the vagaries of the conditions but equally the formidable nature of the opposition. Proving triumphant were: Galateia (Maxi Class A), Bella Mente  (Class B), Spirit of Lorina (Class C), Y3K (Supermaxi), Svea (J Class) and Allegra (Maxi multihull).

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Since its foundation, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has been the showcase for the evolution in maxi yacht design and technology. The 48-strong fleet at this year’s 33rd edition was one of the most eclectic to date. From the largest entrant, Svea (43.6m/143ft), through to the smallest, Blue Oyster (18.3m/60ft), an eye-catching range of yachts were on display.

Innovations for the 2023 edition included the first ever appearance of the maxi multihulls. As YCCS Commodore Michael Illbruck explains, this aligns with the event’s perennial commitment to be at the forefront of developments.

“Change is a constant in the world of yachting, and continuous evolution has been the key to the success of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, right from the first edition in 1980 up to the present day,” Illbruck said.

“The inclusion of multihulls fits perfectly with this perspective, a natural development of an event that has always been characterized by cutting-edge technology. Opening up to other categories allows owners to continue to pursue their passion and may inspire others to do so.”

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

The oldest competing yachts included the J Class Velsheda and the recently restored Baruna , both dating back to the 1930s. Thomas Bscher’s Baltic 68 Open Season proved a highlight among the newer launches and one which symbolises a movement within sailing design to consider even more closely the environmental impact across all aspects of boat building and performance.

Creating fair and exciting competition across such a diverse fleet requires significant race management organization, one the event has long been renowned for. The rating system and division of classes is constructed with this in mind and to provide owners and sailors with the platform to pursue their passion for the sport.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

On the water, one of the closest divisions was the eight strong Maxi B group where American yachts Bella Mente and Proteus  broke away to contest the title.

Going into what proved to be the regatta’s final race, they were tied on points. Bella Mente finished first to cap an impressive week on the water which saw the stellar crew, predominantly together for the past decade, claim two bullets and three second places.

Delight for owner Hap Fauth: “We come every year and it is the pinnacle of our season. This is our fourth victory in 11 years and the hardest fought.”

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Even closer was the Supermaxi competition. Only three points separated the top three yachts – Moat , Inoui and eventual winner Y3K , the recently launched Wally 101.

It marked a return to Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup success for owner Claus-Peter Offen: “I have been racing here for 25 years. For us it is the highlight of the regatta season. This is where we want to be thanks to the beauty of the area and of the yacht club.”

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

For the class winners, crowned at the final prizegiving, victory at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is reward for overcoming world-class competition, an intense and challenging racing programme and having prepared in peak form for the pinnacle event in the maxi yacht calendar. The overriding sentiment was an appreciation for an event which always delivers on excellence.

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For the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the Multihulls Are Here

For the first time, the regatta, which has always been for monohulls, will include big catamarans. Capsizing could be an issue.

An overhead view of a white catamaran with two large black sails. It sails on deep blue water that reflects sunlight.

By David Schmidt

Call it a game of speed, tactics, underwater rocks and double the number of hulls.

For the first time in its 43-year history, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup , which begins on Monday in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, will include up to five maxi multihulls. These fast and powerful catamarans, which measure at least 60 feet, bow to stern, can often sail faster than monohulls, but they don’t carry capsize-preventing keels.

This presents a challenge at the Maxi cup. The regatta is known for its coastal courses. These often wend past the Maddalena archipelago’s islands and submerged rocks, and, critically, through Bomb Alley.

This stretch of water, about 15 miles long, separates the archipelago from Sardinia’s north-northeast flank. When the strong northwesterly winds — called the mistrals — blow, Bomb Alley can get boisterous, which should yield exciting, if not scary, racing.

“This is an experiment, really,” said Andrew McIrvine, secretary general of the International Maxi Association , which organizes the regatta with the hosting Yacht Club Costa Smeralda . He said the decision was initiated by a member’s request.

“A lot of Maxi owners are getting a bit long in the tooth, and it will probably extend their racing life by a few years if they can race on a catamaran, rather than hanging on to the back of a Maxi,” he said.

Catamarans have two hulls to create stability, rather than a single narrow hull and a heavy keel. Critically, they generally lean over — or heel — less than a monohull, which makes it easier to move across the yacht during maneuvers. But if the sails are not adjusted to match the wind gusts, multihulls can lose their balance and capsize.

“There’s the old saying about running aground that sometimes gets applied to capsizing big multis: There’s two clubs, those who have and those that will,” said Paul Larsen, who is the race skipper of Allegra, an 84-foot catamaran. “It’s no joke.”

While the risks are real, regatta organizers were clear that they wanted to attract sophisticated racing-focused multihulls.

“There are a lot of horrible caravan multihulls,” McIrvine said, referring to cruising-oriented catamarans. “We won’t just take anything because it’s big, that’s for sure.”

Regatta organizers said that the multihulls would compete in their own class. However, weather depending, the catamarans could sail similar or separate coastal courses as the monohulls, potentially setting up passing situations with the slower-moving monohulls.

“I see the opening up to multihulls as a natural thing, a natural development of an event that has always been characterized by cutting-edge technology,” said Michael Illbruck, commodore of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. “This type of boat entirely fits with the Maxi world.”

Five Maxi-size catamarans initially entered the regatta, the maximum under the event’s rules, but one had a catastrophic fire and another capsized, sustaining season-ending damage.

Unless other Maxi multihulls enter the regatta at the last minute, that leaves three of the multihulls that will race, two of which will be making their racing debut on the Maxi cup’s coastal courses.

Regatta veterans describe these courses as aesthetically pleasing and tactically challenging, and regatta organizers said the islands could also modulate sailing conditions.

“The various courses around the archipelago of La Maddalena offer an area with limited waves when the prevailing mistral wind blows,” said Edoardo Recchi, the club’s secretary general and sports director. “This kind of course fits the characteristics of multihulls better.”

The archipelago’s often flat waters can make for fast sailing, but navigation can also be confined.

“The proximity to land puts real pressure into the decision-making as the consequences could be of far more importance than simply the race result,” Larsen said. “It’s challenging, thrilling and spectacular.”

This places a premium on crew choreography, especially when the mistrals howl.

“All the teams are working with big gear and very high loads, and mistakes can be very costly sailing amongst the archipelago,” said Kinley Fowler , an America’s Cup winner and the sailing team manager of Convexity², a Gunboat 68, describing the forces exerted by the big sails. “This will be exaggerated on the multihulls as we will be going faster, so it means that we will need to be thinking one or two steps ahead the whole time.”

Despite these scrawny margins, multiple teams are hoping for the mistrals.

“I’d prefer a windy regatta,” Larsen said. Of Allegra, he said, “The boat has proven itself to be strong and fast, and the crew know her well.”

Others are also confident about their boat-handling abilities.

“We have a really strong team and are not afraid to push the limits,” Fowler said. While the Maxi cup is the debut regatta for Convexity², Fowler said that the core team had sailed together for years. “Fingers crossed we get to light it up.”

While the three multihulls are fast and powerful, Lord Laidlaw’s Highland Fling 18, a new Gunboat 80, is built for speed. It should be able to sail at more than 30 knots in certain conditions.

“We are definitely on the edge of speed, loads, systems — and my helming ability,” he said, adding that helming a Maxi multihull is much different than a monohull. “Great to be learning something new at 80.”

As for racing the boat through Bomb Alley in a mistral, Lord Laidlaw, who has won his class at this regatta multiple times aboard his previous Highland Fling monohulls, was candid.

“A bit scary, if I am honest,” he said, explaining that the team had taken precautions to prevent capsizing. They include incorporating sail-handling equipment that automatically releases the ropes that control the sails if certain thresholds (loads or heel angle) are surpassed.

As for dealing with a possible capsize, the teams — and the regatta organizers — are prepared.

“We will also be wearing helmets and Kevlar vests with built-in life jackets, something we have never done before,” Lord Laidlaw said.

Recchi, of the yacht club, said safety boats would be on the racecourse. He also said the event would mitigate risk by monitoring weather forecasts and real-time reports, and by selecting courses that best match conditions.

“Additionally, in the event of a major issue, the Coast Guard is on standby with their boats to help, and a towing boat will be also on standby in Porto Cervo,” he said.

There are the submerged rocks to consider, too.

“It is very easy to ground around the northeast of Sardinia,” Lord Laidlaw said. “Many people who cut corners have regretted it.” He admitted that he had twice hit those rocks.

Unlike monohulls with fixed keels, multihulls can retract their daggerboards, which are the vertical underwater foils that enable the boats to sail a straight course. When the daggerboards are down, multihulls often draw as much water as their keelboat counterparts.

When the daggerboards are retracted, multihulls become shallow-draft vessels, which can create tactical advantages on courses that wend past islands and submerged rocks.

“The fact we can raise the boards — where keelboats can’t — might allow us to cut a few corners where there are outlying shallows,” Larsen said. “But this is a high-stakes game.”

Lord Laidlaw said raising the daggerboards on the Highland Fling 18 took seven seconds. But then you can go “sideways, maybe further into the rocks,” he said.

While all teams want a safe regatta, they also want to win.

“Let’s see how tight the racing is,” Fowler said about sailing near the rocks. “We may have to push the limits to get a jump on the competition.”

This wasn’t a one-off assessment.

“When the racing is tight,” Larsen said, “all cards are on the table.”

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Many owners – Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, Pier Luigi Loro Piana, Lord Irvine Laidlaw, Claus Peter Offen, Carlo A. Puri Negri, Riccardo De Michele to name a few – have raced the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup for years.

maxi yacht rolex cup results

But on the opening day of the 2022 edition of the International Maxi Association’s pinnacle event, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, it was generally not the old hands but the new that enjoyed the best results.

With the 10-20 knot wind from the southeast, the race committee sent the 46 competing yachts in seven classes on an upwind leg and then on an anti-clockwise lap of the La Maddalena archipelago, with a long run up the seaward side of the picturesque islands before a beat up ‘Bomb Alley’. The courses were 31nm for the faster maxis (Super Maxi; Maxi; J Class; Mini Maxi 0 and 1) 23.5 for the slower ones (Mini Maxi 2 and 3-4).

There was drama at the J Class start when the massive genoa on Topaz exploded requiring her army of crew to scrabble to recover the broken sail and plug in a replacement before they got going. For the three other classic 1930s designs, the competition was close with Velsheda claiming line honours but Svea winning under the J Class Rule.

On Velsheda they got off to a good start and led up the first beat. “We had a good tussle with Svea – we are probably a similar speed upwind and they have a little edge downwind,” said tactician Tom Dodson, paying tribute to owner/helmsman Ronald de Waal. “He had a brilliant day, even though it was tricky – we weren’t that far in front and a couple of times in Bomb Alley we only just scraped in front of Svea.” Ultimately Velsheda finished third on corrected time behind Ranger.

Another Swedish-owned yacht prevailed in the Super Maxi class with the Swan 115 Shamanna scoring her first ever race win. The crew comprises a mix of the owner’s friends and seasoned pros like Guy Barron, Jens Christensen, David Gilmour and Andrew Taylor. “It is exciting to have won our first race,” said Barron. “It is nothing special apart from people working to get better and better as a team…”

maxi yacht rolex cup results

Shamanna’s owner added: “It felt good! It was a nice race, but unremarkable – we are trying to avoid making any mistakes, but you can always improve. It is our first day here and we have been going through what we can do better.”

Similarly in the Mini Maxi 2 class, it was not Spirit of Lorina or other regular winners, such as Capricorno or Twin Soul B, that prevailed but German Sven Wackerhagen’s new team on the Wally 80 Rose.

Danish former World Match Racing Tour winner Jesper Radich is calling tactics on board: “I think we stayed cool. The race course was fairly straightforward, but the devil was in the detail and a trade-off between making too many sail changes and optimising what you have flying. We made a massive gain on the reaching leg by just keeping our A2. The owner is thrilled.”

Among the former Maxi 72s in Mini Maxi 1, it was not the highest rated – Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, nor reigning champion Dario Ferrari’s Cannonball that won today but Jim Swartz’s Vesper; one of the least tampered-with Maxi 72s.

Jim Swartz’s Vesper won Mini Maxi 1 today. The boat knows this race course well having previously been the two-time Rolex Maxi 72 World Champion Momo. Photo: IMA / Studio Borlenghi

maxi yacht rolex cup results

“We just had a good day,” said Swartz, who won Les Voiles de Saint Barths earlier this year. “The boys really sailed the boat well. We had a couple of passing opportunities and that was pretty much the race.” Swartz acknowledged that some of the usual heavy hitters are having to relearn their boats following extensive modifications made to them.

One of their passing moves was what tactician Gavin Brady described as a ‘power set’: “We came around the top mark third and just left the jib up and started hiking immediately, while Cannonball went into more of traditional jib down/staysail-up bear away. We got up into the passing lane before they realised we were up inside them and there was nothing they could do because they had five guys on the bow while all our guys were hiking. We had talking about that move last night over some red wine..!”

Ultimately Sir Peter Ogden’s 77ft Jethou beat them on the water to claim second under IRC corrected time with Proteus third.

In the Maxi class it was Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Reichel-Pugh 82 Highland Fling XI that came out on top, while David M. Leuschen’s Wallycento proved that her clean sweep at PalmaVela wasn’t a fluke: first on the water, second on corrected time and winning the unofficial fight of the 100 footers over Leopard 3 (4th overall today) and last year’s winner, Magic Carpet 3 (7th).

Meanwhile Highland Fling XI’s crew are keeping their fingers crossed. They won the first two races here last year but then a broken forestay caused them to plummet from the podium. According to the boat’s captain Xavier Mecoy: “It was a nice surprise for us today. We had a shocking start because we had a problem with the runner winch hydraulics getting off the line, so we were buried. By the offset mark we had got ahead of Y3K and then stretched out nicely from there. I was surprised how well we held on to the 100s – we sailed a great race.”

This was also the very first race for Pier Luigi Loro Piana’s brand new canting keel ClubSwan 80 My Song, which finished an encouraging third in the 13-strong Maxi class.

In the combined Mini Maxi 3 and 4 it was the familiar silver form of repeat class victor here – the Vallicelli 78 H20 – that was today’s run-away winner, finishing more than seven minutes ahead of Luca Scoppa’s Dehler 60 Blue Oyster and the Swan 65 Shirlaf. H2O’s owner Riccardo De Michele said they enjoyed today’s conditions. “With this wind I can say that H20 has no rivals in her class. Shirlaf worries us because she has a lower rating, but she arrived 40 minutes later, so no problem in the end for us.” H20 also has had much the same crew for the last five season including Lorenzo Bodini calling tactics.

There was much smiling for Roberto Lacorte and the crew of the 60ft foiling maxi FlyingNikka, which also sailed her first ever race today. The extreme boat got off the start line well and demonstrated exceptional ability, comfortably foiling upwind in just 10-12 knots. “It was the day we have been waiting for to demonstrate our project. We are happy and doing a very good job from the performance point of view,” said Lacorte.

Tomorrow Mini Maxi 1 and the J Class will race windward-leewards and the rest will continue on coastal courses with a first start at 1200. Moderate southeasterlies are again forecast.

Results here  and  J Class results here .

  • Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Johana Nomm


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Highland Fling 15 sailing yacht

The biggest yachts competing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup gets underway next month and is set to be one of the biggest gatherings of racing royalty in the Mediterranean this summer. Taking place from 3 to 9 September, the regatta will welcome 50 competitors to Porto Cervo for a week of rail-to-rail racing through the Maddalena Archipelago. Take a look at some of this year's contenders...

Kauris IV is not only the largest contender competing in this year's Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, but also one of the newest. This Wally 145 was built by Persico Marine and delivered in 2020 as a vessel that can be enjoyed as a family boat but also compete around the cans. Kauris IV has a lifting keel with a 67-metre-tall mast and flies an area of 1,968 square metres of sail. 

The largest (and newest) member of the J Class fleet, the 44-metre Vitters yacht Svea will be back racing in Sardinia after being crowned overall winner of the J Class last year. The original lines for this Super J were designed by Tore Holm in 1973 and Hoek Design Naval Architects was called on to revive the 75-year-old drawings and bring her up to date, complete with a 53.75-metre carbon fibre main mast. As a result, Svea displaces just 182 tonnes — two tonnes less than her fellow J Hanuman and six tonnes less than Ranger . 

After a fourth-place finish in last year's Maxi Rolex Cup, Topaz and crew have some work to do. The Holland Jachtbouw J Class is based on an unbuilt 1938 design and was revisited by Andre Hoek . Topaz ’s hull design features a reduced wetted surface and higher keel aspect ratio to her 27-metre waterline length, making her quick.

Velsheda is the only original J Class racing at this year's Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and, after securing third place in 2022, is back to see if she can beat her result. This 38.5-metre yacht is the only original J Class not to have been built for the America's Cup , commissioned in 1933 by the chairman of Woolworths and named after his three daughters: Velma, Sheila and Daphne.

The 36-metre Viriella will be returning to Porto Cervo after a fifth-place finish in the Maxi class last year. She is the flagship of the Maxi Dolphin fleet, designed by German Frers , and features a lifting keel with a Southern Spars carbon fibre mast.

Delivered as Highland Fling 15, this 35-metre Swan 115 was born into a racing dynasty. She changed ownership in 2021 and was renamed Moat and it was under her new name that she and her crew were crowned winners of the inaugural Ibiza JoySail regatta. Moat finished just two points behind second place at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in 2022 and will be eager to climb the finishing order this time around.

Geist is the flagship of British shipyard Spirit Yachts. She is undeniably beautiful but also a powerhouse on the racecourse. In 12 knots of true breeze, she beats upwind at nine knots, and while she’s clearly a very large yacht, she’s also a proper sailing boat with all the feel you’d expect of something a third of her size. After coming second in last year's event, Geist will be eyeing the top spot in the Maxi class. 

Inoui is a lean, green, racing machine. A regular on the regatta circuit, she was built by Vitters to a design by Philippe Briand and is built entirely from carbon with a square-top mainsail, shallow sloping reverse-transom and a retractable fin-and-bulb keel. She will be competing off the back of a win at the Giorgio Armani Superyacht Regatta.

Y3K is a competitive racer with a powerful sail plan (she flies 1,162 square metres of sail downwind). She won three consecutive Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups from 2009 to 2011 and will be racing once again in the Maddelena archipelago. She was the third Wally to be ordered by German yachtsman Claus-Peter Offen. He and his racing team have won 11 Wally regattas over the years, both on Y3K and on his previous Wally Galma .

Magic Carpet ³

With wins at the Giorgio Armani Superyacht Regatta, Rolex Giraglia, Maxi Worlds and Les Viles de St Tropez, Magic Carpet 3 is a fierce competitor. She was launched as the second in a series of next-gen performance cruisers by Wally, named the Wallycento and has a displacement of just 50 tonnes (if you remove the keel and the mast, that figure drops to 18 tonnes), which makes her one of the lightest cruising boats ever built. During her construction, every item was weighed, right down to the titanium screws holding it all together. Her Southern Spars rigging flies 640 square metres of sail while a lifting keel reduces her draft by two metres.

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maxi yacht rolex cup results


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