Thanks to beautiful sunshine and blue skies, racing resumed at the 2012 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, following two days of bad weather in northeastern Sardinia. A 12-15 knot westerly and tranquil sea accompanied the start as the Mini Maxi and Wally classes engaged in two windward/leeward races while a 36-nm coastal course was presented to the rest of the fleet. This course included a windward leg inside the channel to the rocky outcrop of Barettinelli before a fast downwind run outside the islands to the finish off Porto Cervo.
As the championship intensifies, today’s winners were: Bella Mente (USA), in the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship claiming a bullet and a second place; Velsheda yacht (GBR) in Maxi Racing; sailing yacht Altair (ITA) in Maxi Racing/Cruising; superyacht Nilaya (GBR) in Supermaxi and Magic Carpet 2 (GBR) claimed two victories in the Wally class. Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) again completed the course in the fastest time, finishing in just over two hours, 35 minutes.
The competition leaders with two days of racing to go are: Bella Mente in the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship; Velsheda in Maxi Racing; Aegir (GBR) in Maxi Racing/Cruising; Nilaya in Supermaxi and Magic Carpet 2 in Wally.
regattanews.com is profiling action from a different class each day as the 23rd edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup develops. Today’s focus is the Maxi Racing and Maxi Racing/Cruising fleet.
Flight of the fastest
The Maxi Racing fleet is unquestionably the week’s most diverse class. Four contrasting boats are locked in confrontation. The week’s fastest yacht – Igor Simcic’s rocket-like 100-ft Esimit Europa 2 – lines up against Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s 25.24m off-the-wind flyer sailing yacht Highland Fling (MON), the elegant 39.5m J-Class Velsheda and the 35m Firefly yacht (NED), a modern take on a J-Class boat. Given their vastly differing designs, the four yachts respond very differently to the diverse conditions presented so far this week.
Juan Vila is Esimit Europa 2’s expert navigator: “It was a very exciting course, which saw us sailing very close to the rocks. Today was steadier than the previous days, there was less cloud and lighter breezes. Our aim was to gain an advantage and cut down as many boat lengths as we could at every corner.” Although Esimit Europa 2 was fastest around the course her corrected time lead was ultimately not enough to overcome today’s winners Velsheda and second-placed Highland Fling.
Velsheda is enjoying her time in the sun, taking a second bullet as the week’s changeable conditions continue to favour her. “As we are one of the heavier boats here, Esimit and Highland Fling race away very quickly,” admitted navigator Mike Broughton. “It’s been tricky in terms of picking the right sails and very challenging in between the islands. Taking a J-Class within metres of the rocks provides great snakes and ladders racing.”
On such a large craft, sailed by a crew of over 35, efficient communication is key to a successful day on the water. “It takes a lot of people to coordinate a spinnaker drop,” confirmed Broughton. “The size of the sails and rig are huge and it’s another facet of sailing. Communication is one of our biggest challenges but using headsets it works very well.”
Peter Holmberg calls tactics on defending class champion Highland Fling, currently lurking on Velsheda’s shoulder, courtesy of three straight second place finishes. “It’s been eventful and not all plain sailing this year. On the first day we hit an uncharted rock which was pretty dramatic, but we were able to complete the race as we were close to the finish. Yesterday was a bit of a rush after getting all the repairs done and we finished second.” A feat the crew repeated today, finishing 15 minutes behind Esimit Europa 2 on the water. “As a wide bodied boat with high stability we prefer a stronger breeze compared to our tough competition,” added Holmberg. “As Esimit is very narrow with a canting keel, they are quite different animals (preferring light airs). Conditions really dictate who does better.”
Going into tomorrow’s penultimate day, Velsheda leads on five points, one ahead of Highland Fling and two ahead of Esimit Europa 2.
Brian Benjamin is seeking to add to his 2010 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising title, by securing this year’s Maxi Racing/Cruising class with his 25.08m S/Y Aegir. Aegir finished second today behind the Swan 90 Altair but retains a narrow one point lead overall. Marco Rodolfi’s sailing yacht Berenice Bis (ITA) lies in third.
Last year, Benjamin’s crew lost out to Swan 90 DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA) by mere seconds on the final day of racing. “The competition is at about the same level as previous years,” confirmed Benjamin. “You need to be consistent and get your stuff right although a lot of preparation goes on before you get here (in terms of preparing the boat) and that’s what pays. We were cruising two weeks ago and return to cruise mode next week so the guys behind scene ensure we get to the event in shape.”
The Mini Maxi and Wally classes will tackle windward/leewards tomorrow, a coastal race awaits the remainder of the fleet.
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