Introduced in 1980, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup represents a meeting of elegance, power, speed, as well as prowess. The event annually hosts large, powerful Maxi yachts, engaged in direct competition in a beautiful and challenging environment. Organized by Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association, the popular regatta has been the jewel of Rolex’s international yachting portfolio since 1985, and is celebrating its 25th edition this year.
A rendezvous for those at the forefront of development within the yachting industry, the yachts competing are benchmarks: true guides to current trends. For the international fleet of 35 Maxi yachts gathered in Porto Cervo for the 2014 regatta the competition is at its midway point. Those with the ambition to win and the determination to follow through are coming to the fore.
Mini Maxi Racing
Featuring all-out race boats, all close to 72 feet in length, the fifth running of the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship is one of the standout features of this year’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. “The 72-footers are simply the top boats that exist in monohull racing,” says Vasco Vascotto, tactician on sailing yacht Robertissima III. “The boats are powerful, [and] great to sail.” explains Niklas Zennström, Ràn 5’s owner/helm. Bella Mente yacht’s Mike Sanderson, ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year in 2006, assesses the level of competition: “There are some very successful businessmen and multiple world champion sailors racing against each other. Everyone is used to winning.” Crewmate, Terry Hutchinson, offers his opinion: “It’s the pinnacle of our sport, you fight for every single inch.
There is widespread belief that this is the toughest Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship to date. The third day of racing, was proof positive that everyone is capable of winning with the two outsiders sailing yacht Caol Ila R and Shockwave yacht making the most of light, unstable conditions during two windward/leeward races to each take a first and third place. It is luxury yacht Alegre, which led the Championship until the final day in 2013, that tops the overall standing going into the second half the week, 1.5 points ahead of Robertissima III with perennial powerhouse crew on Ràn 5 a further 0.5 point back in third. Up to three races remain.
Fact: Positioned bow to stern, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup fleet measures close to 1km (962.81m), the equivalent of nearly ten FIFA World Cup pitches. The Mini Maxis make up 171.14m.
In contrast to the raw power of the Racing Mini Maxis, the four-strong J-Class is a display of classic elegance. A mix of restorations and replicas, the J-Class hark back to the 1930s, a stylish and glamorous era. Cutting-edge racing craft in their day, competing for the America’s Cup, the J-Class are owned and sailed by those passionate about the past. Graceful to watch, captivating to sail, the class is equally defined by the Corinthian spirit of its competition. At 43.7m (143ft) superyacht Lionheart, a replica of an original design, is the largest in attendance. Competition is provided by two more replicas in luxury yacht Rainbow and charter yacht Ranger, and last year’s winner, super yacht Velsheda, a restoration.
A crew of 35 skilled sailors is required to plan and execute flawless manoeuvres. “Every manoeuvre has its time and point to make a decision. The tactician and the navigator know those cut off times and they have to make a decision at that certain point,” explains Jeroen de Vos, who designed Rainbow for Dykstra & Naval Architects. Today the fleet was presented with a classic Costa Smeralda course: 31nm up through the twisting channel separating the Maddalena Archipelago from mainland Sardinia. Rainbow proved the most adept, winning the three and a half hour race and in so doing climbed above Lionheart to lead the class with two days racing left.
Fact: Launched in 1933, Velsheda is the oldest yacht racing this week, while Ràn 5 is the newest, launched this year (2014).
Representing the utmost in modern style the nine yacht Wally Class provides a contrasting view to the both J-Class and Racing Mini Maxi. Founded in 1999, Wally yachts are high performance cruisers typified by expansive teak decks and aggressive hull lines concealing chic, luxurious interiors. Answering the needs of owners for whom the latest in innovative design, construction techniques and sailing technology should be aligned with modern-day comfort, the yachts have proved themselves equally adept on the racecourse.
The Wally Class took on the same course as the J-Class on Day 3. The latest interpretation of the concept, the 100-foot Wally Cento super yacht Magic Carpet 3, finished the course in just under three hours, beating last year’s overall class winner J One yacht into second place, with International Maxi Association president Claus Peter Offen taking third in charter yacht Y3K. These three lie atop the standings after four races. J One holds a one-point edge over Magic Carpet 3 and Y3K.
Fact: The J-Class Lionheart displaces a spectacular 170 tonnes, while Magic Carpet 3 tips the scales at 49.95 tonnes, and the Racing Mini Maxi Bella Mente, at half the length of Lionheart weighs a mere 16.8 tonnes, a tenth of the weight.
Supermaxis, Maxis & Dual-purpose Mini Maxis
Elsewhere in the 2014 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup fleet there are three Supermaxis, goliaths of the sea measuring upwards of 100-ft. Again contrasting designs define the Class. Superyacht Firefly is a modern interpretation of a classic day racer, while luxury yacht Inoui and charter yacht Viriella are simply imperious modern yachts that offer their owners graceful habitats afloat. Firefly leads going into the second half of the competition, but only by one point from Inoui, which has the wind behind her challenge having won yesterday’s 31nm race.
Maxi yachts fill the gap between Mini Maxis and Supermaxis, measuring between 80 and 100 feet. Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s 83-ft hybrid Maxi yacht Highland Fling, is among the fastest boats on show. Three bullets in three races gives her a commanding lead over Tom Siebel’s performance-cruiser the 90-foot Swan superyacht Odin.
Unlike their stripped-out sisters, the Racing/Cruising Mini Maxis offer their owners the opportunity to both race and cruise whenever the mood takes them. Seven are present this year and today’s 23.5nm race proved there is plenty of competition in prospect during the final two days. The 62-foot Bronenosec took the honours today, denting the previously perfect scoreline of the 79-foot charter yacht Lupa of London. Lupa still leads the class, but Bronenosec has closed the gap to three points.
Fact: The total number of crew registered for the 2014 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is 724, just short of the 736 players selected for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Today is designated a layday, an opportunity for crews to relax ahead of an intense final two days, which will be punctuated only by a select number of glamorous social occasions that add to the fame and attractiveness of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.
2014 MAXI YACHT ROLEX CUP – PROVISIONAL RESULTS DAY 3
Place, Boat Name, Boat Owner, Races- Total Points
Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship
1. ALEGRE (GBR), Alegre Yachting Ltd., 1.5-1-3-4-(5); 9.5
2. ROBERTISSIMA (CAY), Roberto Tomasini, 6-2-1-(5)-2; 11
3. RÁN 5 (GBR), Niklas Zennstrom 4.5-3-2-2-(7); 11.5
Mini Maxi R/C
1. LUPA OF LONDON (GBR), Jeremy Pilkington, 1-1-2; 4
2. BRONENOSEC (RUS), Alpenberg S.A., 4-2-1; 7
3. AROBAS (FRA), Gerard Logel, 2-4-3; 9
1. HIGHLAND FLING XI (MON), Irvine Laidlaw, 1-1-1; 3
2. ODIN (CAY), Tom Siebel, 2-2-2; 6
3. BRISTOLIAN (GBR), Bristolian Marine Ltd., 4-4-3; 11
1. RAINBOW (NED), SPF JH2, 2-3-1-1; 7
2. LIONHEART (GBR), Stichting Lionheart Syndicate, 4-1-2-2; 9
3. RANGER (CAY), R.S.V. Ltd., 1-2-4-3; 10
1. FIREFLY (NED), Eric Bijlsma, 1-1-2; 4
2. INOUI (SUI), Marco Vögele, 2-2-1; 5
3. VIRIELLA (ITA), Vittorio Moretti, 3-3-3; 9
1. J ONE (GBR), Jean Charles Decaux, 1-3-2-2; 8
2. MAGIC CARPET 3 (GBR), Sir Lindsey Owen Jones, 2-1-5-1; 9
3. Y3K (GER), Claus Peter Offen, 3-2-1-3; 9