The world’s most impressive monohull yachts - known in the sailing community as Maxis - are admired for their power and elegance.
Owned and frequently helmed by individuals accustomed to considerable success in all aspects of life, Maxis are often sailed by outstanding professional talent and designed by architectural visionaries.
The annual Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is the ultimate test for these magnificent craft, their owners, sailors and designers. Held annually in Porto Cervo, Sardinia it is open only to yachts over 18.29 metres (60 feet) in length. The event is organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association. The 2016 edition takes place from 4-10 September.
Mike Sanderson, former Rolex World Sailor of the Year, is clear on the competitive foundations of the regatta: “This event sees successful businessmen and multiple world champion sailors racing against each other. Everyone is used to winning.”
Fact: The record number of entrants at the competition stands at 49, set in 2010.
A crucial part of any yacht race or regatta is the expertise of the organizing body. Top class events featuring cutting-edge, expensive yachts and the foremost in international sailing talent demand the highest professionalism in race management. Competitors require racing to be fair, enjoyable, and well managed.
According to renowned yachtsman Brad Butterworth: “The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda is high end in terms of race management. They’re on top of everything and very professional. They know the environment and the conditions.”
Rolex’s involvement in yachting is centred upon its privileged alliance with the most respected yacht clubs around the world. Its relationship with the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda stands as one of its longest, stretching back over thirty years.
Fact: The competition was created in 1980. In 1985, it was renamed the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, to mark Rolex’s title sponsorship, and it has been an annual event since 2000.
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was born to provide the largest, most powerful yachts of the day with an opportunity to compete directly in a suitably challenging environment. Continuing that philosophy today, it is also regarded as a showcase for the latest advances in design and technology.
The 27th edition will feature a number of the most recent high-profile designs. Galateia is the newest Wallycento from the pen of Reichel/Pugh Yacht Design; Rambler 88 is the brainchild of free-thinking Juan Kouyoumdjian; while Highland Fling, a Swan 115 Race drawn by German Frers, is the latest Supermaxi from Nautor’s Swan, the famous Finnish boat-builder, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
Maxi yacht design has come a long way in the past 30 years, according to Jim Pugh of Reichel/Pugh Yacht Design: “Initially, Maxis were heavy displacement, fixed keel boats with a fairly shallow draft. Those racing in Porto Cervo (today) are unrecognizable from their predecessors. Coming to an event like this you see so many different boat styles. It is definitely very stimulating in terms of creativity.”
Fact: The first winner of the event was the 76-ft (23.2m) Australian Maxi Bumblebee.
Types of yachts to look out for:
Maxi 72s are cutting-edge racing yachts crewed by skilled professional sailors and driven, both metaphorically and literally, by the energy and passion of their owners. The class World Championship is held during the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, pitting the finest exponents against each other in close gladiatorial combat. Races are decided by fine margins. Nothing is left to chance on or off the water.
“The Maxi 72s are simply the top boats that exist in monohull racing,” reveals tactician Vasco Vascotto, “The boats are powerful, great to sail and versatile. The owner/driver rule encourages the owners to go out and win.”
Fact: Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 holds the record for the most victories in the Maxi 72 Rolex World Championship with 3 successes.
Founded in 1999, Wally yachts are high performance cruisers typified by expansive decks and aggressive hull lines concealing chic interiors. Offering the latest in innovative design, construction techniques and sailing technology aligned with modern-day comfort, the yachts have proved adept on the racecourse. The latest evolution in this tech-driven, accomplished fleet is the Wallycento.
Fact: Positioned bow to stern, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup fleet regularly measures close to 1km
The Supermaxi class is reserved for goliaths measuring upwards of 100-ft. From boats designed to both race and cruise, to those with speed as their single purpose, they reflect a continuing desire to set new benchmarks of power, comfort and elegance.
The epitome of luxury afloat, Supermaxis push the boundaries of knowledge and know-how of the world’s top designers, builders, equipment manufacturers, sailmakers and eventual crew. Seemingly ever bigger, ever more powerful designs are launched each year, as understanding of the possibilities presented by today’s materials and structural science continues to grow.
Fact: The largest yacht ever to race at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is Hetairos measuring in at an extraordinary 218-feet (66.7m)
J-Class yachts had their first true heyday in the 1930s when they were the unsurpassed monarchs of the yacht-racing world. These emblematic craft, either restorations of original designs, more than 80 years old, or authentic replicas, add a graceful edge to proceedings. Owned by passionate individuals for whom tradition and history is paramount, they make an impression wherever they appear.
The challenge in restoring, replicating and sailing these boats is immense. Needs and solutions have changed considerably since the J-Class first came to prominence. It is a delicate balance to maintain the beauty of an original design and make something that performs in and meets the expectations of the modern age.
Fact: The J-Class Lionheart displaces a spectacular 170 tonnes, the Wallycento Magic Carpet Cubed tips the scales at 49.95 tonnes, and the Maxi 72 Bella Mente, at half the length of Lionheart, weighs a mere 16.8 tonnes.
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is an event defined by both tradition and innovation. As befits its elevated status in world yachting, it offers a first-class social programme that ensures the sailing fraternity has the opportunity to reflect on their experiences during the week and importantly their views on the sailing industry at large.
“For over 30 years, this regatta has been the showcase for the Maxis,” asserts Andrew McIrvine, General Secretary of the International Maxi Association.
After five days of intense competition, the individual class winners will be rewarded for their triumph on the water with Rolex timepieces during the final prize giving at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, partner club of Rolex since 1984.