The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is one of the most intently fought contests in the yachting calendar.
The winners of the Rolex timepieces at the end of week prize giving will have displayed sound preparation, resolute determination and consistent levels of high performance. To that list of qualities one could add, for this year at least, patience.
The 2016 event has, so far, been a stop-start affair. The wind and sea-state in the first half of the week caused the loss of two days’ racing. Instead of the scheduled rest day, competition resumed today as regatta organizers, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, endeavoured to make up for lost time.
The cream always rises to top and after today’s racing, with two days remaining, the leaders in class are: Thomas Bscher’s Open Season, running away from the rest of the Wally fleet in defence of the 2015 title; Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, resisting the close attentions of the competition while pursuing a consecutive Rolex Maxi 72 Worlds trophy; debutante Win Win leads in SuperMaxi; Rambler and Leopard 3 are tied in Maxi Racing with a win apiece; My Song holds a commanding position in Maxi Racing Cruising with three wins; Lucky’s consistency has carved out a slender lead in Mini Maxi Racing and Wallyño has taken control in Mini Maxi Racing Cruising.
Early start, early finish
After three days of strong winds, the YCCS Race Management were faced with the prospect of a diminishing breeze. The race start time was brought forward an hour to harness the best of the conditions and to open the possibility of two races for the Wally and Maxi 72 fleets. The wind did not play ball, just as it has failed to do seemingly all week. The SuperMaxis, Maxis and Mini Maxis raced a course that should have taken the fleet south to islands of Mortorio and Sofi, before heading north east to the Capo Ferro passage and then back out to the rocks at Monaci before finishing off Porto Cervo. The dying wind led to a shortened course for all classes.
Meanwhile the Maxi 72 and Wally classes raced an 18 nm course in the hopes of achieving the second race. It was not to be and the decision to terminate activities early was appreciated in some quarters. Steve Hayles, the navigator on the Wally 77, Lyra: “It was a very tough day. The light air was difficult. The breeze at the start was around 12 to 13 knots. It then fell to 8 or less and that is massive for these boats. It was frustrating. The overall plan was fine, but the wind dropped away much sooner than most of us expected.”
Technical Briefing – high class racing demands high class management
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is renowned for the excellence on display in the design of the competing boats and the professionalism of the crews. It is also famed for the host club’s determination to lead and innovate in the world of race management – a philosophy appreciated by Swiss watchmaker Rolex and reminiscent of its own approach within its field.
Mike Toppa from the United States, the experienced tactician on Highland Fling, has been participating at Yacht Club Costa Smeralda events for some 25 years. He has witnessed considerable change in the sport, yacht design, sail technology, the level of competition and, significantly, in his view the race management: “The club has done a fantastic job growing with the sport. The boats are getting bigger, there are more crew, particularly professional crew who expect a certain level of expertise, and the club has risen to that. The race committee here exceeds expectations and is a world standard that other clubs and regattas try to match.”
Leading the YCCS Race Team at its flagship event is Peter Craig. Also from the United States, Craig has worked with the club for the past nine years and is highly respected for his expertise. Toppa again: “Peter Craig and I won the America’s Cup together with Bill Koch on America Cubed in 1992. He knows from a racing and a racer’s standpoint what the management should be like. He does a fantastic job and, again, he sets the standard for world class events.”
Craig is clear on the foundations for a good event: “What really makes a great regatta is a terrific venue and great competition. If you get those two ingredients you’re off to a pretty good start.” Craig is also aware of the high expectations of the competitors and the importance of running enjoyable, fair racing. While the final responsibility is his when a decision has to be made, he relies on a collaborative approach in answering the challenge: “It’s really a team effort and this is as good a team as I’ve ever worked with in my 25 years in race management at any number of locations, at any number of clubs.”
The YCCS team is meticulous in its preparation. Racing may be scheduled to start at 11.30 on most days, but the planning meetings start around 07.30. Considerations include the weather conditions where typically seven or eight sources are reviewed, the point reached in the series and the type of racing required by each of the seven classes, as Craig reflects: “We spend the better part of two and a half hours talking strategy and figuring out how we’re going to pull it off.”
These efforts are appreciated by an expert audience.
Volvo Ocean Race winner and former Rolex World Sailor of the Year Mike Sanderson, racing on Bella Mente: “Peter and his team always give us great racing it’s why this event is one, especially with the Maxi 72s, we all work towards.”
The 27th Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association and with the support of title sponsor Rolex. Racing continues on Friday, with competition due to get underway at 11.30 CEST.