With 40 yachts gathered in Porto Cervo, the 2015 edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has attracted one of its largest and highest calibre entries in the event’s 35-year history.
When Rolex first joined forces with the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) and the International Maxi Association (IMA) to sponsor the event for the first time in 1985, a 60ft yacht was considered to be a big beast. Fast-forward 30 years however, and the Swan 601 @Robas (FRA) is now the smallest in this impressive international line-up, while the 219ft Hetairos (CAY) is by far the largest.
Much of the fleet has been out training on the azure waters of the Costa Smeralda, enjoying the stunning scenery of Northern Sardinia’s wild and beautiful coastline but more importantly, making final checks on crew manoeuvres and refining the final 1/10th of a knot of boat speed.
Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark must be happy with how Comanche (USA) is going right now. The recent line honours winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race has been designed primarily with offshore performance in mind, but this mean-looking 100-footer has been clocking speeds up to 30 knots during the strong wind lead-up to the regatta.
The navigators have one of the trickiest jobs at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, being required to keep a weather eye on the clouds above, as well as know what rocky dangers lurk beneath the surface. Tom Addis is one of the big-name navigators at this event, the Volvo Ocean Race veteran working at the back of Carla Cornelli’s Wally 107 Kenora (BVI). “Today’s mistral dies away and our attention turns to the south with a low pressure forming just north of Sicily. This will bring strengthening north-easterly to northerly breeze over us over the next few days.”
The week certainly looks set to offer up a good mix of conditions, which is exactly what most teams want. Among the five racing classes, the most closely fought contest is expected to come in the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship. Newest of the six 72-footers is Dieter Schön’s Momo (GER) which has notched up some impressive victories in her debut season, not least winning her division at last month’s Rolex Fastnet Race.
But Momo’s tactician Markus Wieser certainly doesn’t consider his team as the favourites. “All six boats are going very fast, and you couldn’t ask for better crews than you see here this week,” said the German professional. “Yes, Momo has had a very good season, although we were 2nd at the Giraglia Rolex Cup. This is the one that matters more than any other event, though. It’s the World Championship, and it’s one that we would love to win.”
Wieser has been impressed with Bella Mente’s (USA) boat speed in training, and owner Hap Fauth has put together an impressive team in his bid to repeat a sweet victory back in 2012. America’s Cup finallist Terry Hutchinson is calling tactics alongside other Cup veterans like navigator Ian Moore and strategist Adrian Stead. “The racing this week is going to be a game of feet and inches, where you take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small,” said Hutchinson. “You can see why people can’t get enough of this place - great racing, organised by one of the top three yacht clubs in the world.”
This evening the Skippers’ Briefing took place on the top deck of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, with Principal Race Officer Peter Craig welcoming owners, skippers and crews for what promises to be a challenging, exhilarating week’s competition. “If there’s a better place in the world to go yacht racing, I don’t know about it,” said Craig. “The venue, the yacht club, are fantastic. And you look at the calibre of sailors here - bow to stern, these boats are packed with the very best in the world.”
Five days’ racing are scheduled from Monday 7 September to Saturday 12 September, with a lay day on Thursday.