Gearing up for the first IMA Maxi European Championship

first IMA Maxi European Championship

The Rolex countdown clock is ticking for the 26 yachts competing in the International Maxi Association’s first ever Maxi European Championship, taking place over 14-21st May out of Sorrento, Italy.

This comprises the Regata dei Tre Golfi offshore race and the Maxi Yacht Sorrento Trophy inshores on the Bay of Naples and around Capri. The former will carry a 1.25x points co-efficient. Both events form part of the larger Tre Golfi Sailing Week, this year replacing Rolex Capri Sailing Week.

Supported by Rolex as Official Timepiece, the IMA Maxi European Championship is organised by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia under the patronage of the Italian Sailing Federation (FIV) and in cooperation with Yacht Club Italiano, Reale Yacht Club Canottieri Savoia and the International Maxi Association.

After Rolex Giraglia, the 67th Regata dei Tre Golfi is the second oldest event in the Italian offshore racing calendar. The maxis will set sail from off Naples’ Porticciolo di Santa Lucia, home to both the historic Castel dell'Ovo and the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia’s clubhouse at 1900 on Saturday 14 May, half an hour before the main fleet. The 155 mile course takes the fleet north through the bays of Naples, Salerno and Gaeta, around Ponza and then south, where they can leave Capri to port or starboard, before continuing on to the Li Galli rocks, the turning mark off the Amalfi coast. They then return, via the south side of Capri, to the finish off Marina Grande.

Furio Benussi’s Trieste-based maxi ARCA SGR at 100ft will be the longest yacht competing in Regata dei Tre Golfi, but sadly cannot compete in the Maxi Yacht Sorrento Trophy. The 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winning yacht has undergone a six month refit in Trieste. This has included increasing mast height by 5m, replacing all the spars, sails, hydraulics and adding 1.5 tonnes to the bulb, accompanied by substantial structural upgrades.

IMA Maxi European Championship 7 2

The 100ft ARCA SGR at the start of last year's Rolex Giraglia. Photo: IMA / Studio Borlenghi

“The boat is good, really nice - I am really happy with the team and what we have done this winter,” says Benussi. Now the race is on to get her launched and delivered to Naples in time for what will be her first race in a busy season. “The Tre Golfi will be an interesting test. We don’t know exactly how we will performance because we have only our polars, but I am confident,” continues Benussi.

The IMA Maxi European Championship continues with the inshore races of the Maxi Yacht Sorrento Trophy running over Tuesday, 17 May until Friday, 20 May on a mix of windward-leeward and coastal courses, including the competitors’ favourite - a lap of Capri.

IMA Maxi European Championship 2

Giuseppe Puttini's Swan 65 Shirlaf was last year's combined winner of the Regata dei Tre Golfi and the inshore racing. Photo: ROLEX / Studio Borlenghi

These waters are a favourite for IMA Treasurer Sir Peter Ogden, who is returning with his 77ft Judel/Vrolijk design Jethou for the first time since 2019. “I am looking forward to being back in Capri waters. Great Italian food and lots of sailing - this is my favourite regatta. And I am delighted it will also be the IMA’s first Maxi Europeans.”

Jethou joins the Europeans on a high having ended her 2021 season as the outright maxi yacht winner at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. Back this year on tactical duties is America’s Cup legend Brad Butterworth. However sadly the Jethou crew will be sort of a key regular: North Sails’ Sam Richmond, who died following a sailing accident off Antigua in March, was Jethou’s crew boss. “That was devastating - very sad,” admits Ogden.

IMA Maxi European Championship 7 3

Above: Sir Peter Ogden's all-black Jethou with its characteristics fuchsia coloured spinnaker. Below: Riccardo de Michele's Vallicelli 80 H20 blasts past Capri's famous Faraglioni rocks during the 2019 Rolex Capri Sailing Week. Photos: ROLEX / Studio Borlenghi.

Also gunning hard at the IMA Maxi Europeans will be Riccardo de Michele and his striking silver Vallicelli 80 H20, a regular class winner at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.  “For my boat, the Tre Golfi offshore and Sorrento inshore series will be the first event in our 2022 season.” H20 has spent the winter in Cala Galera, having a new deck fitted.

IMA Maxi European Championship 3

Sir Peter Ogden's Judel/Vrolijk 77 Jethou hugs the rocks. Photo: ROLEX / Studio Borlenghi

On board will be all H2O regulars including Italian former Tornado Olympic sailor Lorenzo Bodini calling tactics and veteran America’s Cup grinder, Daniele Bresciano. “My only concern is the weather. In the last few years we experienced very changeable weather here in mid-May, and I remember some days racing around Capri wearing my winter gear.

“I am very excited about going to Sorrento. Let's see how that works for us. I hope the Race Committee will send us on some good coastal races on courses around nice islands like Ischia - not only Capri and Li Galli.”

IMA Maxi European Championship 4

A strong contestant with local knowledge will be the Mylius 18.35 Fra Diavolo of Yacht Club Gaeta President Vincenzo Addessi. Photo: ROLEX / Studio Borlenghi

Equally important to de Michele is the social program. “My wife Patrizia will join me and we like the social programme that has been announced a lot, specially the trip to Li Galli island for the prizegiving. We'll be at the preliminary dinner in Naples on 13 May too."

The social functions include an introductory dinner at the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia’s clubhouse on Friday 13 May. The following evening spectators will be able to watch the start of the Regata dei Tre Golfi from the terrace of the CRVI. Monday 16 May will see an exclusive dinner held at Vico Equense, where local dishes will be prepared by the Sorrentine peninsula's top chefs. On Tuesday 17 May is the IMA’s owners’ cocktail party at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento. Finally on Friday 20 May, there will be a prizegiving for owners on the ultra-exclusive Li Galli island, coinciding with a crew party at the Piano di Sorrento marina.

IMA Maxi European Championship 5

Matteo Fossati's Starkel 64 Stella Maris is another regular competitor on the Bay of Naples. Photo: IMA / Studio Borlenghi

Results in the Regata dei Tre Golfi and the Maxi Yacht Sorrento Trophy also respectively go towards the IMA’s Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge (MMOC) and the Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge (MMIC) championships.


Rolex Middle Sea Race: Rising to The Challenge

Rolex Middle Sea Race: Rising to The Challenge

The profile and reputation of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, organized by the Royal Malta...