Strong 100 footer competition for May’s IMA Maxi Europeans

Taking place on or around the Gulf of Naples over 17 to 23 May, the event is supported by Loro Piana with Rolex as Official Timepiece.

With seven weeks remaining until the third edition of the IMA Maxi European Championship, so far there have been 31 registered entries with 24 firmed up for the event, organised by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia (CRVI) in conjunction with the International Maxi Association (IMA).

This will be the third occasion the IMA has held its Maxi European Championship with the CRVI and, in what has become a significant event in the maxi yachting calendar, the entry so far matches 2023 when Peter Dubens’ Maxi 72 North Star claimed the European title.

Once again the event will comprise both offshore and inshore races, providing a complete test for competitors. It starts on Friday, 17 May with the 69th Regata dei Tre Golfi. This 150 mile offshore race will start, and this year also finish, off Naples’ Porticciolo di Santa Lucia, where the CRVI’s clubhouse is located by Naples’ historic Castel dell'Ovo. The IMA Maxi Europeans then continues out of Sorrento from Monday 20 May to Thursday 23 May for the inshore element. This will comprise windward-leeward and coastal courses, hopefully including the popular lap of nearby Capri. As usual racing will be held under IRC with competitors obliged to have ‘endorsed’ certificates for added accuracy.

A significant development for 2024 is the participation of a highly competitive fleet of 100 footers. While Furio Benussi’s 100ft Arca SGR will be the scratch boat in the Regata dei Tre Golfi, his Trieste team will be out to rectify last year’s race, when they were forced to retire with canting keel issues. This year the IMA Maxi Europeans are being contested by a trio of former Wallycentos – V of Karel Komarek, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’ Magic Carpet 3 and Galateia, being campaigned by co-owner Chris Flowers – as well as the Wally 93 Bullitt of Andrea Recordati.

All three Wallycentos have received major turboing over the winter with water ballast tanks added in their aft quarters, enabling them to shed lead from their keels, transforming their performance downwind. But Galateia’s tactician Kelvin Harrap is cautious about the change: “The boat has been performing well over the last few years, but you have to evolve and keep up with what the other boats are doing. We don’t know how it is going to work out rating-wise or how it is going to sit on the water. Crossed fingers it will work.”

Other modifications to Galateia include extending the mainsheet track and adding an internal drop line system for ultra-speedy kite drops. “So the spinnaker will now be going through the master bedroom! But hopefully it will take this system to the next level, like the TP52s.”

As to racing at the IMA Maxi European Championship for the first time Harrap says he is looking forward to it. “I know it can be quite light there, but we will have Murray [Jones] and Jordi [Calafat] to help us with that. We put it to Chris [Flowers] about going to Sorrento and the proximity to Capri - he was excited to go somewhere new.”

Sizeable crew at work on board Chris Flowers and David M. Leuschen's Galateia, one of three Wallycentos competing this year. Photo: IMA/Studio Borlenghi

Event backer Pier Luigi Loro Piana will return with his ever-improving ClubSwan 80 My Song, which claimed the Maxi 1 class last year. Chasing her around the race track will be four former Maxi 72s. In the maxi fleet, these yachts are the most thoroughly optimised and sailed at the highest level. Last year's IMA Maxi European Champion, Peter Dubens’ North Star, returns to defend her title, narrowly won in 2023, beating George Sakellaris’ second-placed Proteus by a mere quarter point. Dubens’ team will be also gunning to see if they can win the Regata dei Tre Golfi outright for a third consecutive year.

“I think it suits our boat,” explains North Star’s double Olympic silver medallist tactician Nick Rogers. “The 72s are always super-strong in any IRC fleet. The racing [at the Europeans] is a bit more windward-leeward orientated and quite often there are sections of the offshore and a lot of the inshores which are light. That suits our boat better.” They are looking forward to bouncing back having broken their bowsprit at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup last year.

Sir Peter Ogden’s 77ft Jethou returns for a third year having won Regata dei Tre Golfi line honours in 2023, when she also established a new record. Jethou and North Star are joined by Peter Harrison’s Jolt (ex-Cannonball) while American Magic team principal Hap Fauth will be campaigning his Bella Mente at the regatta for the first time.

But the majority of competitors are 60 footers. Notable among these is IMA President Benoît de Froidmont’s Wally 60 Wallyño. Last year they won the IMA’s Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge for a second time, aided by a second place in class at the IMA Maxi Europeans, to Riccardo de Michele’s Vallicelli 78 H20, which is also returning. Other class winners from 2023 include Giuseppe Puttini’s 48-year-old Swan 65 ketch Shirlaf, which comes with a fine track record here having won the Volcano Race in 2015 and also the predecessor to the present event, Rolex Capri Sailing Week in 2021.

Once again the Regata dei Tre Golfi forms part of the IMA’s 2023-24 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge while the inshore races count towards the IMA Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge. The IMA Maxi European Champion is also part of the CRVI's broader Tre Golfi Sailing Week.

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