Porto Cervo, Italy, 10 September 2016 – The 27th edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup demonstrated once again that this event is quite simply a compelling and intoxicating combination of many characteristics. Impressive yachts, stunning location, meticulous race management, precision teamwork, intense competition and challenging conditions. All played their part in creating a fascinating week. If two elements stood out this year, they were the quality of the yachts and the professionalism of the organization.
At the final prize giving on the Piazza Azzurra in front of the host club the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), the winners of the week were duly celebrated. Class winners received Rolex timepieces, the true reward for excellence on the water. In the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship, it was Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente from the United States winning a consecutive world title. Thomas Bscher’s Open Season dominated the Wally class, and on the way secured a second consecutive win. In the SuperMaxis Win Win had the dream start to her Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup career, winning her class at the first time of entering.
Elsewhere, the Maxi Racing Cruising class went to seasoned campaigner My Song, while in the Maxi Racing head-to-head Leopard 3 overcame her newer, smaller rival Rambler 88. The Mini Maxi Racing and Mini Maxi Racing Cruising classes were won by Atalanta II and Wallyño respectively. One of the biggest cheers of the ceremony was reserved for the race management team who had faced down a testing set of conditions to run an ultimately successful week of competition.
Upbeat end to a challenging week
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is organized by the YCCS in conjunction with the International Maxi Association. Andrew McIrvine, General Secretary of the IMA perfectly summarized the week: “The event had a fantastic entry in terms of both quantity and quality of the yachts. We suffered a disappointing and frustrating start with too much wind, and then had the challenge of working with a dying wind midweek. However, unquestionably, the regatta ended on an upbeat note. Most of the classes were undecided going into the final day of racing and the overall flavour has been positive and enthusiastic.”
With a record fleet, there is little doubt the YCCS’ flagship event is in fine fettle. The owners and crew, both professional and Corinthian, hold the club and its home racing venue in high esteem. They appreciate not just the variety and challenge offered by the Maddalena Archipelago and rock strewn coastline of the Costa Smeralda, but also the racing programme put on by this experienced yacht club, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.
Ian Budgen, tactician, on Leopard 3 has been coming to these waters for over ten years. He reflected that despite a tricky opening to the series the racing had lived up to expectations: “It was annoying to lose a couple of race days at the beginning, but the race days we’ve had have been fantastic. When we come to Sardinia we want to go up through the islands and through ‘Bomb Alley’. We like the difficulty of the transitions and the wind bends which make Sardinia the place it is and the racing so attractive.”
Management par excellence
The YCCS Race Committee led by veteran PRO Peter Craig did an exceptional job this week, faced with a weather forecast that one Italian newspaper described as a slalom course. No two days were identical. The mix of too much and too little wind, stellar days and marginal days all combined to create a convoluted course towards a regatta series that met the requirements of each competing class of Maxi.
No fleet completed its maximum number of races, but each enjoyed some exceptional racing where consistency was more important than the mercurial; where exacting preparation of the boat and the mental determination to stay focused were key components. In the ultra-competitive Maxi 72 division Hap Fauth, owner and helm of Bella Mente, had emphasized at the beginning of the week the importance of staying in the game throughout the contest: “It is extraordinarily important to come off the water each day with the fewest points possible. We are not trying to be first each race. We try to play to our strengths, do well when we should and on other days try to stay in the top three.”
Bella Mente achieved their aim. Able to discard a wayward fifth place in race four, the US crew scored steady first and second places. A last race third could be forgiven since they had won the title by then.
Marcus Wieser, tactician on third-placed Momo, felt the standard of racing this year had been extremely high and that Bella Mente’s win was well-deserved: “The whole class has come together more and more this year. The weaker boats have improved a lot and it is like one design racing. It is hard to come from behind. A good start and good first upwind leg is critical. Bella Mente is very strong. They have been together for many years and work hard to optimise their boat. They are always fast!”
The SuperMaxi class had the look of something special from the day entries closed. Ten spectacular yachts, ranging from the classic J Class designs Velsheda and Lionheart, through the largest and heaviest yacht in the fleet, the 49.6 metre 370 tonne Ohana, to the innovative, cutting edge and recent launches: the 35m Highland Fling and Nikata. Last year’s winner Inoui added to the colourful line up and would not give up her crown easily, only slipping to third overall on the final day.
It was WinWin, the 33 m design from Javier Jaudenes, that stole the headlines. The yacht has been making waves since her launch. WinWIn is Jaudenes’ debut SuperMaxi design, and this her Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup debut. Questions about her speed and performance potential were put to bed as she won her first race of the series. The lowest score of the week was a fourth place and her crew’s consistency could not be matched by the competition.
Owner Kim Schindelhauer, racing at his first Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, was delighted: “It is a special result to win here at such an event against such competition and especially since this our first time here.”
For Jaudenes the result was exceptional: “In some respects it is proof of a successful design concept to race against other yachts with similar characteristics and to come out on top. Of course winning a regatta is a team effort and it is not just the boat, the crew has to race really well too.” Which they evidently did.
If the SuperMaxi class of 2016 is a barometer of advancement in the marine industry, then the future looks bright. A raft of new launches, widely considered as the most current exponents of performance cruising for their dual purpose racing and cruising characteristics, have turned heads. They are the result of an increasingly collaborative approach in an area of yacht design and construction that requires considerable skill and expertise.
Collaboration is key
Jim Pugh, of design group Reichel/Pugh, explains: “As naval architects we must be willing to work with other suppliers: systems designers, structural engineering, builders, engine drives, rigs and sail plan. You need a really good team. Fortunately, in the marine industry there are many good people around who are extremely professional with considerable expertise and capable of making a big difference.”
For Pugh there is no ‘silver bullet’ in the search for the next development in Maxi yacht design. It is more important that all those involved pull together: “If everyone works in the same direction you can build a boat that will be good for a very long time with very high performance. Small evolutions across the different areas can be dramatic. There are a lot of very successful boats that perform well over many years because the group involved made it everything it could be at that time. This collaborative element is critical.”
The future is bright
Now in its thirty-seventh year, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is an event of some considerable standing. Title sponsor Rolex has been part of the fabric since 1984 and plays its part in growing the event with the YCCS. As a leader in its own field, the Swiss watch maker is well aware that to stay at the top requires a commitment to excellence, a willingness to push the boundaries to achieve the smallest improvements, and, above all, passion and enthusiasm.
The world of Maxi yacht design exhibits all these characteristics, with naval architects and others involved prepared to seek the best components and improvements in all aspects of yacht construction. Furthermore, as yachts continue to develop in performance and increase in size the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup itself is in safe hands. The professional forward-thinking approach of the YCCS and its race management team will ensure this.