Rolex celebrates 30 years as title sponsor of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in 2015, a competition which remains at the forefront of the yachting world, a revered showcase for the latest trends in Maxi yacht design and technology combined with first-class action on the water.

Organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) and the International Maxi Association (IMA), the 2015 event takes place from 6-12 September and welcomes an array of top class sailing talent and state-of-the-art Maxi yachts on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda, a glamorous environment admired throughout the sailing community. The event comprises competition in different categories that reflect both size and design-type of yacht.

This year’s 26th edition promises much with a number of high-profile yachts set to feature in the waters off Porto Cervo for the first time. These include recent American launches Comanche and Rambler, owned by businessmen Jim Clark and George David respectively. Meanwhile competition in the dedicated Maxi 72 Rolex World Championship has earned a reputation for intensifying year on year, and 2015 should be no exception.

No Better Place

The Costa Smeralda is a veritable nautical playground for the hardened professionals and passionate owners who return each year. “This is always the top pick of where we like to sail around the world,” explains renowned professional sailor Brad Butterworth. “The environment of the Costa Smeralda is fantastic: the rock formations, the colour of the water, the wind and sea conditions, there is nowhere as beautiful as this for yacht racing.” YCCS race management is considered first class with challenging courses offered throughout the week. Conditions are varied, tricky, frequently spectacular. The prospect of the world’s most powerful yachts, all multi-million dollar designs, racing mano a mano against a backdrop of alluring rock formations provides compelling viewing.  The setting and top-class level of competition is a mesmerising combination for owners as much as it is for sailors. “We’ve been coming here a long time,” reveals Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, long-term owner of different guises of the Wally yacht Magic Carpet. “It is the one we all want to win.”

Rolex has a long association with this irresistible location and most notably with the pre-eminent YCCS having partnered both the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup since the early 1980s.

In the Ascendancy

The newly branded Maxi 72 Class (formerly Mini Maxi Racing) will engage in the sixth edition of its world championship. The Class, reserved for racing Maxi yachts up to 72-ft (21.94m) in length, has enjoyed a steady rise: these stripped-out, pure racing boats are helmed by their skilled but amateur owner and crewed by some of the world’s leading professional sailing talent.

Three champions have been crowned across five editions - three victories for Swedish businessman Niklas Zennström’s all-conquering Rán crew, one each for American entry Bella Mente and for last year’s winner Andres Soriano andAlegre.

“They’re without doubt the most exciting boats to sail,” admits Bella Mente owner Hap Fauth. “This (the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup) is the big one. It’s the event these boats are built for. It’s the most fantastic racing,” explains Mike Sanderson, the strategist on Bella Mente and 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year. At least six, including newcomer Dieter Schön’s MOMO, will be contesting this year’s championship.

Class Acts

Elsewhere the competition is equally eye-catching.

The graceful J-Class yachts, comprising restorations of original designs, more than 80 years old, and authentic replicas of original boats, some of which were destroyed for metal during the Second World War, made their return to the competition in 2013 adding a graceful edge to proceedings.

The Supermaxi class is reserved for imperious goliaths measuring upwards from 100-ft to more than 165-ft (50m); and includes boats designed to both race and cruise and those with speed as their single purpose. All reflect a continuing desire to break boundaries in terms of power and elegance.

With the Wally Cento (100-ft), the Wally class launched a new design concept in 2013 featuring the latest thinking behind dual-purpose yachts intended to both cruise and perform on the racecourse. Owen-Jones’s Magic Carpet Cubed has been the most prominent build so far.

Meanwhile, the Maxi class (80-100-ft) regularly features the world’s finest and fastest 100-ft racing yachts.

In pursuit of victory, crews must navigate racecourses with dexterity, executing complex manoeuvres flawlessly. Races are often decided by the narrowest of margins and, in such an unforgiving environment, perfection is not just required, but demanded.

Always evolving

The developments in boat design and technology witnessed each year at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup are significant for many reasons. They push the design envelope at the pinnacle of the sport, and the demand for, and availability of, high-tech material filters down through all aspects of sailing. Maxi yacht owners make ambitious investments to push the perceived boundaries of speed; and their desire for increased comfort onboard propels the sport’s continued evolution.

Throughout the week, a first-class social programme ensures the sailing fraternity has the opportunity to reflect on, and share, their experiences from the water and their view of the sailing industry at large. After five days of competition the individual class winners are rewarded for their brilliance on the water with Rolex timepieces during the final prizegiving at the YCCS, partner club of Rolex since 1984.  

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is truly an event defined by both tradition and evolution.


- The competition was created in 1980, becoming the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in 1985 and an annual event since 2000.

- The first winner of the event was the 76-ft (23.2m) Australian Maxi Bumblebee.

- The record number of entrants at the competition stands at 49, set in 2010.

- Competing yachts range from 60-ft (18.28m) to in excess of 165-ft (upwards of 50m).

- At 216-ft (65.8m) Hetairos is the largest yacht ever to feature in the event (in 2012).

- Positioned bow to stern, the regular 40-strong Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup fleet measures close to 1km (962.81m), the equivalent of nearly ten World Cup soccer pitches.

- A typical J-Class displaces up to 170 tonnes, a Wally Cento scales at 49.95 tonnes, and a racing Maxi 72, at half the length of a J-Class weighs a mere 16.8 tonnes, a tenth of the weight.

- Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 holds the record for the most victories in the Maxi 72 Rolex World Championship with 3 successes.


Rolex Pressroom:

Yacht Club Costa


Sunday, 6 September YCCS Welcome Reception Inspections, registration and briefing

Monday, 7 September Race (s)

Tuesday, 8 September Race (s)

Wednesday, 9 September Race (s)  

Thursday, 10 September Lay day or resail

Friday, 11 September Race (s) Rolex Crew Party

Saturday, 12 September Race (s) Final Prize Giving