Second Mini Maxi Worlds victory for Ran 2

As Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup concludes in Porto Cervo

Saturday September 10th 2011, Author: Giles Pearman, Location: Italy

The 2011 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup concluded in dramatic style with the completion of the scheduled programme for all classes. This year’s class victors are: Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship: Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 (GBR); Maxi Racing: Sir Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling (MON); Maxi Racing/Cruising division: Danilo Salsi’s DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA); Supermaxi: Filip Balcaen’s Nilaya (GBR); Wally: Claus-Peter Offen’s Y3K (GER).

For the second day running, the crews had to be patient because of the light conditions, although the delay of one and a half hours was short compared to yesterday’s four hours of waiting. A 24 mile coastal course that rounded the rocks of Monaci, passed down Bomb Alley before a long beat to Mortoriotto for the Maxi and Supermaxi crews, while for the Mini Maxis and Wallys there were two windward-leewards  of approximately seven miles.

A number of today’s races went right down to the wire. Winners on day five were: Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship - Rán 2 (GBR) with a 2,1 scoreline; Maxi Racing - Highland Fling (MON); Maxi Racing/Cruising - DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA); Supermaxi - Nilaya (GBR); Wally - J-One (GBR) with a 1,3 scoreline.

Bar a catastrophic loss of form or retirement, Rán 2’s second successive triumph in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds was in the bag after a convincing start to the week, when she won three of her four races. It has been quite a month for her professional crew who only three weeks ago claimed a second straight overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Her three main rivals - Alegre (GBR), Shockwave (USA) and Jethou (GBR) - all had their moments, but never really got close enough.

Zennström’s crew arrived in Porto Cervo with a single objective, said Zennström. “We came here to defend our championship title and pulled off a very good series, sailing very well often under pressure. We came into today with a comfortable lead so we knew we just had to sail well and not make any stupid mistakes. This venue is fantastic, you always have good wind during the week here in Porto Cervo. It was a little challenging with the Mistral before two days of good wind and yesterday’s fickle conditions. The Race Committee did a really good job organising everything,” The season doesn’t end here for Rán 2 which is scheduled to compete in the Rolex Middle Sea Race next month.

In the Maxi Racing division Igor Simcic’s 100ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) was not surprisingly faster than Sir Irvine Laidlaw’s 82ft Wally-hybrid Highland Fling. The question was could Esimit Europa 2 win by enough of a distance to see off her opponent on handicap as well? The first three days saw the speed machines separated by mere seconds on corrected time.

On board Esimit Europa 2's pan-European crew made a fantastic start, had gaining a significant lead over Highland Fling by Monaci, but as the race developed and conditions suited the lighter smaller boat, Igor Simcic's maxi saw her lead reduced to 13 minutes - not enough to see off Highland Fling. Once the maths was done, corrected-time victory, today, was not by seconds but by four minutes. Laidlaw was ecstatic: “Esimit Europa 2 is a serious boat, very well crewed and run and for us to beat them is a great thrill after being nowhere near her last year. Overcoming Esimit is very difficult indeed, she is 20-ft longer and has a canting keel, but through great crew work and sail choices we managed it.”

Laidlaw was surprised by the quality of today’s conditions: “It is really nice when you have a day where you don’t expect to get any wind and a good sail but end up with a lovely one. You don’t get any better than sailing here in Porto Cervo: varied conditions and a perfect backdrop.”

Following yesterday’s dramatic collision between Kora 5 (ITA) and Illusion of the Isles (ITA) during the pre-start, Brian Benjamin’s 82ft Aegir 2 was tied with Danilo Salsi’s Swan 90 DSK Pioneer Investments going into the final day, but held a narrow advantage having won two races to DSK’s one.

DSK made the better start to today’s coastal race, but Aegir 2 were able eventually to pass and extend her lead en route to Monaci. At Monaci, DSK launched her code zero previously unseen this week, and proceeded to reduce the distance. Worse still for Aegir 2, she then got caught up with the largest yacht in attendance, the 148ft Saudade (GER), after rounding Secca di Tre Monti.

Dockside, post-race, the crews did their calculations, but still could not determine whether the prize was theirs. When the results arrived, it transpired that DSK Pioneer Investments had prevailed by a matter of seconds. As is custom in these situations, owner Danilo Salsi was launched into the water by an elated crew. “Two years ago we lost the same race in real time by one second so it is a nice feeling,” he explained. “Aegir is a faster boat downwind, so we had to try to do our best upwind, and we did all we had to do to win. This crew has done a lot of races together over ten years, all around the world, and we know the boat very well.” A sweet finish to an intense week for the crew whose home base is here in Porto Cervo.

In the nine-strong Supermaxi class, the 112ft Nilaya (GBR) was one of a number of new entries. She had a good week, taking four bullets and never finishing below fourth, blowing the field apart by a massive 14 points ahead of her nearest rivals, Visione (GER) and Hetairos (CAY).

“It was quite an interesting week,” reflected Nilaya owner Filip Balcaen. “During the first half it was very windy and a bit of a challenge. The bigger boats in our fleet sailed more conservatively, and we did pretty well both in the strong conditions earlier this week and then when it became lighter. Success always makes one happy, it is the second time here for us after winning the Swan Cup five years ago.”

Y3K have made history, taking the Wally crown for the third straight year and for the fourth time in seven years - an outstanding achievement for Claus-Peter Offen’s crew who have seen off powerful opponents. After two straight wins going into the final day, it looked plain sailing for the German team. However, spinnaker issues provided an uncharacteristically difficult day with Y3K having to settled for third and a sixth place over two windward/leeward races as Andrea Recordati’s Indio (ITA) closed in. Her final victory margin was a mere two points. “It is a good feeling to make it the third time in a row,” explains Offen, “our victory in 2009 was by a larger distance, last year was a close run thing and this year even closer. Despite our issues today, dropping the spinnaker, we held a certain advantage from the previous days, which was enough. The victory is down to a good boat, crew, experience and once again we had our luck.”

Trophies were awarded this evening at a ceremony held at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. The winners of four of the classes were presented with a Rolex Yacht Master, while the winner of the annual Rolex IMA Championship, Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR), received a Rolex Submariner.

More images from Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

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