Six of the best

Tighter than tight form going into tomorrow's Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship

Sunday September 6th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: Italy

Racing sets sail tomorrow off Porto Cervo for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship, both highlights of the International Maxi Association calendar.

Among the forty entrants competing in this regatta, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the IMA, all eyes will be on the Maxi 72s. There may only be six competing at this year’s World Championship, but the Maxi 72s have now matured to the extent that today they are considered the pinnacle of inshore big boat fleet racing.

While a box rule class, that, for example, permit boats of 61.5-72ft LOA to compete, the Maxi 72 ‘box’ has now shrunk: All six examples here have similar dimensions; all are 72ft long, most with the maximum permitted draft of 5.4m; just 11 points separates them in terms of their IRC Time Correction Coefficients; all are Judel-Vrolijk designs with the exception of the Mark Mills-penned Caol Ila R, which as Andy Soriano’s Alegre is the reigning Rolex Maxi 72 World Champion.

“I think anyone can win,” admits Dieter Schön, German owner of the newest Maxi 72, MOMO, of this week’s regatta. “This fleet is super competitive. I know it will be close and I know it will also be aggressive.” Launched this spring, MOMO is to sistership George Sakellaris’ Proteus (previously Niklas Zennström’s Rán V).

Schön spent many years campaigning the Olympic Finn and Star and was 2003 World Champion in the highly competitive Dragon keel boat. More recently he has campaigned his Brenta 100 Chrisco at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, but, as he explains: “The Maxi 72 is a racing boat and I want to race. I don’t like to race with a cruising boat.” He also relishes the Maxi 72 being a owner-driver class.

Across the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the class divides have now been applied. 13 boats are competing in the Wally class. Here Thomas Bscher’s modified WallyCento Open Season is the highest rated under IRC, ahead of Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet Cubed with the lowest rated being the Wally 77, Genie of the Lamp, celebrating her 20th birthday this year.

Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze Clark’s VPLP-Verdier 100 Comanche, is the fastest of four boats racing in the Maxi Racing and Racer/Cruiser class. She is also the highest rated across the entire fleet with a Time Correction Co-efficient of 1.925 - her nearest rival is Open Season on 1.762.

The 66.70m long ketch Hetairos is the giant in the Supermaxis, twice as long as the smallest in this class, Marco Vogele’s Inoui.

The biggest class in numbers are the Mini Maxi Racer / Cruisers and Racers with 14 entries. These are typically 60-80ft long and the stand-out performer on the water should be Black Betty, the canting keel VO70, that won the 2005-6 Volvo Ocean Race as ABN AMRO One.

“I am very encouraged by the fleet, because it is bigger than last year and we have got a lot of different boats, many of which haven’t been here before,” observes Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General of the International Maxi Association. “We have got six Maxi 72s that sail with top of the range crews, all with very enthusiastic owners. Then we’ve got the Mini Maxi and Maxi fleets which are growing.

“It seems there is a feeling of confidence that we’re recovering from the financial crisis and people are starting to go sailing again. A lot of these boats aren’t new, but they have been mothballed for the last few years and are only coming out again now.” Of the 40 entries, around half weren’t here last year.

Principal Race Officer this week is American Peter Craig, who is particularly impressed with the Maxi 72 competition. “They are racing at such a high level. We’ve seen them out here practicing for the best part of week – really working on it. That competition is going to be pretty special.”

As usual the bulk of the fleet at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will compete on the coastal courses, for which the Costa Smeralda is renowned, including the famous ‘Bomb Alley’. However the schedule for the Wallys and Maxi 72s will include three days of windward-leewards.

Weather-wise, Terry Hutchinson, tactician on the Maxi 72 i says that on Monday the forecast is for light wind with 5-10 knots from the WNW and dying before the northeasterly sea breeze fills in mid-afternoon. The wind should be good - 12-18 knots from the ENE - over Tuesday and Wednesday and be ‘lively’ – 20-30 knots - for the layday on Thursday, before dropping off again for the final two days of the regatta.

Racing runs from Monday 7th September with a first warning signal at 11:30, until Saturday 12th September with a layday on Thursday 10th.

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