The prime role of the International Maxi Association, as endorsed by World Sailing, is to encourage and support all forms of maxi racing internationally. In line with this remit, five years ago it introduced the IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge (MMOC), to entice more maxis out on to the race course and friendly rivalry between owners. Past winners of have included Miguel Galuccio/Vera (2018-19), Carlo A. Puri Negri/Atalanta II (2017-18) and George David/Rambler 88 (2015-16).
“At the time maxi participation was strong at inshore events – in fact the trend appeared to be towards participation in day racing and away from distance events,” explains IMA Secretary General Andrew McIrvine of the Challenge’s origins. “This series was started specifically to encourage more maxis to race offshore again. Until things came to a halt this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were regularly seeing an improvement in numbers entering the events the IMA has included in this series and duly supported.”
The IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge 2020-21 got underway this weekend in Valletta with the start of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, organised by the Royal Malta Yacht Club. While a maxi yacht hasn't won this event outright since Andres Soriano's Mills 68 Alegre in 2009, during the 2000s maxis enjoyed much more success with outright winners including Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory, Carlo Puri Negri's Atalanta II, Charles Dunstone's Nokia and Robert McNeil's Zephyrus IV. But the biggest win was certainly by George David’s Rambler when in 2007 she scored the ‘triple’ – line honours, the overall win under IRC and setting a new time of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds, a record which stands to this day.
Into 2021, and, for a third time, the IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge will include, as its second event, another long-standing Mediterranean classic: Regata dei Tre Golfi. Renowned for its midnight start following dinner and fireworks at the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia clubhouse in Naples, the course takes the boats north around the island of Ponza, then south around Li Galli before finishing in Capri. This will be the 66th running of this event and as usual it forms part of Rolex Capri Sailing Week, however in 2021 it comes with a schedule change: starting on 15 May it will follow the Maxi Yacht Capri Trophy (11-14 May) and precede the ORC European Championship.
For a fourth time the 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar will be included. This is the youngest offshore race in the IMA calendar, and in 2019 celebrated its 10th anniversary, a special race that saw George David’s Rambler 88 claim line honours and setting a race record, while Argentinean Miguel Galuccio’s RP84 Vera won on corrected time.
Starting on 30 May 2021, the 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar starts in Livorno, Italy, rounds a mark off Marina di Pisa, crosses to the Giraglia rock, before heading south again to a turning mark, then back north to the finish off Punta Ala. With excellent parties and hospitality at the start and finish, this race is one of the fastest growing in the calendar.
The more famous event to round the rock off northern Corsica is of course the one bearing its name – Rolex Giraglia. First run in 1953, 2021 will be its 67th edition (after the 2020 race was cancelled due to the pandemic) and remains a joint operation between the Yacht Club Italiano and Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez. For 2021 its course will revert back to the traditional finish in the YCI’s home port of Genoa rather than Monaco. In recent years around 30 maxis have typically taken part in this event, making it one of the world’s biggest offshore events for maxis.
The IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge 2020-21 concludes once again with the Palermo-Montecarlo race. This will start from a line off the Circolo della Vela Sicilia clubhouse in Palermo on 21 August 2021 and then heads to a gate monitored by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda off Porto Cervo, before passing Corsica and on the finish where the event is hosted by the Yacht Club de Monaco.
IMA members must compete in a minimum of three races from the series, with their best three results counting if they do more.
IMA prizes will be presented at each of these events, while the overall winner will receive a vintage silver cup which is the Challenge’s perpetual trophy. The winner will receive this trophy at the IMA Dinner at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda during September’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.
Andrew McIrvine concludes: “We are cautiously optimistic that by next season we will be past the most difficult times of restrictions due to the coronavirus and will be able to enjoy a more normal season of maxi racing.”
IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge 2020-21
17 October 2020 – Rolex Middle Sea Race – Valletta to Valletta, anticlockwise around Sicily, via Messina, Stromboli, Favignana, Pantelleria and Lampedusa
15 May 2021 – Regata dei Tre Golfi – Naples to Capri, via Ponza and Li Galli
30 May 2021 – 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar – Livorno to Punta Ala, via Giraglia, Formiche di Grosseto
16 June 2021 – Rolex Giraglia (offshore race) – Saint-Tropez to Genoa, via Giraglia
21 August 2021 – Palermo-Montecarlo, via mark off Porto Cervo
by James Boyd / International Maxi Association