Lyra crowned first IMA Maxi European champion

A complex week of racing at the International Maxi Association’s inaugural Maxi European Championship, comprising last weekend’s Regata dei Tre Golfi offshore, followed by four days of inshore and coastal courses on the Bay of Naples, culminated in the one competitors were waiting for – the traditional lap of Capri, measuring just under 15 miles.

This set off in a light southerly with an upwind leg into the channel between the Sorrentine peninsula and Capri before continuing on a clockwise lap around the Italian island, past famous landmarks such as the Faraglioni rocks, the Green Grotto and the imposing lighthouse at Punta Carena.

Racing underway in the final round – Studio Borlenghi, Rolex pic

Among the lead trio Peter Dubens JV72 North Star managed to overhaul the yesterday’s class one winner Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Reichel/Pugh 82 Highland Fling XI and Sir Peter Ogden’s JV77 Jethou approaching the Faraglioni where the wind went light. Enough wind remained to get the 21 maxi boat fleet around the rest of the island, despite Capri’s magnificent and distracting backdrop.

The maxis then returned to the Bay of Naples and headed back to the race committee boat. This proved anything but easy as a giant wind hole created a void in the race track, forcing boats off to remote corners in an attempt to stay in pressure. Suffering worst in this were Jethou and Alessandro Del Bono’s IMA maxi Capricorno.

First to benefit from the breeze finally filling in on the left side was Highland Fling XI ahead of North Star, however the park-up had allowed many slower boats to catch up and incredibly third home on the water was Terry Hui’s Wally 77 Lyra ahead of Guido Paolo Gamucci’s canting keel Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X (both competing in Class 2).

Highland Fling XI and Jethou approach the Faraglioni – Studo Borlenghi, Rolex pic

With the heavyweight Frers-designed Lyra having a substantially lower rating than her rival, though, she won today’s race overall (the lead trio had spent too long parked – even Highland Fling’s time corrected out to eighth), by more than five minutes from Cippa Lippa X under IRC corrected time.

Despite being second across the line, a disappointing 11th under IRC for North Star and a devastating 19th for parked-up Jethou caused them to drop to second and third place on the Maxi Europeans podium, displaced by the all-conquering Lyra by a mere 0.75 points. North Star had won last weekend’s Regata dei Tre Golfi.

Lyra’s crew and her Chinese-Canadian owner, Terry Hui, are no strangers to winning, having frequently prevailed in Wally or maxi classes at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

“It was an interesting day,” said Hui, pleased to receive yet more silverware. “The wind is very inconsistent. Just before the last gybe to the finish, we found wind but then the kite ripped, so it was ‘do we change it or not?’ We changed it. It was a bit unlucky to find wind and then your kite is gone.”

Terry and Olivia Hui (centre) receive their trophy and prizes – Studio Borlenghi Rolex pic

It was a second time this week that Lyra blew up a spinnaker, but speedy crew work was enough to enable them to recover quickly and go on to win.

Lyra’s tactician for this event was Australian double Tornado Olympic medallist Mitch Booth, who explained how they dealt with the final shut down: “We stayed on the edge of the breeze line and sailed around the fleet. It was another challenging day but we’re very happy with the results.

“It’s been an interesting event to race in one fleet with so many different sorts of boats. Obviously, different boats have their day in different conditions, but it is great to see such a strong fleet of high level, very well sailed boats. I am very impressed with the high level of competition. The weather didn’t give us an even hand, but we all got the same.”

North Star owner Peter Dubens went ashore to congratulate Terry Hui, despite seeing victory slip through his fingers. “The conditions are challenging – a bit like St Tropez,” he mused.

“Today was perfect until we sailed into a hole. We got it right around the island, right off the start, but we should have kept going left [at the end]. It was a bit tricky. The boat is going well – better than last year. The Maxi European Championship is a lovely idea.”

Aside from Lyra, Cippa Lippa X’s performance was most worthy, just 60 foot long but finishing among the fastest boats. The white Mylius was fast from the outset today as one of the few port tackers.

According to former America’s Cup tactician Paolo Cian they lost out going too close to Capri. They made up their time by being becalmed the least during the park-up returning to the Bay of Naples.

This is Cian’s first season on board the Mylius canting keeler. “It is a little bit surprising because the boat is performing well in conditions when it is not supposed to,” he admits. “We have to look at its configuration and work out the angles to sail the boat downwind. It is going better and better each day.”

Benoît de Froidmont sailed a solid week, his Wally 60 Wallyño having finished fourth in the Regata dei Tre Golfi. Coming home fourth too today secured them Class 3 by 1.25 points from Vincenzo Addessi’s Mylius 18E35 Fra’ Diavolo, and fourth again overall.

“Going around Capri is beautiful,” de Froidmont admitted. Having started midline they had lost out by going too close to Capri but recovered in the second part of the race.

“I am very happy – the crew did an extremely good job with the boat and we were well prepared.” Fourth was welcome considering Wallyño’s extensive refit over the winter and the COVID period and sets her up nicely to defend her title in the IMA Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge this year.

“When we started the regatta we never expected to do well,” continued de Froidmont. “Over the week it was getting closer, so I am extremely happy to do the ‘double’ between the offshore and the inshores.”

The IMA Maxi Europeans are part of Tre Golfi Sailing Week. Supported by Rolex as Official Timepiece, this is organised by Naples’ Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia (CRVI) under the patronage of the Italian Sailing Federation (FIV) and in cooperation with Yacht Club Italiano, Reale Yacht Club Canottieri Savoia and the IMA.

As International Maxi Association President, de Froidmont added: “This event has been extremely successful and extremely competitive. Looking at the starts you can see all the boats are here to compete which is good to see. The organisers did a fantastic job as it is quite difficult to hold a regatta in a new place. We were pleased – the collaboration with the CRVI was good.”

James Boyd/IMA

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JPK 11.80 July 2024