New faces winning races at Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

After a lighter third day of competition between the 46 yachts, the dominant are now emerging across most of the seven classes going into the final phase of the International Maxi Association’s pinnacle event, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, run by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.

With a light forecast, racing was delayed by an hour. Today was the turn of the 13-strong Maxi class to sail two windward-leewards. These took place in a 10 knot easterly. Meanwhile the rest of the fleet sailed relatively short coastal courses up into Bomb Alley, the faster boats heading up the strait to a turning mark off Spargi before returning.

With two bullets and only one finish off the podium, Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling XI sits on a comfortable seven point cushion after the dark green Reichel/Pugh 82 won the Maxi class’s first windward-leeward race.

“The first race was pretty straightforward – we got a good start, went the right way upwind and downwind and didn’t do anything particularly wrong,” recounted Lord Laidlaw. “I have a great crew and the boat went very well.”

Despite this, there is no rest, particularly having been in this exact position last year when a forestay breakage subsequently dropped them from first place to off the podium.

The ILC maxi Capricorno leads Mini Maxi 2– Studio Borlenghi pic

“That is why I kept the boat for another year – I want it to go out on a high rather than a bang! I won’t say anything…” continued Laidlaw, who is looking forward to the big breeze forecast for Friday and Saturday which Highland Fling XI particularly relishes, before she moves on to a new owner.

In today’s second windward-leeward the white Wallycento Galateia finally managed a race win, despite an exceptional upwind leg from Andrea Recordati’s Wally 93 Bullitt which saw her lead all the 100 footers around the top mark.

For Galateia, this came after a disastrous first race when she fouled Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’ Magic Carpet Cubed and as a result had to take a penalty turn and later ripped a spinnaker.

Following this disastrous first race, American owner David M. Leuschen was particularly pleased to win the second. Having claimed straight bullets at PalmaVela earlier this season, Leuschen attributes his boat’s turn of speed this season at least partly to their new Doyle sail wardrobe.

“In the race yesterday, Magic Carpet Cubed was way in front of us and we caught them at the half way mark which we wouldn’t have been able to do in previous years. This is a great regatta. Even losing, it is still fun.”

Luigi Sala’s Yoru chases H2O – Studio Borlenghi pic

Finally, in the four boat J Class, the run of race wins for the Niklas Zennström-steered Svea came to an end today with Ronald de Waal’s Velsheda scoring a bullet. The most experienced of the J teams beat the so-far dominant Svea by 36 seconds, but the Swedish team continues to lead overall.

There was similar upset among the Super Maxis with Shamanna’s winning streak halted by Argentinean Juan Ball’s Swan 115 sistership Moat 1 scoring her first win of the regatta. Shamanna continues to lead overall by three points with the Spirit Yachts 111 Geist third.

This is only the second regatta for Moat 1 (ex-Highland Fling 15) but today they sailed exceptionally, maintained navigator Juan Luis Paez.

“On the first upwind, we were three minutes ahead of the other boats. Inside the strait we did a good job with the wind shifts and our manoeuvres were okay – just the last one we had a problem with, but the rest were very good.

“We are sailing better and better, particularly upwind.” While the two boats share the same hull, Moat 1 is weighs 65 tons, almost 40 tons less than her more luxuriously appointed rival, so they need to sail at least 30 seconds/mile faster to beat them.

In Mini Maxi 1, the field was reduced from six to five due to a key crewman on board Dario Ferrari’s Cannonball having to be rushed to hospital yesterday with a medical condition. The Italian former Maxi 72, and defending champion here, remained at the dock today.

Meanwhile, there was also upset in this class. So far Jim Swartz’s Vesper and George Sakellaris’ Proteus have been on top, but today it was at last the turn of Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente to win, although overall Vesper still leads Proteus by two points with Bella Mente third.

“We had a good start and led at the top,” recounted Bella Mente’s tactician and Hap Fauth’s America’s Cup skipper Terry Hutchinson. “The guys did a good job sailing down to the laid mark off Spargi. Then once we got around it was a bit of a ‘soldier’s course’. “It was nice down in the strait with flat water.”

Alongside Cannonball, the 74ft long Bella Mente is the highest rated in Mini Maxi 1 so fundamental is getting to the top mark first. “Then,” says Hutchinson, “we’re in good shape. But you have to admire Proteus and Vesper’s downwind speed in a breeze.”

Some separation on the leaderboard is occurring in Mini Maxi 2 with Alessandro Del Bono’s ILC maxi Capricorno finally scoring a race win. Her robust 2-2-1 scoreline under IRC corrected time leaves her two points clear of yesterday’s winner Luciano Gandini’s Twin Soul B with Monday’s winner, Sven Wackerhagen’s Wally 80 Rose, now third.

Capricorno’s crew remains family affair with Del Bono joined by his Admiral’s Cup winner father Rinaldo and son Rinaldo Junior. Of their day, tactician Flavio Favini commented: “We had a good start, led at the top mark and then had a good run.

It was lighter, which probably suited our boat a little better. It was only 1.5 miles upwind and then two reaches and a final beat with not much room for overtaking in the strait. We are obviously happy. We tweaked the boat for the lighter air quite well.”

Mini Maxi 3-4 continues to be a tribute to regular winner here, Riccardo de Michele and his silver Vallicelli 78 H20, now the only class leader to hold a perfect scoreline.

However, today his run nearly ended when Aldo Parisotto’s Mylius 65FD Oscar 3, whose team includes former America’s Cup helmsman Paolo Cian on tactics, finished second, just 11 seconds astern under IRC corrected time, with Frenchman Gerard Logel’s Swan 601 @robas third and IMA President Benoît de Froidmont’s Wally 60 Wallyño fourth.

Overall, Oscar 3 lies second six points adrift of the immaculate H20 with Luca Scoppa’s Dehler 60 Blue Oyster in third.

Tonight is the International Maxi Association’s annual Members’ Dinner taking place at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. Tomorrow is the scheduled layday before the final two days when top end conditions are forecast: 20+ knot westerlies gusting to 25.

James Boyd/IMA media

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