A casual stroll along the lively docks of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) in Porto Cervo, Sardinia during the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup provides ample evidence of evolution: sleek racing yachts constructed from carbon fibre using the latest thinking in aerospace or automotive technology; tacticians carefully analysing data tracking their yacht’s performance; navigators downloading and studying weather models on tablet devices.

Evolution is everywhere but this annual benchmark for Maxi yacht design is equally defined by other features that have remained consistent since its creation in the 1980s. The sailing landscape of the Costa Smeralda remains arguably the greatest in the world, the host yacht club a world-renowned and respected establishment, for Maxi owners it remains the event in the calendar to win, and it marks one of the longest and most successful relationships in sailing, the partnership between the YCCS and Rolex, sponsors of the event since 1985.

This year marked the 25th edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup; 35 yachts took part including seven all out racing Mini Maxis, one of which was internet entrepreneur Niklas Zennström’s Rán 5, and the beguiling J-Class boats, replicas or restorations of 1930s racing yachts and perhaps the very epitome of both evolution and tradition. The competing yachts ranged from 60-143ft – in total measuring nearly 1km if lined-up bow to stern; weighing from a slender 16 to an immense 170 tonnes; sailed by a combined 724 international sailors.

“I’ve been sailing here for about 20 years. This is always the top pick of where we like to sail around the world,” explained Brad Butterworth, one of many world class professional sailors in attendance. “The environment of the Costa Smeralda is fantastic: the rock formations, the colour of the water, the wind and sea conditions, there is nowhere as beautiful as this for yacht racing.”

Race Management: Efficient & Fair

Rolex’s involvement in yachting is centred upon its privileged alliance with some of the most skilled yacht clubs around the world, including the YCCS, whose race management team is highly respected through its flawless handling of events like the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup. Ensuring the regatta runs smoothly and efficiently on the water falls to the YCCS Race Management Team led by Principal Race Officer Peter Craig and YCCS Sports Director Edoardo Recchi.

“When people ask me what a good race is, I’ll tell them in one word: fair,” explains Craig. “If you are a sailor, or former sailor like in my case, you have a good sense of what the owners want, you’ve been there on the boat with them, you know what they are looking for.”

The YCCS Race Management’s range of responsibilities on the water is vast: defining the classes the individual boats compete in; choosing the best courses relative to the weather and demands of competition; organising and managing complex start sequences; policing racing over an extensive course area stretching 50-nautical miles; monitoring the ever fluctuating weather; calculating and publishing the day’s results as soon as the boats cross the finish line. For Craig the conclusion of racing ends a stressful but enjoyable day. “When the Race Management team have pulled off a great day’s racing, particularly on the hard, difficult days, it's the same satisfaction you experience when you have a great day as a competitor. You come in feeling good about what you've done.”

Mini Maxis: On The Rise

The appeal of the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship as one of the weeklong competition’s highlights is easy to understand. Cutting-edge 72-ft racing yachts crewed by skilled professional sailors, driven by the energy and passion of their owners. Races decided by fine margins. Nothing left to chance on the water. All seven competing yachts in this year’s Championship were in contention for victory.

“The 72-footers are simply the top boats that exist in monohull racing,” revealed Vasco Vascotto, calling tactics on the Italian crewed Robertissima III, owned by Roberto Tomasini Grinover. “The boats are powerful, great to sail, versatile and the owner/driver rule allows the owners to go out and win,” explains Zennström whose Rán crew began the week as the defending champion, winner of three of the four titles to date. The team to beat.

The competition lived up to its pre-event billing. Going into the decisive final day, championship leader Alegre found herself in a familiar position - with destiny in her own hands. On both previous occasions, in 2010 and 2013, she failed to seize the opportunity, losing out twice to Zennström’s Rán 2. This year Zennström and his new Rán 5 were out of the running, beginning the day in third place and over ten points behind the leader. Poignantly, Alegre would still have to defeat Zennström’s all-conquering boat – the former Rán 2 is now in the capable hands of Grinover. Three points separated the two teams.

On the water, it was Rán 5 who enjoyed an impressive final fling winning both races to finish third overall; more importantly Alegre’s third and fourth places were enough to curtail Robertissima’s dreams of success and in the process seal that elusive title.

“It’s a great achievement for the team to be World Champion,” said Alegre owner Andres Soriano. “I’m relieved, it’s something we strove for; we’ve been (in this position) twice already and we finally were able to get over the last hurdle. We sailed our own race; loose, relaxed, confident like we have all week. This year the level of the competition has been raised, more than any of us could have imagined.” The dockside congratulations reserved for Soriano from fellow Mini Maxi owners demonstrated that while the Class is about tough, competitive racing on the water, a gentlemanly spirit punctuates rivalries.
 

Class: Touch of Yesteryear

In contrast to the raw power of the Racing Mini Maxis, the four-strong J-Classprovided displays of classic elegance. Sleek lines, tall masts and decks gleaming with polished winches and varnished woodwork, ensure the J-Class fleet caught many admiring glances. Cutting-edge racing craft in their day, competing for the America’s Cup in the 1930s, the J-Class are owned and sailed by those passionate about the past. Graceful to watch, captivating to sail, the class is equally defined by the Corinthian spirit of its competition.

At 43.7m (143-ft) Lionheart, a replica of an original design, was the largest in attendance and won the Class after a topsy-turvy final day which saw the leadership change three times. Competition was provided by two more replicas in Rainbow and Ranger, and last year’s winner, Velsheda, a restoration.
 

Wally: Gripping competition

Another exciting class where racing went down to the wire was the Wally whose yachts are high performance cruisers typified by expansive teak decks and aggressive hull lines concealing chic, luxurious interiors. Answering the needs of owners for whom the latest in innovative design, construction techniques and sailing technology should be aligned with modern-day comfort, the yachts have proved themselves equally adept on the racecourse. The competition was claimed by Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’s Magic Carpet 3, the latest interpretation of the concept but only after an epic duel with two older models: defending champion Jean-Charles Decaux’s J One and Claus Peter-Offen’s Y3K. “It was a close week,” reflected Owen-Jones, “J-One sails well, I know it well having been a boat of mine. We’ve been coming here a long time, it is the one we all want to win.”

Magic Carpet 3, a Wally Cento (100-ft), was launched in 2013 and designed to competitively race and cruise instyle. A competitive racer, Owen Jones’ main concern throughout the design process of his launch was whether his new yacht would be fast. The answer he says emphatically is yes: “It’s much faster (than his previous two Magic Carpet launches). It is much more fun, much more exciting. When you feel it accelerating it really is an exciting feeling. It feels like a racing boat and that’s what we wanted. Paradoxically, it is also a much better cruising boat because of its extra width, which gives people air and space and makes it a very stable cruising platform.”

Owen Jones, former Chairman and CEO of cosmetics giant L’Oreal, has a long held passion for speed, both in motorsports (he has competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans) and sailing. Magic Carpet 3 is the new love in his yachting life, the latest evolution in high-tech, racing-performance stable. She represents speed and agility married to spacious and comfortable interiors. “I told the builder to weigh everything that comes on board the yacht,” said Owen-Jones. “We used titanium screws to hold it all together and I even offered a bonus to the shipyard workers for every pound of weight they could save during the construction process.”

 

All five of the week’s class winners (also including Firefly in Supermaxi and Lupa of London in Mini Maxi racing/cruising) were awarded Rolex timepieces and Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup trophies. The 26th edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, organised by the YCCS and the International Maxi Association (IMA) is scheduled to take place from 6-12 September, 2015. New Maxi yachts are in build and there is every expectation that next year’s event will introduce yet more new thinking and break more boundaries in the evolution of yacht design. Equally certain is the continuation of the event’s overriding spirit of fair competition and excellence.

PR CONTACT FOR THE YACHT CLUB COSTA SMERALDA
Jill Campbell
E: pressoffice@yccs.it
T: +39 0789 902200

PR CONTACT FOR INTERNATIONAL MAXI ASSOCIATION
Maria Luisa Farris
E: communications@internationalmaxiassociation.com
T: +39 345 8257605