With two days of racing completed at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2018, the title contenders in each class are beginning to make their presence felt. Three days remain and there is plenty of competition to come. No one is resting on their achievements so far.
In Supermaxi, the three J Class yachts are proving more than a match for their modern counterparts. Velsheda and Topaz are currently tied in first, with Svea in third. In Maxi, Grande Orazio leads Vera; and, meanwhile, MOMO has placed an authoritative stamp on the Rolex Maxi 72 Worlds with three wins from three. Lyra is ahead of a pack of Wallycentos in Wally; H20 and SuperNikka hold the pole positions in the two Mini Maxi Groups.
The standout yacht so far is undoubtedly Dieter Schön’s MOMO. Over two windward/leeward races and today’s 34.5 nautical mile course northwest to the islets of Barrettinelli di Fuori and back through the Maddalena Archipelago to Porto Cervo, the German crew has proved invincible. Their tactician, Marcus Wieser, believes the success so far to be the result of the team’s efforts during the off-season, as much as a positive approach on the water.
“Maxi 72s are very complex boats,” says Wieser. “[To improve] you have to do things piece by piece. Over the winter, we made some modifications to the boat, developed the sails and strengthened the crew. Our whole package is now coming together very well, combined with the experience built over the past four years.”
A solid platform is certainly the best foundation from which to launch a campaign at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Alone, it is not enough. “Our tactics are working,” says Wieser. “We start well; our onboard communication is good. We are relaxed and can rely upon our tool, the boat. This makes you confident, and when you feel confident you make fewer mistakes.”
Wieser is also clear that it is important not to get carried away: “Every morning I remind the crew we have to respect our opposition, to be calm. We have no need to be aggressive or arrogant on the water. We take every day as a new day.”
Over the near 40 years of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, yacht technology and design has developed at an ever-increasing pace; the crew work and sailing technique in evidence at this pinnacle event appears better and better, with precision an increasingly crucial element. One thing that has not changed in all that time is the landscape. Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General of the event co-host, the International Maxi Association, is impressed: “It seems incredible that over the last 38 years, despite staggering technical advances in boats, sails, and equipment, the beauty and complexity of the courses through the Maddalena Archipelago remain the best possible playing field for Maxi yachts.”
Tomasso Chieffi, the strategist on Proteus, has been coming to Porto Cervo since 1984. “It is an amazing place, unique in the world, with its own charisma,” he says, adding: “The sailing has changed a lot. We used to come with boats we now describe as ‘lead-mines’ since they were heavy displacement, very slow. Today, everything has stepped up. The boats are much quicker, more refined.”
Chieffi confirms the one element that has not changed; the one that underpins the challenge, ensuring it is as real today as it was in the past: “The archipelago remains beautiful. Not only is it a great sailing location, it is a real drama for the navigators and tacticians to interpret what is going on, what you can and cannot do to take an advantage over the opposition.”
As much as participants are quick to praise the environment, they are also appreciative of the efforts made by the organization, particularly the positive impact of the longstanding relationship between the event founder, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, and the title sponsor. “The partnership between Rolex and the yacht club has helped make this event bigger,” asserts Chieffi.
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was created to provide the largest, most powerful yachts of the day with an opportunity to compete directly in a suitably challenging environment. That it still delivers on that original promise is the consequence of the flawless commitment from the YCCS and its partners, the development of the yachts and crew to maintain their position at the forefront of the sport and, of course, a location whose geography is both beautiful and challenging. As a result, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is one of the sport’s most complete contests.
Racing at the 2018 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup continues tomorrow, Thursday, 6 September, with Supermaxi, Maxi, Maxi 72 and the Wally classes scheduled for a coastal course, and, Mini Maxi Groups 1 and 2 contesting up to two windward/leeward races.
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