Now in its 29th edition, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is a well-established fixture in the international yachting calendar. The 2018 event got underway today under blue skies, with flat water and a solid breeze welcoming the 41 participating crews. Four of the five categories took on courses that led them up through the spectacular Maddalena archipelago, while the fifth faced off over a close combat windward/leeward racetrack. At the end of the first day’s racing, Topaz leads in Supermaxi, Grande Orazio in Maxi, Magic Carpet Cubed in Wally, MOMO in Maxi 72, SuperNikka in Mini Maxi Group 1 and H2O in Mini Maxi Group 2.
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is a true reflection of the diversity of boats that make up the Maxi class of monohull yachts. The fundamental requirement is that every entrant must be over 18.29 metres (60 feet). These are all big, powerful craft. Like any sport, there are a myriad of rules and regulations to be complied with. In the case of yachting, this largely ensures each boat is correctly rated, categorized and that racing is fair. The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and, co-host, the International Maxi Association are responsible for these critical, organizational aspects.
One of longest-running events in the Rolex yachting portfolio, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has proven time and again its capacity to deliver sporting excellence. Like a grand slam tennis tournament or one of the majors in golf, the regatta has a standing that attracts the very best. It possesses a combination of factors, just as Wimbledon or Augusta, which sets it apart, that gives it the je ne sais quoi so essential in the establishment of an emblematic contest.
Three-time Olympic gold medallist, twice America’s Cup winner, former World Sailor of the Year and tactician on the perennially successful Magic Carpet Cubed, Jochen Schümann is perfectly positioned to express an opinion on what makes the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup hold such an elevated status: “The Sardinian waters are beautiful to sail on. From the colours to the coastline, they are the most scenic one can imagine. At this time of the year the temperature is also great, we sail in shorts and shirts, and it all happens with 10 and 25 knots of wind. So, beautiful sailing days in the best possible conditions.”
Clearly the physical elements form the perfect combination, but Schümann – as a professional sailor – is equally impressed by the competition: “Individually, the sailors love coming here and, with so many having the same opinion, all the best boats and best sailors meet here at the same time. What is typical here is rare. You have all the complications of sailing – wind, tactics and competition – with the scenic elements too. It is most definitely a coincidence of the most beautiful things in the sport. You can get different bits in different places around the world, but the full combination… here it is a little bit different.”
The veteran Volvo Ocean Race competitor, Bouwe Bekking, is another to have competed at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup for many years and in a variety of the classes - Supermaxis, J Class, Maxis. He has won the event on a number of occasions too. This year, he is racing on Vera, a 25.42 m (84 foot) Maxi: “I raced in Sardinia for the first time in 1986 shortly after finishing my first round the world race. Here I am doing the same again after my latest one. It is one of those places. It has everything: the people, the boats, the scenery. It is one of the best places in the world to race.”
Bekking agrees that the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup can be compared to the very best competitions in other sports in terms of its allure: “The surroundings are so special and the competition is tough. It’s easier to say who’s not here. The racing is always good. I’ve raced on most classes in my time, the challenge is always there. Importantly, even if it’s hard it is also fun, for the owners and their crew. That makes the atmosphere special. With over forty boats the message is pretty clear that this is the regatta of the Maxi racing season.”
Racing at the 2018 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup continues tomorrow, Tuesday 4 September, with Supermaxi, Maxi, Maxi 72 and Mini Maxi Groups 1 and 2 scheduled for a coastal course, and the Wally fleet competing on a windward/leeward racetrack.
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