Photos Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the veritable highlight of the Mediterranean sailing calendar, will take place from 5-10 September in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. Open to yachts over 18.29-metres (60-feet), the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup pits together the largest, finest and most technologically-advanced monohull yachts in direct competition. The event additionally comprises the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship. This new competition, baptised in 2010, creates a showcase for the popular Mini Maxi division (yachts from 18.29-24.08 metres). The state-of-the-art Maxi class (those from 24.09-30.5 metres) and the giant, and imperious, Supermaxis (yachts in excess of 30.5 metres), will do battle in their own long-established competition.
A record 49 yachts competed in last year’s edition, 24 of which took part in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, demonstrating the competition’s immediate popularity. Event organisers, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), are forecasting an equally significant turn out this time around.
Perhaps no other sailing event witnesses this heightened sophistication: top yachts from around the globe, the pinnacle of sailing talent onboard, famous names from world business in attendance, all set against the most spectacular sailing canvas. Over the years the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has combined the top names of the corporate world including Roy Disney, Larry Ellison, Leonardo Ferragamo, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones (in attendance this year with his 94-ft Wally Magic Carpet 2 [GBR]) and Marco Tronchetti Provera, with the cream of professional sailing talent such as Rolex Testimonees Paul Cayard and Robert Scheidt, in addition to four-time Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie.
This highly demanding competition, celebrating its 22nd edition, takes place in the northeast waters of Sardinia. For the Maxi, Supermaxi and Wally categories the maximum number of races is seven, featuring a selection of coastal and windward/leeward courses. The yachts featuring in the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship will compete in a maximum number of eight races. This comprises a minimum of four windward/leeward races and two coastal races of no more than 70-nautical miles. The distances may be long but the power of the yachts and the usually consistent winds, ensure that they are covered with consummate ease.
2010’s inaugural Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship proved to be a thrilling and dramatic affair with Niklas Zennström’s 72-ft Rán (GBR) claiming the overall prize, after a climactic battle with Andres Soriano’s 68-ft Alegre (GBR). Rán’s epic victory was achieved in the last race of the series after Alegre had led for most of the competition. Both yachts are returning to Sardinia in September.
For the respective crews it promises to be another prolific season. Rán will arrive in the turquoise waters of Sardinia having taken part in the Rolex Fastnet Race in August (a competition she won overall in 2009) and head for another acclaimed offshore event when competing in the Rolex Middle Sea Race at the end of October. It has been a busy year for owner Niklas Zennström, who also launched his TP-52 Rán IV earlier this year.
For Zennström and the Rán crew, the return to Sardinia is appealing: “The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is the pinnacle of Maxi racing, it’s the event where the most boats get together and since we are racing for the world championship title everyone is very focused on achieving the best results. Porto Cervo is also such a fantastic sailing venue.”
“We are currently getting ready for the Round Gotland Race in Stockholm,” explains Zennström, “with the first Rán we won the line honours two years ago, so our goal is to reclaim that title. The Round Gotland race will set us up nicely for the Rolex Fastnet Race in August. However, this is the first offshore race we are doing since the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race [at the close of 2010] so we have not had that much practice, but I think we know the boat well enough.”
The process of adapting the crew’s approach from the Rolex Fastnet Race to the Maxis, will be key. “The offshore and Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup are very different races so we need to have a different mindset going into each race,” explains Zennström, “this year the team is also participating in the Audi MedCup so we do get plenty of regatta time, probably more than our competitors.”
Regarding the possibility of retaining their crown in Sardinia, Zennström closes: “It will be a big challenge to defend the title, but that is our objective.”
Soriano’s Alegre is enjoying a fine season. Already this year, this established crew has won the inaugural Rolex Volcano Race, both line honours and on corrected time, and that success was followed up by a thoroughly consistent performance at the Giraglia Rolex Cup, where they claimed the inshore series in their category and were the second yacht to finish the offshore race. The rivalry with Rán will be re-convened ahead of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, as they come head-to-head off the British Isles during the Rolex Fastnet Race in August.
After reclaiming the Wally Division title in 2010, Claus Peter Offen, owner of Y3K (GER), and President of International Maxi Association, stated: “It’s our third win at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the second time in a row. It is really a great feeling, even more since it is with our new boat. So, of course, we are coming again next year to try and make it a triple win!”
Y3K are true to their word and are back to try and seal this hat-trick of victories, as tactician Thomas Jungblut explains: “The crew is willing and ready, and has the motivation to make this happen on the water. Ahead of the event we will have four tough training days.” Continuity is very important, as Jungblut reveals: “The crew will be the same as last year, and of the 24 members, 15 have been sailing together for 12 years. As this is our final race of the year we will be putting in an extreme effort. At the Maxis, the water and location are great: the best in Europe.”
There is certainly an impressive Wally presence guaranteed at the competition and Jungblut is aware that another triumph for Y3K will not come easy: “It looks like we are a very strong group of around 13 competitors, particularly Indio (ITA), Magic Carpet (GBR) and J-One (GBR).”
Two other 2010 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup winners will be back on the Costa Smeralda. The crew of Aegir 2 (GBR) return to Porto Cervo, albeit on a dashing new yacht. Having won the Mini Maxi Cruising/Racing Division last year, Brian Benjamin’s previous yacht has been replaced by a state-of-the-art 82-ft upgrade. Aegir 2 made her Mediterranean debut at the recent Giraglia Rolex Cup, where they were the seventh yacht to finish the 243-nautical mile course. The crew were pleased with her showing given their lack of familiarity with their new steed.
Igor Simcic’s 100-ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) claimed the Maxi Division prize in 2010 and his trophy cabinet is positively bulging, after a succession of victories over the past twelve months. Esimit is also fresh from a successful Giraglia Rolex Cup campaign, where she claimed line honours for the second year in a row. Given the fresh introduction of a star-studded afterguard and significant technical improvements to the yacht, Esimit will start as favourite to retain her title.