A high number of racing enthusiasts, competitors, and supporters arrived at the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth yesterday afternoon (23rd September), to celebrate the launch of the Shetland Round Britain & Ireland 2010 race.
Veteran sailor Mervyn Wheatley, who competed in the OSTAR 2009 earlier this year, was guest speaker at the event and beguiled the audience with his extraordinary tales of the race. As the 2010 race will be Mervyn’s sixth, there seemed no better candidate for this role!
Still four months from the entry deadline (31st January 2010), 26 teams have already signed up for the two-handed race, including the winner of the OSTAR 2009, Jankees Lampe. Jankees broke the record for a 40ft vessel when he completed the trans-Atlantic race earlier this year in just 17 days, 17 hours and 40 minutes; making him the one to watch in next year’s Shetland Round Britain & Ireland. The race is limited to 50 boats so it is advised that those interested in taking part contact the RWYC soon to avoid disappointment.
The Shetland Round Britain & Ireland race has the support of many sailing greats; including Pete Goss MBE. Supporters and 2010 competitors who attended the launch event included Mary Falk, Jerry Freeman and David Southwood (previously race director of OSTAR 2009).
Shetland Islands Council announced its sponsorship of the race in June and took a leading role in organising the launch. Sandy Cluness, Convener of the SIC, spoke at the event detailing why the council undertook the race sponsorship and the welcome it will show the competitors when they reach Lerwick.
Lerwick, one of the largest marinas in Shetland, is one of the four compulsory stops during the race. This marina, and 34 others, makes Shetland the ideal sponsor of the race; especially when you also take into consideration its maritime links and history.
Douglas Irvine, business development manager for Shetland Islands Council, commented: “We are really pleased with the success of the race launch and the support we have received from all involved. This is a fantastic race and we are proud to be a part of it. We have a number of beautiful marinas across the Shetland Islands and Lerwick is one of our most popular. The crews are guaranteed a real Shetland welcome when they arrive!”
The race will depart from Plymouth on 6th June 2010 and see the competitors sail 2000 nautical miles around the UK coastline. The race has been hosted by the Royal Western Yacht Club every four years since 1966.
For further information about the Round Britain & Ireland 2010 race and those taking part, please visit www.shetlandmarinas.com or http://www.rwyc.org/oceanic/RBI10/rbi10viewev.asp?id=270
This is Shetland Islands Council’s second time sponsoring the RB&I, having first sponsored the race in 2006.
Shetland is one of the best kept maritime secrets and provides a beautiful setting to sail and explore one of nature’s most beautiful coastlines. The stunning Shetland coastline stretches for 900 miles and boasts 35 marinas and berthing places.
Instigated by Blondie Hasler, the Royal Western Yacht Club has hosted the Round Britain and Ireland race every four years since 1966. The course, about 2000 nautical miles, is split into five legs. These are separated by compulsory stops of 48 hours each at Kinsale in Ireland, Castle Bay, Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Lerwick in Shetland, and Lowestoft on the East Coast.
Peter Taylor, race director of Shetland Round Britain & Ireland 2010, added: “As well as those already signed up I am receiving interest from a number of other parties looking to take part in the race. We are getting a good mix of old and new competitors and it was great to see a number of these here at the launch. This race has a long history at RWYC and we are thrilled to have the support of Shetland Islands Council, allowing us to promote the race and what is stands for. It is a tough sail and the competitors will face some mighty conditions, it really is a great challenge.”
The race will depart from Plymouth on 6th June 2010 and see the competitors sail 2000 nautical miles around the UK coastline. The race has been hosted by the Royal Western Yacht Club every four years since 1966.
Final day at the 20th Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup dawned with blue sky and a gentle north-easterly breeze between 8 and 10 knots. One more opportunity for those already at the top of the standings to prove themselves worthy of winning. Good news also for those yachts still within touching distance of the top. A race would mean opportunity and in yacht-racing opportunity is everything, but only if you are prepared to take it. Getting your name inscribed on the trophies at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is no easy feat. Only those most deserving achieve the feat. At close of play those truly in clover were: Ronald de Waal and Velsheda (GBR); Claus Peter Offen and Y3K (GER); Mick Cotter and Whisper (IRL); Filippo Faruffini and Roma-Aniene (ITA), and, Neville Crichton and Alfa Romeo (NZL). Flush with victory and the spoils associated – the Maxi Yacht Cup and a Rolex Yacht-master Chronometer.
If only it were so simple. In Cruising/Spirit of Tradition, Velsheda had wrapped up her division a day early by virtue of winning every race to that point. In Wally, Y3K was also impregnable, by virtue of having scored more firsts than her closest rival, Open Season (GER), which could only match Y3Ks score however badly Offen’s crew sailed the last race; a situation where count-back would favour Offen.
In Racing/Cruising, Roma-Aniene never seemed likely to be overtaken by DSK Pioneer Investments, but the door was still open if DSK could repeat yesterday’s result and finish ahead of Roma. The chances of this seemed slim given Roma had not given DSK a sniff all week until her mainsail issues of yesterday. The same scenario existed in Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising, where both Aegir (GBR) and OPS 5 (ITA) had a mathematical chance to overtake Whisper, should she finish seventh or worse, something Whisper had not done all week. She had had problems yesterday, though, finishing fifth. So a glimmer of hope flickered on. In both cases you had to think lightning does not strike twice.
The classification where the duelling would go closest to the wire looked to be Mini Maxi Racing. Tight battles looked likely in both Mini Maxi Racing (Owner/Driver) and the larger overall Mini Maxi Racing 00 group. The Owner/Driver contest was between Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo 3 (NZL) and Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente (USA). The stakes were high; the pressure was on. The maths were simple for Bella Mente, she had to come first. Anything less would not be enough. For Alfa, if she could win or prevent the American crew from winning she would prevail.
The 00 group was also a two-way tussle and also involved Alfa Romeo, with the likes of triple Olympic Gold medallist Ben Ainslie in the crew roster, along with Niklas Zennström’s Rán (GBR). With a three-point separation, the onus was on Alfa to win and hope Rán would finish no better than fourth. Heading out to the start there was every possibility that Crichton might be distracted by his battle with Fauth, since that was where the major prize would be awarded. At the beginning of the week, though, Crichton had stated his aim was to win both groups. Given his competitive streak is longer and wider than most, no one would bet against the New Zealander attempting to win outright from the front.
In the end, the excitement came in only one spot.
Velsheda confirmed her supremacy in Cruising/Spirit of Tradition winning the final race. Hasso Plattner’s Visione (GER) did enough to beat Charles Dunstone’s Hamilton II (GBR) in the race today and to take second on the podium. Roma-Aniene confirmed yesterday’s problems were no more than a blip by adding a fourth bullet to her Racing/Cruising scoreline. Danilo Salsi’s DSK’s second place in the race and the overall standing will be some compensation. Whisper, too, asserted herself once more adding a fourth bullet to her Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising record and securing the class by 10-points over Brian Benjamin’s Aegir.
Ronald de Waal skipper and helmsman of Velsheda attributed his victory in Cruising/Spirit of Tradition to his crew, “the team we sail with has been together for a long time, some have been with us for eight years. Of course, we sail with some of the very best in the world and that helps.” This is de Waal’s first overall win at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup; he has sailed several times before and really enjoys the competition and the location, “it’s a combination of nature, the area, we always have beautiful wind, really beautiful surroundings and always a very good fleet.”
Claus Peter Offen sealed his Wally Division victory with another win. Not bad for a yacht launched in July this year. Sailing with designer Mani Frers onboard as a guest, Offen was understandably delighted with his yacht and the win, “we thought we could get in the top three, but to win with a brand-new boat is unexpected. You usually will have some technical problems, but in all six races we were always first over the line and never had any problems.” Offen paid tribute to his crew, particularly acknowledging the work on the first two days when conditions were at their most difficult.
Filippo Faruffini came, saw and conquered for the second time; Roma confirming her superiority over the series in Racing/Cruising. Faruffini was surprised given how they had come into the competition, “this is sport and you can leave nothing to chance. We only decided only one month ago to race and were really under-prepared. Our sails are old and we broke many, many things.” A number of his crew, from the Circolo Canottieri Aniene (a sporting club in Rome), were new to sailing and to turn them into a team capable of holding their own against the likes of DSK is a true achievement, as tactician Vascotto explains, “all the guys made a real effort today. We pushed hard. We had 22 guys that are not professional at all, but at the end of the week we look to be doing the same manoeuvres as we do with professional guys. Everyone has improved and they can see this, which is our aim.”
Mick Cotter’s emphatic result with Whisper in Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising was a revelation, but had been hinted at last year’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup when Cotter’s crew won a sub-division prize, “it’s been a wonderful week, everything went really well. I had a great team and that’s what did it for me. We had few mistakes yesterday, but you can’t expect to go through a week’s regatta and not have a few. The conditions were ideal for us, which helped us considerably in the overall results. The crew know the boat well and the pros have got to know both us and the boat.”
As predicted, the true battle came in Mini Maxi Racing and it was fought tooth and nail between two boats – Bella Mente and Alfa Romeo. Fauth’s crew knew they had to win. Tactician Dee Smith saw to it that Bella Mente won the start at the pin end, whilst Alfa went for the committee boat end. As both yachts sailed their own race for the first leg, the first crossing was a critical moment. It went to Bella Mente and she held off her larger rival until the top of the second beat. At this point the Americans were still within a shout of victory. They were sailing so well that within the Owner/Driver category they were undoubtedly winning. With three more legs it was never going to be easy and, unfortunately for them, Alfa had no thoughts of mercy in mind. She forced her way past and then proceeded to match-race Hap Fauth’s yacht progressively out of the running. Conceding waterline length and therefore speed it was never going to end happily for Fauth. Bella Mente corrected out ahead of Alfa, but critically Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) and Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou (GBR) corrected out ahead of her. Crichton won by one point.
Crichton knew he had been in a scrap and paid due compliment to the tenacity and sailing skills of Fauth and his crew, as did his tactician, Michael Coxon, and relief helm, Ben Ainslie, who knows plenty about the need for ruthlessness in such circumstances. Crichton was thoroughly pleased with the result “we’re delighted. It was pretty tough out there today. We had to do what we had to do, and we got there in the end. They (Bella Mente) camped on us on the first beat. We finally got them back and then just sat on top of them.”
Meanwhile, Zennström and his Rán crew were able to sail their own race with the fight going on far behind. Once again, Rán took the gun and in doing so walked away with an eight-point victory over Alfa Romeo in the Min Maxi Racing 00 grouping. Zennstrom readily admitted they were flattered by the gap, which had been accentuated by the duel between the Alfa Romeo and Bella Mente.
All in all it has been an enthralling week of competition. The weather has played ball. Each day of racing has produced quality conditions and allowed the crews of the gathered maxis to strut their stuff in style. We’ll allow a newcomer to capture the sensation of racing here. Rachel Howe is the sole female navigator competing this week. Not only that, but she did so on Jethou in the intense environment of the Mini Maxi Racing group. Jethou went out on a high today, finishing the race first in Owner/Driver and second in 00. According to Howe, “this is the most prestigious event that I’ve done, the field that we’re racing in is absolutely spectacular. It’s an inspirational fleet to be part of. To get the opportunity to race against the people we’re racing against is just incredible. It is a real privilege. It’s intimidating at first, but once you are out there getting on with your job you realise everyone is pretty normal.once you see past the (Olympic) gold medals and the America’s Cups!”
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2009 heads into its final day with the division leaders poised to take their place on the victory podium. Velsheda (GBR) in Cruising/Spirit of Tradition has locked out the opposition and is unbeatable. Whisper (IRL) in Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising put one foot wrong today, but still looks to be secure. Y3K (GER) in Wally is another looking purposefully forward rather than nervously behind, while Alfa Romeo (NZL) and Bella Mente (USA) in Mini Maxi Racing (Owner/Driver) know there is all to play for. Roma (ITA) in Racing/Cruising approached the precipice of despair today and will have to have better luck tomorrow if she is not to topple over.
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup fleet were divided into two main groups today. One batch undertook a coastal course, whilst the other some short course racing. Most of the overnight leaders put in good or reasonable performances and even those that had difficult days did enough to maintain their positions at the head of their standings. Only in Mini Maxi Racing 00 do we have a new leader in the form of Ràn (GBR).
Cruising/Spirit of Tradition, Racing & Racing Cruising and Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising embarked on a 25-mile lap that took the yachts to a windward mark, before bearing off towards Monaci. A spinnaker run down into the channel and the turn at Secca di tre Monti was followed by a reach through Passo delle Bisce, which widened as the yachts headed on to the bottom mark of the course at Mortoriotto allowing the adventurous to set their spinnakers a second time. The final leg was a fetch back to the finish off Porto Cervo with the usual hitch into Pevero just before the line. Conditions were blissful. Bright sun, reasonable breeze that held through the majority of the course; all sailed on a chop that kept the foredeck crews nimble on their toes.
There were a number of vantage points to catch the fleet engaged on the coastal course. One of the best was certainly the rocky outcrop that is Isola dei Monaci just as the Cruising/Spirit of Tradition Class thundered past trying hard to avoid flattening the Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising, which had the fortune or misfortune, depending upon one’s viewpoint, to arrive at the same time. From a spectator’s standpoint it was just a wonderful spectacle, well worth the hassle of a flying leap from a bucking rib onto the abrasive granite piercing through the waves. Given it was lunchtime too; the timing was perfect for twenty minutes or so of entertainment.
Possibly, though, the next location was the best. At first all you see is the house pennant poking above the rock, moving as if some child is running across the uneven cliff top with a flag in hand. Slowly at first, but with gathering pace an expanse of khaki Kevlar starts to appear. Then you sense the noise, initially just the groaning strain of an easing sheet followed the sound of water being pushed dismissively aside. This is the approach of the J Class Velsheda to Capo Faro, the southern edge of the Passo delle Bisce. The highest point of Capo Ferro is 46 metres; Velsheda’s mast is 56 metres, so no contest on the height front. Except from a rib it takes a while to assimilate the information rushing towards you and to register the size of yacht involved.
In Racing & Racing/Cruising, Karl Kwok’s 80-foot Beau Geste (HKG) was first to round Monaci. She ate the course to day as if it were no more filling than an antipasti. This is a boat that flies, completing the 25 nautical mile course in 10 minutes under the two-hour mark. Beau Geste is an awe-inspiring sight from the water. On the boat it has the feeling of a powerboat, and the sensation of speed is real and enjoyable, as Francesco de Angelis, tactician onboard, explains; “I’ve sailed for many years on different, heavier boats. This is a lot of fun. She is a big boat but you sail like it’s a small one because you need the weight in the proper place and you need to manoeuvre well. But she is user-friendly and speed is your friend with this yacht. She is as surefooted as an all-wheel drive. You permanently feel under control.” Interestingly, de Angelis says the crew are still getting accustomed to her ways and how hard to push her. He does not think we have seen all of Beau Geste’s potential just yet.
Amongst the Racing/Cruising yachts, Roma-Aniene still leads the standings, after a day that saw her lose her mainsail immediately after the start. Sailing the course under storm trysail might be different, but it relegated her to the role of walking wounded and into last place in the day’s race results. DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA) took the bullet and is now level on points with Roma, but with a discard coming into play tomorrow it will take another disastrous day on Roma to deny her the title. Andrea Casale, the tactician on DSK, acknowledges the unlikelihood of securing victory, but is pleased to be putting up a fight, “we’ve had our best, cleanest and steadiest day. We had an easy life because of the problem to Roma’s mainsail just after the starting line. It’s good to go into the last race with a little chance. It is good motivation for the crew to think they could win.” In his closing remarks, Casale revealed the sporting nature of the contest this week commenting that if results do not go their way tomorrow he would be happy to see the crew of Roma win.
In the Cruising/Spirit of Tradition it was Ronald de Waal and Velsheda’s day yet again. They have wrapped up this division and have no need to sail tomorrow to win. But they will and we will be treated to another enthralling chance to watch a historic yacht charge at full tilt around the Porto Cervo racing grounds. Charles Dunstone’s Hamilton II (GBR) took second on handicap, and lies in second overnight on equal points with Hasso Plattner’s Visione (GER), which finished third. Bouwe Bekking, a six-times round the world racer in the Whitbread and Volvo is onboard Visione for the week and gave a brief insight to the differences racing a boat over twice the length of his usual steed, “first and foremost it’s a beautiful boat below and on-deck, so we have to be very careful with the sail-handling. In general, because it’s bigger we take a lot longer with manoeuvres. The biggest spinnaker is 1500 square metres and takes two-minutes to hoist and then you have to get the sock off. Dropping the spinnaker can take three-minutes. Otherwise, the boat has seven metres draft so with all the rocks it is a little nerve-racking. You do not cut any corners and take a wide berth of every rock around the course.”
Mick Cotter’s Whisper has all but sewn up Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising despite a fifth place today. Her closets rival Aegir (GBR) is five points behind and when the throw out comes into play tomorrow it will take a bigger implosion on the part of Cotter and his crew to lose their hard fought lead. Brian Benjamin, owner of Aegir, is more than satisfied though, “we’ve been coming here for four years and had our first second-place in a race on Tuesday and today bettered that with our first first-place finish. Our best overall result has been fourth, so being in second at this stage is fantastic.” Aegir will have to sail smart tomorrow. She is locked on 13-points with OPS 5 (ITA) going into the last race.
The Mini Maxi Racing Division took on two more windward/leeward courses of 10.8 miles each. The wind was northerly and around 12 knots for the first race, dropping as low as 8 knots for the second. It was a tricky day, complicated by a 1.5 metre choppy sea-state. With the breeze favouring the right side of the course and a significant current influencing the left, the strategic-planning departments at the back of each boat were on a heightened state of alert for opportunities to gain and possibilities to lose. Keeping two steps ahead was a necessary part of the game. Ràn ran away with the ball in the Overall Mini Maxi 00 Division posting two wins to Alfa Romeo’s 2, 6 score line and Niklas Zennstrom holds a three-point advantage, with a discard already in play. Robert Scheidt, Torben Grael and Nacho Postigo on Luna Rossa (ITA) made amends for yesterday’s car-crash, scoring 5, 2 to lock themselves in third place. Hap Fauth and Bella Mente lie in fourth place in 00, but in second in the all-important Owner/Driver Classification, only one-point adrift of Alfa Romeo, which had a run in with Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) during the second of today’s races.
The Wally division twice took on the same windward/leeward course. Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet (GBR) with an afterguard triumvirate of Tony Rey, Tom Whidden and Marcel van Triest put in a commanding performance to take two victories. Not enough to put her in contention for the overall prize, where Y3K’s dominance remains. Claus Peter Offen’s latest yacht looks to be as competitive as his previous and holds a five-point lead over Thomas Bscher’s Open Season (GER). Rey admitted they were turning it around a little late, but the crew were pleased with the effort, “today played to our strengths and we had two really nice results. I had a lot of confidence in the crew to get the sails up and down, so we could sail the boat assertively. We’re always looking for podium finish every time we go racing and could make the top three. Magic carpet has always had a bit of magic to it when she comes racing here and guys are all pumped to go racing tomorrow.” So watch out J One.
Whatever the conditions tomorrow and whatever the results, there will definitely be a little bit of magic on the water. Whenever a group of maxis go racing anywhere in the world it is a spectacular sight. There is just something about Porto Cervo and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup that lifts it into a different league.
The final race takes place tomorrow, Saturday, with the first start scheduled for 11.30 CEST. The prize giving takes place tomorrow evening at 18.30 CEST on the Piazza Azzurra.
CURRENT PROVISIONAL STANDINGS Place, Boat Name, Owner, Nation, R1-R2, R3, R4, (R5, R6)*, Points (w/discard after 5 races)
Mini Maxi Racing (owner/driver)*
1. Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton, NZL, 2-2-1-1-1-3, 7.0 points
2. Bella Mente, Hap Fauth, USA, 1-1-4-2-2-2, 8.0
3. Jethou, Peter Ogden, GBR, 3-3-2-4-4-1, 13.0
Mini Maxi (00 Class)*
1. Ran, Niklas Zennstrom, GBR, 4-2-3-2-1-1, 9.0 points
2. Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton, NZL, 3-4-2-1-2-6, 12.0
3. Bella Mente, Hap Fauth, USA, 2- 3-7-4-4-5, 18.0
Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising
1. Whisper, Michael Cotter, IRL, 1-1-1-5, 8.0 points
2. Aegir, Brian Benjamin, GBR, 6-2-4-1, 13.0
3. Ops 5, Massimo Violati, ITA, 3-6-2-3, 14.0
Racing – Racing/Cruising
1. Beau Geste, Karl Kwok, HKG, 1-1-1-1, 4.0 points
2. Roma – Aniene, C.C. Aniene/F. Faruffini, ITA, 2-2-2-5, 11.0
3. DSK Pioneer Investments, Danilo Salsi, ITA, 3-3-3-2, 11.0
1. Roma – Aniene, C.C. Aniene/F. Faruffini, ITA, 1-1-1-4, 7.0 points
2. DSK Pioneer Investments, Danilo Salsi, ITA, 2-2-2-1, 7.0
3. Sagamore Enigma, Nicola Paoleschi, ITA, 3-4-3-2, 12.0
1. Y3K, Claus-Peter Offen, GER, 3-1-1-2-3, 10.0 points
2. Open Season, Thomas Bscher, GER, 2-3-2-6-2, 15.0
3. J One, Jean-Charles Decaux, FRA, 1-2-5-4-5, 17.0
Cruising/Spirit of Tradition
1. Velsheda, Tarbat Investment Ltd, GBR, 1-1-1-1, 4.0 points
2. Hamilton II, Lockstock Ltd, GBR, 2-4-5-2, 13.0
3. Visione, Hasso Plattner, GER, 5-3-2-3, 13.0
17 year-old British sailor Mike Perham has become the youngest person to sail single-handed around the world. His 50ft yacht Totallymoney.com crossed the traditional Lizard/Ushant line marking the start and finish point of his 30,000 mile record-setting in bright sunshine at 09:47:30 secs (local)am this morning – two months inside the previous age record set by American teenager Zac Sutherland.
Aged 17 years, 164 days old the teenager from Potters Bar Hertfordshire, was escorted across the line by Royal Navy guard ship HMS Mersey, a helicopter from 771 Squadron at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, and a small flotilla of press boats that had been on standby overnight to record his finish.
Mike said: “I’ve made it, I’ve made my dream come true and it feels amazing. A BIG BIG thanks to my Dad, Mum, all the sponsors and every one who has helped me along the way.
I can’t believe that the Royal Navy has sent HMS Mersey and a helicopter to witness my crossing the line. I feel very honoured.”
Mike’s Dad said: “Mike is a very special son, he has done incredibly well. He has shown that with determination, you can succeed even in the most adverse circumstances. He has shown the world that he is an extraordinary young man and an inspiration to us all.”
The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, KCB OBE ADC passed a message to Mike Perham as he sailed past The Lizard passed on a congratulatory message via Lt Cdr Carl Wiseman Captain of HMS Mersey:
“The Royal Navy offers its sincere congratulations to Michael Perham on his record breaking single-handed sailing circumnavigation. This is a remarkable and inspirational achievement in one so young, another impressive event in the rich Maritime history of this island nation and of the Perham family”.
“Michael’s family have strong maritime connections, with his father having been a merchant naval officer, his grandfather having served with the Royal Navy during World War 2, and his great grandfather as a Royal Marine in the Crimean war.”
“Michael sets a fine example showing remarkable character, grit and self discipline in completing this historic record-breaking voyage and the Royal Navy is delighted to participate in welcoming him back home to the UK as an honoured and much respected fellow seafarer.”
After crossing the finish line Mike was joined by his Dad, Peter to continue sailing back to for a homecoming welcome at Gunwharf Quay at 11:00 on Saturday.
When the 20th edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup gets underway in two weeks, expect nothing less than a medieval scrap between various latter day warlords and their trusted retainers. The mightiest contest is expected in the Mini Maxi division where eight of the latest exponents of this growing class will be brushing up on Sun Tzu’s Art of War ahead of the season’s highlight Maxi yacht event, which begins on 6 September and is organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. Equally, compelling contests will unfold elsewhere in the forty-four boat fleet, which features some battlefield goliaths including Albert Buell’s 45.19 metre (148 foot) Saudade (MLT), only marginally outstripped on the size front by Hasso Plattner’s 45.52 metre (149 foot) Visione (GER).
Only one division champion from 2008 is returning to the scene of their triumph. Lindsay Owen Jones’ 28.8 metre (94 foot) Magic Carpet 2 (GBR) will be defending her Wally Yachts’ title. Owen Jones has won his division at this event on four occasions with two different yachts, but even he will be anticipating a tough few days. Jean Charles Decaux and the 24.4 metre (80 foot) J One (FRA) (the former two-time winning steed of Owen Jones) vanquished all opposition in 2007, whilst Claus Peter Offen, a victor in 2005, is returning with a brand new 30.5 metre (100 foot) Y3K (GER). This latest Y3K features a trim-tab fixed keel, PBO rigging, a high modulus carbon-fibre mast and a three-metre bowsprit. Weighing in at 57 tonnes she incorporates a luxurious interior and is no stripped-out flyer, but Offen is a competitive yachtsman and looked to the America’s Cup Class design world when selecting the keel and rudder combination.
Y3K will not be the only yacht making its Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup debut. There are a host of Mini Maxis getting ready to engage in battle on the waters off Porto Cervo for the first time. Niklas Zennstrom’s 21.9 metre (72 foot) Rán 2 (GBR), flush with success from the 2009 Rolex Fastnet where she took the overall win, is heading into the fray. Zennstrom will expect no quarter from Patrizio Bertelli’s all-star cast on the STP 65 Luna Rossa (ITA) or Udo Schütz’s STP 65 Container (GER) – both newcomers too. Schütz is a former Admiral’s Cup winner and is unlikely to be fazed by any of the other formidable weaponry on display. Hap Fauth’s 21 metre (69 foot) Bella Mente (USA) is another freshman hoping to prove her mettle along with Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou (GBR). At 18.3 metres (60 foot), Jethou is the smallest combatant amongst the IRC oriented Mini Maxis and the crew will have their work cut out to keep pace on the water with some of their competitors. However, first home is not first on the podium. Corrected time is the all-important determinant of who receives the spoils.
Whilst the newest Mini Maxis are expected to replicate an on-water cavalry charge around the courses, a 2006 division winner will be taking the contest at a more leisurely pace. The 38.25 metre (125 foot) Hetairos (CAY) was built in 1993, but is absolutely classic in appearance. Often, at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, she appears to adopt a field-marshal’s role observing the mêlée from afar and then delivering the crushing blow come results time. Another expected to follow this model is the 39.92 metre (131 foot) Maria Cattiva (MLT). Launched in 2003 by the Dutch yard Royal Huisman, Maria Cattiva is a Bruce King design, just like Hetairos, and is also a modern interpretation of a bygone era.
This year’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup also forms the final showdown in the Swan Maxi Class. The 2008 circuit winner, Roel Pieper’s Swan 80 Favonius (NED) (winner of the Rolex Swan Cup in the same year), comes to the arena with a solid track record on the Costa Smeralda. Pieper will expect no quarter from the Swan 90s Solleone (ITA) or DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA), the Swan 82FD Grey Goose (GER) or the Swan 601 @robas (FRA) all of whom will be looking to unseat him.
Leaving aside the warlike analogies for the moment, the event is shaping up to be memorable one particularly if the wind plays its part and allows organisers the chance to put on a full-week of competition. With competing yachts from 16 different nations, including Karl Kwok with Beau Geste from Hong Kong and Neville Crichton with Alfa Romeo 3 from New Zealand, it will be an international occasion. One other thing for certain, the intensity of activity on the water will be matched by the intensity of the social schedule ashore, as owners and crews mix together to trade war stories each evening.
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2009, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda takes place from 6 to 12 September. Racing commences on Monday, 7 September and concludes with the final prizegiving on Saturday, 12 September. From the most luxurious, through the most traditional, to the most advanced monohulls afloat today, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is nothing if not an astonishing line up of sailing power.
Entry List For Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup 2009
DK Pioneer Investments
Good Job Guys
Magie Carpet 2
Rosebud / Tean DYT
Two months out from the start of an event the stature and complexity of the Rolex Middle Sea Race, most yacht clubs would be happy to be entering the home straight of processing competitor registrations. Not the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Not only are they organising this 606 nautical mile offshore race, they are preparing to start it from a new line and with the new yacht club premises still in build. Only in Malta. On the plus side this is the thirtieth time the race has been held and this year’s fleet looks no less exciting than any of the past decade; a period which has seen the race return to the world stage of competitive offshore sailing.
Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard is the headline act at this year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race. Bursting with satisfaction having taken back-to-back line honours at the Rolex Fastnet, the crew of this 100-foot ocean-eater will be looking to add part two of an offshore racing trifecta that Slade hopes will culminate in December with the Rolex Sydney Hobart. The only other yacht to take consecutive Line Honours at all three of these 600-plus mile races is Neville Crichton’s first Alfa Romeo, which some years later in the hands of George David and under the name Rambler, scorched to a new course record in 2007. And, that will be another of Slade’s objectives when he hits the line on Saturday, 17 October.
Where in the fleet the overall victory is decided will depend on the prevailing weather. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is a four-sided course, not without its share of traps and pitfalls for the unwary. The tidal gate at the Strait of Messina that separates Sicily from mainland Italy is a critical point in the race, but it comes at the end of the first straight. With three more sides of the irregular quadrilateral to go, no one is certain of victory at this juncture.
Leopard’s closest rival on the water at this summer’s Rolex Fastnet was Karl Kwok’s brand new Farr 80 Beau Geste. Led once again by Gavin Brady and Francesco de Angelis, do not be surprised to see this Hong Kong maxi breathing down the neck of Leopard, despite being 20 foot shorter. Strategy and tactics are as key to success in this race as speed. Slightly further a back major battle will be underway between the Mini Maxis. The Royal Malta Yacht Club expects Niklas Zennstrom’s Rán 2 (overall winner of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet) and the STP 65s of Udo Schütz (Container/GER), Patrizio Bertelli (Luna Rossa/ITA) and Roger Sturgeon (Rosebud/USA – overall winner of the 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart) to be joining Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente (USA) and Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) – the 2008 Rolex Middle Sea Race Line Honours winner – for the another major offshore race line-up in the class.
Recent years have proved time and again that size is not everything in this race. The 2008 winner of the magnificent Rolex Middle Sea Race trophy for victory overall was the 40 foot French yacht Spirit of Ad Hoc. In 2004, it was the 50-foot Greek yacht Optimum 3. The Maltese also stuck the flag in the sand for small boats back in 2002, when the 32-foot Market Wizard claimed the prize. The Maltese will be out in force again this year. Some more experienced than others, but none just in it for the ride.
Jonathan Gambin has entered his own boat, Ton Ton, for a second time and whilst this will be only his third race, it confirms a growing enthusiasm for the course. This is no surprise. Even before crossing the start line in 2008, Gambin vowed “whatever the result I’ll be back again next year.” He finished a very respectable eleventh overall on handicap, beating two-thirds of his class in the process. Kevin Dingli is one of this year’s novice skippers. Last year he participated on Squibs, the last boat to finish the race. Undeterred, for this edition, he will be leading a crew on his 40-foot Beneteau, Fekruna. “I only started racing in 2005,” says Dingli. “Although we are relative novices, we are taking the race seriously. Taking my own yacht on the race is something I have long wanted to do and it will be an adventure. I’m looking forward to both the start and finish,” he continues, “The start will be an adrenalin charged moment, especially within the confines of Grand Harbour. But our main objectives are to finish safely and within the time limit.”
Other yachts to watch out for are: Kees Kaan’s GS43 ROARK/Claus en Kaan’s Architecten (NED), Boat of the Series at the 2008 Rolex Commodores’ Cup, and fellow countryman Piet de Vroon and his latest Tonnerre de Breskens. De Vroon is a former winner of the Rolex Fastnet. Yachts likely to catch the eye are the brand new Shipman 72, Geometry (BVI), entered by Philippe Gigon and the Swan 82RS, Nikata (GBR), entered by Nicolai Tangen. Gigon is another on a fast learning curve for this race, although the unknowns are primarily associated with his yacht. “Geometry was launched on 13 July this year,” explains Gigon. “We’re still testing the systems and sails, and will do so right up to the start. My co-skipper did this race last year on Coral and we both have racing backgrounds, so we’ll do our best to get round the course at the best of Geometry’s potential.” Like Dingli, Gigon is looking forward to the start. Amusingly, he says the bit he is not looking forward to is the finish, since it means a return to winter quarters in Italy.
The place to be to watch the start of the race this year will undoubtedly be the Saluting Battery in the Upper Barrakka Gardens overlooking Grand Harbour from the Valletta side. This will be the first time in the forty-one year history of the race that Malta’s most famous port will host the start. The RMYC is working hard on the final details with the Malta Maritime Authority, which will be closing the harbour for around four hours on the day. The purists need not worry that some of the theatre may be lost with this move of venue. The line is planned to stretch across to the bastions of Fort St Angelo on the Birgu side of the harbour and there will be plenty of the familiar echoing gunfire as the starting procedures get underway.
As for the yacht club premises, given the short lead-time, Commodore Georges Bonello DuPuis is delighted with progress to date, “the majority of the major works have been completed. As with all projects of this nature there are moments of difficulty, but the membership of the club is thoroughly involved and we will be in good shape come October. We’re all looking forward to another great race.”
The Rolex Middle Sea Race commences on Saturday, 17 October 2009. Entries close on 10 October. The final prize giving is on Saturday, 24 October 2009.
George David’s Rambler established the current Course Record of 47 hours 55 minutes and 3 seconds in 2007.
Zennström’s Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer finished the race in an elapsed time of 63 hours, 1 minute and 33 seconds, which corrected out to 2 hours, 19 minutes ahead of the second-placed Italian America’s Cup team Luna Rossa on board their STP65.
“It is fantastic, we are very excited about it,” commented Zennström. “But it was also a gradual thing, because as we crossed the finish line we knew we had a good result. We had monitored some of the boats behind us, most notably Luna Rossa and Rosebud, which we thought were always going to be the closest competitors to us. And after we came in we spent the morning and actually the whole day yesterday monitoring the updates on the RORC’s OC Tracker and made our own calculations about the likelihoods for the other boats to catch up with us.”
Having failed to complete the last Rolex Fastnet Race, in 2007, the victory for Ran 2 was unfinished business. That race, sailed on board Zennström’s Marten 49, had been the first occasion that the present Ran crew had sailed together. Led by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Tim Powell, the all-star line-up includes seasoned race boat navigator Steve Hayles and America’s Cup sailors such as Adrian Stead and Emirates Team New Zealand’s Andy Hemmings, Richard Bouzaid and Richard Meacham.
Zennström launched his new 72-footer earlier this year, raced it at several events in the Mediterranean, including the Giraglia Rolex Cup, before it was shipped back to the UK, to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. “One of the key objectives when we were building Ran 2 was to be able to do offshore races, and the most obvious race we put on the calendar was the Rolex Fastnet Race. So it is great we have done so well in it.” Zennström explains.
This year they have also won the Swedish equivalent of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Gotland Runt, aboard their previous Ran, a modified TP52.
“I think it is a really strong team,” concludes Zennström. “We have been sailing together for two years now and the team is getting stronger and stronger. We have been very thorough in our planning, both in terms of the design of the boat and our race preparations.
Skipper Tim Powell was equally ecstatic about their Rolex Fastnet Race win: “Obviously it is a big achievement being such a prestigious race and one of the classics.” He adds that they had prepared well, believing some way in advance that a major part of the race would be upwind and, with Ran 2 being very powerful and fast upwind, they stood a reasonable chance. “We were focusing more on our class and the boats around us a lot more. But to have won the thing overall is an awesome achievement.”
Ran 2 did especially well outbound down the English Channel and by the key tidal gate at Start Point, they had pulled out a 10 mile lead over their Mini Maxi rivals. “That first 20 hours up the Channel was all important, tactically and navigationally, and as a crew we sailed very, very well,” says Powell.
Eddie Warden-Owen, CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, says that this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race did favour the larger boats. “If you think that we’ve had spring tides, and really light winds, one of the big gains that the big boats made was on the first night when they came to Portland Bill and they were able to make the tide. You could see on the tracker that those who had managed to make it away from Portland Bill had a huge advantage, whereas the others were stopped and some had to put their anchor down. So the story of the race in many respects ended there, but we didn’t know which big boat was going to win.”
The opportunity for the smaller boats to win fizzled over the last 24 hours when windier conditions that might have provided them with a fast finish to make up for their deficit, caused by missing the tide at Portland Bill on the first night, failed to materialise.
“Ran sailed really well against the opposition and it is a well-deserved victory,” concluded Warden-Owen. “It is a young crew of British guys on the boat, even though it is owned by a Swede and they are very experienced America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors. So, a good effort.”
At the end of this afternoon, 59 boats of 300 starters had reached Plymouth and berthed in Sutton Harbour in the heart of the Devonshire city. The latest arrivals included the first to finish in IRC Class 1, Nicolas Loday and Jean-Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43, Codiam.
At present La Floresta Del Mar, Amanda Hartley’s Swan 56 can’t be beaten in IRC Z, having finished at 03:24 GMT this morning. While Codiam remains first on handicap in IRC 1, Marc Alperovitch and Jérome Huillard’s A-35 Prime Time is leading in IRC 2 and at 15:00 had just passed the Lizard with 43 miles left to go to the finish. Finally, Fabrice Amedeo’s X-332 Bateaux Mouches du Pont de l’Alma remains first in IRC 3, with 15 miles left to go to Bishop Rock. The majority of the fleet have now rounded the Fastnet Rock with the backmarker, the Bristol Channel pilot cutter, Morwenna, midway across the Celtic Sea with just over one third of the race course completed.
This afternoon the Royal Ocean Racing Club, organisers of the biennial British 608-mile classic offshore race, confirmed that Niklas Zennström’s Ran 2 is the overall handicap winner of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.
Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard secured a second consecutive line honours victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race in the early hours of this morning. With the mixed conditions the 100ft super-maxi was considerably behind the course record she set two years ago. Arriving at the Plymouth breakwater finish line at 00:09:36 GMT, her elapsed time on this occasion was 2 days 11 hours 9 minutes and 36 seconds, compared to 1 day 20 hours 18 minutes and 53 seconds in 2007.
“It was a great race,” commented Slade. “It is always nice to have a race where there are no breakages or damage. We didn’t get into any difficult situations. We just wanted to get around fast and competently. All in all we are delighted to be here, second time running, back to back victories in this great race. A huge thanks to the RORC, our sponsors ICAP and Rolex for yet again taking an interest in yachting.”
To have broken the record would have required more wind, but despite this the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race was still a nailbiter, said Slade. “There was a lot of light air and ‘are we going to get through a tide gate?’ It made for a very exciting race. We were always looking over our backs because, Rosebud, Ran and Luna Rossa were all there, all ganging up, only 20 miles behind all the time. So we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.”
ICAP Leopard’s next major events are the Rolex Middle Sea Race out of Malta in October followed by the Rolex Sydney Hobart in December. “No one has ever won all three and we will give it a try,” said Slade adding that he would be back to try for a third win in the RORC’s biennial offshore classic in 2011. Specifically this is a warm-up for the race to Hobart . “There is Maximus from NZ, Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats, so we’ll have our work cut out. We will go down there and represent Britain and try and knock off the Aussies. God knows what they are going to do at the Oval [the Ashes cricket contest]. We might need to get some revenge!”
Karl Kwok’s brand new Farr 80, Beau Geste was second home, arriving in drizzly Plymouth at 03:25:03 GMT, and now tied up in Sutton Harbour. “The race has been enjoyable,” commented Kwok. “We are racing the same IRC Class SZ boats as we did in Cowes Week, so we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses more or less. Knowing that beating everyone on handicap is almost impossible, our hope was maybe line honours for the class, because once into the ocean, waterline (length) counts. So it was a drag race and we beat Ran on that one, but they are pretty close.”
Apart from three short races at Cowes Week, this was Beau Geste’s first major race and both Kwok and skipper Gavin Brady said they still have much to learn about the set-up and development of the boat. “There are still a lot of things we can still do to reduce its rating,” said Kwok, who intends to enter his new boat in all the classic races he has not yet entered. Their program includes the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia then the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Brady added: “It is a big ask to bring a boat like this straight into one of the biggest events in Europe as your first race, but there is a lot we can take out of it.”
Brady says that in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the leaders seemed to be connected by elastic. “Our race didn’t really start for 24 hours and in a race that is that short you are giving away a lot of race course, where you are behind your competitors. By the time we passed Ran 2 we were 13-14 hours into the race. As soon as we got up to a ten-mile lead, then the compression started again and each time that happened, there was less and less race course.”
One of the most interesting races on the water, that developed in the last few hours, was that between Niklas Zennström’s Judel Vrolijk 72, Ran 2 and BT IMOCA 60, sailed two handed by Sebastien Josse and Jean-François Cuzon. This battle from Bishop Rock to the finish was won by the French duo, arriving just over one minute ahead, the wind dropping all the time to a minimum of five knots.
“We saw Ran just before the Scilly Isles,” recounted Josse. “We crossed and we said ‘maybe these guys will gybe, because we are on starboard’. And no one moved…but then we are a bad reference because when we gybe we have to start 20 minutes before! Then eventually we saw the bowman go on the bow, furl the staysail and in seconds they were away. So I said ‘maybe we won’t match race with these guys because we’ll lose’.”
Nonetheless in the VMR running conditions, the blue IMOCA 60 stayed ahead, despite having run headlong into a moon fish while crossing the Celtic Sea and running out of diesel by the time they reached the finish.
Despite being beaten on the water by BT IMOCA 60, this was of little consequence to Niklas Zennström and the crew of Ran 2. This morning they remain the leader overall on handicap.
“I think we knew it would be up to the last bit here, but I think we have a good chance,” commented the Skype founder on their prospects of a handicap win in what is the first major offshore race for their new boat. “We didn’t lose so much here at the last bit. We had a good breeze all the way in, so we have a good chance. But now we have to wait and see.”
Zennström had no regrets about bringing his boat all the way back up to UK from the Mediterranean, to where it will now return. “One of the objectives when we built the boat was to race a Rolex Fastnet Race competitively. Two years ago we had to pull out – so we had some revenge to do…”
According to Ran 2 navigator Steve Hayles, they ended up arriving in Plymouth three hours earlier than he had anticipated yesterday. After the distance between the front runners compressed as they reached Bishop Rock, he says it was not the wind speed but the direction that saved them on the final run home. “It stayed a bit more westerly and it didn’t go around to the north, so we didn’t have all the issues of trying to get under the land. We ended up running down in here.” They then got less foul tide passing the Lizard, extending their lead over the boats astern.
This morning the lead boats in IRC Class Z have been rounding the Fastnet Rock, with the majority of the fleet still crossing the Celtic Sea outbound. Under handicap, Piet Vroon’s new Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens has taken the lead in IRC Z and is now most of the way back to Bishop Rock. French boats continue to dominate the small handicap classes. The Grand Soleil 43 Codiam remains in front of Class 1, having rounded the rock at 0300 GMT. Just short of the rock, the A35 Prime Time has taken over first place in Class 2, while the Dufour 34 Major Tom is still first in Class 3.
1) ICAP Leopard, Mike Slade (GBR) – 00:09:36 GMT
2) Beau Geste, Karl Kwok (HK) – 03:25:03
3) BT IMOCA 60, Sebastien Josse (FRA) – 04:00:15
4) Ran 2, Niklas Zennström (SWE) – 04:01:33
5) Artemis Ocean Racing, Sam Davies (UK) and Sidney Gavignet (FRA) – 05:15:41
6) Safran, Marc Guillemot (FRA) – 05:56:18
7) Team Pindar, Mike Sanderson (NZ) – 06:15:42
Aviva, Dee Caffari (UK) – 06:57:13
9) Luna Rossa, Flavio Flavini (ITA) – 07:01:54
10) Rosebud Team DYT, Roger Sturgeon (USA) – 07:45:37
11) Akena Verandas, Arnaud Boissières (FRA) – 08:34:51