On the eve of the third running of Les Voiles de St. Barth, April 2-7, the palm-fringed port of Gustavia, St.Barthlemy quickly filled with an impressive array of race boats: ocean-racing maxis including the 90-foot Rambler and the Swan 112, Highland Breeze; classic beauties such the Olin Stephen-designed Dorade and the Fife-built yawl Mariella; a trio of IRC 52s, multi-hulls including the 66 Gunboat Phaedo, and two large racing classes with a mix of Melges, J/boats, and a mix of 40-footers, including the hot-off-the-press Carkeek 40, Decision.
Over 60 boats are registered for this years edition, up fromwith a large number of returning entries, proof that the regatta has filled the need for spirited competition towards the end of the winter season a time when tourism typically begins to wind down in the Caribbean. Though that was hard to tell yesterday, at the islands tiny airport, as the steady stream of small commuter planes landing were filled with a duffle bag-wielding collection of sailors from the ranks of the Americas Cup, round-the-world-ocean races, and Olympic competition, that included Gavin Brady (Vesper), Scott Vogel (Rambler), Bouwe Bekking (Nilaya), Cam Lewis (Paradox), Charlie McKee and Ross MacDonald (Mayhem), Tony Rey, Jeff Madrigali, and Nacho Postigo (Powerplay), and Dee Smith (Decision).
But its not just the professionals that flock to Les Voiles de St. Barth, the regattas program and mix of courses also appeals to a competitive group of amateur and family racers that hone their skills on the growing circuit of Caribbean regattas that take advantage of this sailing paradise.
While not the easiest of destinations to reach some U.S. west coast sailors logged 16+ hours in transit, while others from Europe only slightly less the island of St Barths itself is a welcome reward at the end of the road: a turquoise blue, crystal-clear sea, pristine white sand beaches, and an array of fabulous restaurants just payoff for a long days journey.
Francesco Mongelli, navigator onboard Jim Swartz IRC52 Vesper, is here racing in St Barths for the first time. The Italian sailor, who sails primarily in Europe, has been racing with the Vesper crew since last October, and was clearly keen to have touched down in this French paradise, Its a mix of all the best sailing places, together with perfect weather and good food. Having spent the afternoon in a tender carefully checking out the coastline and charted (and uncharted) rock outcroppings, Mongelli added, Its pretty similar to Porto Cervo, the difference is that there you more or less know where everything is, and the charts are accurate. You cannot take the same risk here that wed take in Porto Cervo.
Racing will run from Tuesday, April 3 Saturday, April 7 and will feature a mix of Olympic triangles, short coastal courses, and a 20-30 nautical mile round-the island race. The fleet will be split into seven classes: Maxi (> 21 meters), IRC52 (former TP52s that have been optimized for the IRC rule), Spinnaker I + II, Non-Spinnaker (racer/cruiser), Classic (vintage/traditional), and Multihull. Thursday is a layday at Nikki Beach, with lunch and a full afternoon of activities, including a paddleboard competition.
New this year, Les Voiles will offer real-time race tracking with 2D visualization via the internet. Waypoint-Tracking (www.waypoint-tracking.com) developed the system in close collaboration with ISAF. The site will allow enthusiasts to follow the daily racing action live or to replay at a later time.
Many of the competing boats are moored stern-to at the Quai General de Gaulle, site of the Race Village, where all of the daily breakfast and post-race activities and music take place. This evening, skippers and tacticians were on hand for the Skippers Briefing led by Loic Ponceau, Race Committee Chairman, and organizers Francois Tolede, Luc Poupon, and Annelisa Gee. Following that was Les Voiles St. Barth Opening Ceremony, where Bruno Magras, President of the Collectivit of St. Barth, welcomed more than 500 sailors to the weeklong event.
A regular and enthusiastic competitor in the Caribbean, Sir Peter Harrison was named the godfather or patron of this years Les Voiles. Harrison, owner of the 115-foot Farr-designed Sojana, told the crowd, As a visitor from England to this beautiful French island, one of the most beautiful in the West Indies, Im thrilled to be asked to the patron of Les Voiles. Bon vent Les Voiles de St. Barth, and good luck, everyone!
Also sailing on Sojana is Lionel Pan, who is also back for his third Les Voiles. He said, Obviously there are plenty of good reasons to be here, and to come back every year with the same enthusiasm: this place is made for sailing. In a very short time, Les Voiles de St. Barth has become the place to be, very much like Saint Tropez in the Mediterranean. And the word is spreading around. Shortly there will be a waiting list to be a part of the event!
The weather forecast for the next few days calls for light winds, though the breeze is expected to increase throughout the week. Racing is scheduled to start tomorrow, Tuesday, April 3, two miles northwest of Sugarloaf Rock off Gustavia; one race is scheduled with a start time of 12noon.
When the third annual Les Voiles des St. Barth gets underway this April 2-7, there will be more that meets the eye than the simply stunning panoramic views of the colorful French West Indies island that hosts the event and the expansive blue Caribbean ocean that surrounds it. Competitive sailors and, for that matter, local residents and visitors alike will have the privilege of also indulging in the indelible impressions left by the aesthetically unmatched designs of some of the world’s finest yachts participating as well as the passion of their owners.
Among the 60+ entrants registered to date is what many call the world’s most famous yacht of all time: the 52’ (15.8 metre) yawl Dorade. Purchased in 2010 by Matt Brooks (San Francisco, Calif.), Dorade was designed by the late Olin Stephens and originally launched in 1930. She influenced nearly all developments in yacht design for the next three decades and was hugely successful in distance racing, taking overall victory in the 1931 Transatlantic race and the 1931 and 1933 Fastnet races, among others. Now, Brooks, who has spent the last year overseeing a refit and major restoration of Dorade, is utilizing Les Voiles de St. Barth as a platform for both yacht and crew preparation, with the goal of entering Dorade in her first major modern ocean race this summer: the Newport to Bermuda Race, in which she finished second in both 1930 and 1932.
“We are assembling and training a crew with the right skills, chemistry and experience to race Dorade and win,” said Brooks, who is a world champion in the Six Meter class as well as an accomplished mountain climber and world record-holding jet pilot. “We also are toughening up Dorade herself, readying her for the kind of long-range sailing she hasn’t seen in decades, keeping in mind that while she may be game, she is also an 80-year-old lady.”
Dorade will sail in the Classics division against such other standouts as Kate, an Intel 60 (18.2 metre); Cruinneag III, a 63’ (19.4 metre) ketch, and Marie Des Isles, a Gran Shpountz 65 (20 metre). Among Dorade’s crew will be John Burnham, an IOD World Champion and Shields ClassNational Champion; legendary Bermudian sailor Buddy Rego; Jesse Sweeney, Dorade’s navigator and a member of the Camper Emirates Team New Zealand’s meteorology team for the Volvo Ocean Race; and Jamie Hilton, a two-time 12 Meter World and North American Champion, who also was a member of Brooks’s team when it won the 2011 Six Meter World Cup.
“St. Barth is a legendary destination and a beautiful place to sail, and we are expecting great wind, great camaraderie among the competitors, and a good test of the new and improved Dorade,” said Brooks.
Another remarkable yacht that will be seen in St. Barth is the Hoek 115’ (35.2 metre) Firefly, the recently launched prototype for the new one-design F Class. The superyacht was designed to hold her own against larger (130’/39.7 metre) J Class yachts and sports some similarities such as a towering rig and long bow and stern overhangs to those massive yachts, which were built in the 1930s and have experienced a rebirth.
According to her designers, Firefly is a perfect mix of classic lines and retro-design details, optimizing her for the Spirit of Tradition classes hosted by some regattas, but at Les Voiles de St. Barth she will depend on her high-performance racing characteristics to prevail against eight other yachts thus far signed up in Maxi class (yachts 75’/22.86 metres and longer).
“The concept is to have a beautiful, classic-looking boat with a modern underbody, using the latest technologies in deck gear and rigging solely for use as a racing boat and/or daysailer,” said Mark van Gelderen, who supervised Fireflys nine-month building process and has been the captain since she splashed in June of 2011. Having headed straight to the Med to compete in a handful of maxi events, Firefly was further optimized to improve performance before heading to the Caribbean.
“We have a relatively young crew combined of professional sailors, very good amateurs and friends of the owner,” added van Gelderen, who will be skippering and driving together with the owner. “Within the crew we have Olympic, Volvo Ocean Race, big boat and dinghy experienced sailors a great combination of very motivated guys!”
Van Gelderen also explained that St. Barth will offer a great place for guests and crew to be entertained when not participating in racing. “There are beaches, great restaurants, shopping and peace and tranquility, all within close proximity,” van Gelderen said. “It’s the perfect combination.”
While three other Maxi Class boats — the 112′/34 metre Baltic Nilaya, the 112′/34 metre Swan Highland Breeze, and the 115’/35 metre Farr Sojana — are nicely matched size-wise to Firefly, no one is quite sure how they or five smaller Maxis in the class are going to compare speed-wise. Certainly all eyes will be on the 90′ (27.4 metre) Reichel/Pugh Rambler, which won the inaugural Les Voiles de St. Barth and has been brought out of retirement by its owner George David (Hartford, Conn.) after its successor, Rambler 100 (which won last years Les Voiles de St. Barth with David steering) lost its keel and capsized in the 2011 Fastnet.
“These races invariably start a mile or two off Gustavia (the main harbor and capital of St. Barth), which means in any kind of a northeasterly trade it is a shifty first leg to a weather mark just outside the harbor,” said David, who most recently finished second overall and second in class with Rambler at the 2012 RORC Caribbean 600. “Then there are a couple of miles reaching either way across the south side of the island, so it’s a parade after that first weather mark, and you don’t want to get there second. Our ride last year, Rambler 100, got us there first every time with boat lengths to spare. It wont be so easy in the 90 footer.”
David noted that 15 of Ramblers crew sailing in the Les Voiles de St. Barth were present at the now-famous Fastnet incident, and a majority of them have sailed in the last two runnings of this regatta.
In addition to the Classic and Maxi classes at Les Voiles de St. Barth, there will also be a Racing Class with divisions for Spinnaker, Non-Spinnaker, 52-Footers, and Multihulls. Other notable entries include the Tripp 75 Blackbird, the Carkeek 40 Decision, the X 65 Karuba 5, and the Irens 63 trimaran Paradox.
With a Tuesday (April 3) through Saturday (April 7) schedule that includes four days of intense racing and a lay day on Thursday (April 5), the regatta kicks off on Monday, April 2, with opening ceremonies and cocktails at the festive Race Village on the Quai General de Gaulle overlooking Gustavia Harbor, where the event is headquartered. Lay day events planned for Nikki Beach include lunch and a surprise sporting challenge for all crews. Evening activities include off-site parties as well as post-racing bands and entertainment in the Race Village.
Organizers unveiled the official limited edition Les Voiles de St. Barth 2012 poster by well-known St. Barth artist Antoine Heckly. Only 300 posters will be printed, with the original artwork to be auctioned off during the crew party –hosted by the real estate agency, Sibarth — at Shell Beach on Wednesday, April 4. Proceeds from this auction will be donated to FEMUR (Foundation for Emergency Medical Equipment) to fund the purchase of a CT scanner to be installed in the new Radiation Center in the island’s Hopital de Bruyn.
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
Day two of the 2009 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup dawned bright and clear. Early reports from the racecourse suggested a small change in conditions from yesterday. The wind had backed a little to the north, and was blowing a fresh 15 knots, but the sea state remained large and lumpy. Happy campers this evening were Luna Rossa (ITA) in Mini Maxi Racing; Y3K (GER) in Wally; Beau Geste (HKG) in Racing & Racing Cruising; Whisper (IRL) in Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising and Velsheda (GBR) in Cruising/Spirit of Tradition.
Peter Craig and the Race Committee had little sympathy for the crew on the Racing Mini Maxis and Wallys who might have sampled too much Sardinian hospitality last night. These two divisions were sent on a 47-nautical mile jaunt up the islet and rock strewn main channel of the Maddalena archipelago to Eceuil de Lavezzi, just off the southern tip of Corsica, followed by the now familiar open-sea reach down the back of the islands, this time extending down the Costa Smeralda to Mortoriotto before heading back up to the finish off Porto Cervo. There was much the same lack of sympathy for the remaining three divisions which raced a 39-nautical mile diet-version of the course which took them up to the vaunted Eceuil before heading home round the outside, albeit without the complication of Mortoriotto.
The Racing Mini Maxis, once again the first start pathfinders, were shorn of one of their number before the day began. Udo Schutz’s Container (GER) had headed off to Olbia early this morning to be lifted out of the water to properly inspect some damage suffered yesterday. The remaining seven leapt off the start line looking alarmingly similar to a startled group of blue marlin, all threatening bowsprits to the fore. Ràn (GBR), with Tim Powell as its principal helm, shrugged off yesterday’s woe and led from start to finish, delighting owner Niklas Zennström whose only complaint was having had to hike hard for most of the course. Ràn completed the route in just over three and a half hours, but corrected out a troublesome twenty-five seconds behind Luna Rossa. Once again the Brazilian double act of Torben Grael and Robert Scheidt putting one over their immediate opposition. Hap Fauth and Bella Mente (USA) won the battle of Mini Maxi owner/drivers finishing third on the water and handicap, snuffing out a sharp-looking Neville Crichton and Alfa Romeo (NZL), which had trailed Ràn around the course.
In the Racing & Racing/Cruising Group, Karl Kwok’s Beau Geste (HKG) with Gavin Brady and Francesco de Angelis masterminding the control centre seared round the shorter of the two tracks in just under three hours, roasting the opposition in the process to correct out ahead of Filippo Faruffini’s Roma-Aniene (ITA) and Danilo Salsi’s Swan 90 DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA). This is only Kwok’s second venture into Sardinian waters and the first on his own boat. He is certainly enjoying the sailing experience, “today’s conditions were similar to yesterday’s, but there were some patches of stronger breeze. Much of the time we were at 16-17 knots which was good. The boat loves long reaching legs and we were given some of these today. We’re happy in big seas and the crew work has been no problem. We’re looking forward to the rest of the week. I’m sure the weather will stay the same, but we’re hoping that so will the wind!”
In the Wallys, Magic Carpet (GBR) strode imperiously up the initial windward leg to lead Y3K and Open Season (GER) into the top mark. At one point, all three were line abreast looking more akin to battle cruisers steaming purposefully towards a fray. Certainly the foredeck crews could be forgiven for assimilating their situation to a war zone, getting a royal hosing as these powerful craft took on the still indecently sized seas just off Porto Cervo. Y3K won through in the end, both on the water and handicap converting a four-minute lead over Magic Carpet to a narrow one-minute victory over the much smaller J One (FRA), which had finished the race some forty minutes astern. Open Season looked to have lost out to Magic Carpet by a mere four seconds for the final podium slot, until a port/starboard protest between these two led to Magic Carpet‘s disqualification rounding off a difficult two days for Lindsay Owen Jones and crew.
In the Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising, Idea might have taken the line honours gun, but it was Mick Cotter who must have kissed the Blarney Stone again this morning. According to Brian Benjamin on Aegir (GBR), the crew of Whisper put on another eloquent display of big-sea sailing through the Straits of Bonifacio where the fleet faced a stiff beat following a significant right-hand swing in the wind direction. Benjamin was home some twenty minutes after his Irish counterpart and just three and bit minutes shy on handicap, apparently Aegir‘s best performance in four years to date. Sailing with Benjamin was Royal Ocean Racing Club Commodore Andrew Mcirvine, a newcomer to yachting’s Xanadu; “I’ve sailed in most bits of the world but never here. It’s absolutely stunning. Absolutely perfect conditions and the hardware out there is incredible. It’s wonderful watching huge boats go past you and, for me, we’re on a pretty huge boat already.”
The last start of the day was by no means the least spectacular, being reserved for yachts over 100-feet. The jousting giants include not just the largest yachts at the event, but some of the prettiest with examples appealing equally to those drawn by classic looks and those by ultra-modern. The purists will be pleased by Velsheda‘s second victory in as many races and, even more so by Hetairos‘ (CAY) second place on handicap despite finishing almost an hour behind first-home Visione (GER).
Visione is a gargantuan 45 metres or just a few euros short of 150 feet. By no means the biggest sailing yacht in the world, she still grabs the spotlight here this week. Big does not necessarily mean beautiful, but underway Visione is as graceful as she is potent. From the water she is a commanding presence. From the air she is spectacular. Vast swathes of deck patrolled by ants, handling massive areas of sail. Another eye-catching yacht is the strikingly turquoise-hulled Gliss (SUI), owned by Marco Vögele. Vögele has turned to Ireland for one of his professional talent this week, hoping that Harold Cudmore – a stalwart of the grand-prix America’s and Admiral’s Cup racing scenes for some decades – would add a touch of Irish luck to his campaign. Cudmore has seen it all and more, but still finds the racing here special; “today was a cracking day, just as yesterday. Up amongst the islands with these magnificent yachts in close company; into the Strait, the wind came up a bit, we’re all under a bit of pressure, there are things happening all around and it makes for a wonderful time.”
Racing Continues through September 12
There was a twinkle in the eye of Poseidon this morning. The current crop of sailing gods may have gathered in Porto Cervo for the 2009 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, but the lord of the sea was about to prove mastery of the waves does not come easily even to the gifted. This was to be a testing day for all competitors. Not everyone was overawed, as ocean ace Torben Grael and Olympic maestro Robert Scheidt conspired to bring Luna Rossa (ITA) home first amongst the Racing Mini Maxis, although not without their moment. Jean-Charles Decaud’s J One (FRA) was the fortunate one in the Wallys, while Velsheda (GBR) and tradition got the better of modernity in Cruising. The luck of the Irish was evidenced in the Racing/Cruising Mini Maxis as Whisper (IRL) quietly went about her business and in the combined Racing/Cruising division, Karl Kwok’s Beau Geste (HKG) wrapped up the race win in indecent haste.
The journey from Porto Cervo harbour to the start line was enough to set the nerves jangling this morning as a 3-metre sea and 20 – 25 knots of northeasterly wind greeted competitors. The conditions were more than manageable for Maxi yachts, but there were traps in the waves and gusts that would catch those unwary, unlucky or unprepared. The Race Committee chose a 35 nautical mile course, that took the fleet on a beat to a windward mark, followed by a fetch to the rocks at Monaci, where the yachts bore off onto a run down into the main channel between the Maddalena Islands and mainland Sardinia. At Secca di Tre Monti the fleet hardened up for some upwind work in flat water to the top mark of the course at Barrettinelli di Fuori. Then it was back out into the lump and bump of the open sea and a fast reach down to the finish off Porto Cervo.
The Racing Mini Maxis got proceedings underway. Neville Crichton all but confirmed his worst fears about preparation with a distinctly second row start that saw Alfa Romeo (NZL) forced to tack off onto port straight after the gun. The division split in two with half favouring the right and half the left. The right paid. By first mark, Crichton’s crew, with Ben Ainslie in the strategist’s role, had regained composure and position to take a slender lead over Niklas Zennstrom’s Ràn (GBR). Luna Rossa was in third and the biggest surprise was the 60-foot Jethou getting the better of the STP65 Container (GER). It was at this point that Poseidon played his first trump card. Andres Soriano and Alegre (GBR) suffered sail damage that was considered enough to warrant the crew taking an early bath. One down.
The next three classes got away without incident making the best of the difficult conditions. The fifth and final start was the most dramatic. Poseidon’s humour was black at this point, perhaps frustrated at the fleet’s apparent nonchalant regard for the conditions. The Polish crew on Intuition were thrown the unhittable curve ball. Two bangs announced the Racing/Cruising Mini Maxi’s entrance into the arena. The one from the Committee boat was expected. The one from the from Intuition was gut wrenching as the top three metres of her mast separated leaving her mortally-wounded on the line, a sorry sight for the fast departing fleet. Two down.
In The Wallys, Lindsay Owen Jones and Magic Carpet had looked to be settled into the groove early holding a good lead over Open Season and the longer Y3K. It was a lead they would hold all the way to Barrettinelli when the trident of bad fortune chose to strike Owen Jones, not for the first time in the history of this event. Twice in quick succession the head sail appeared to blow out of the foil, leaving the Magic Carpet looking a little thread bare as she was forced to finish race under main alone. Not quite three down, but in the context of this race she would no longer play a serious role.
On Luna Rossa, Robert Scheidt and Torben Grael were understandably happy with the way the day’s events unfolded. “It was a good day for us,” commented Grael, “we had a nice start, read the course well, made some nice moves and even got to the finish line ahead, which is good for a small boat in a class like ours.” Grael admitted that it had not been straightforward describing how shortly after watching Ràn suffer her moment of misfortune when the jib tack broke tearing the sail out of the headfoil, the Luna Rossa crew took the lead and promptly lost control of the inner staysail during the hoist. Fortunately for Luna Rossa they were reaching at this point and the issue was no more than an irritation. Ràn’s problems cost them second if not the race, according to tactician Adrian Stead. The remaining podium positions in Luna Rossa’s class were taken by Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente (USA) and Alfa Romeo.
In the second tier group of Mini Maxis, comprising the less race-oriented boats, the Irish yacht, Whisper, sailed an exemplary race to correct out seven minutes ahead of Massimillano Florio’s Grande Orazio and Massimo Violati’s OPS 5. Mick Cotter, the owner, was a happy man as he climbed ashore, “we had big breeze, which helps a big heavy boat like ours! We had no problems either, which some of the other boats seemed to have.” For Cotter the biggest problem of the day was which sail to put up; a decision-making question-mark echoed by tactician Andy Beadsworth, who described how on the reach back to the finish they were torn between sticking with the sail combination that had almost got them to the top of the course first on the water or changing up a gear. In the end, conservatism won through. “We had a few concerns about hoisting the kite. We’d been going well till that point, though we might have been better off reefed. Putting the spinnaker up might have opened us to more problems and, to be honest, we were in such a good position we didn’t need to gain anything, so we held off,” Beadsworth explained. Wise choice.
For some crews the end of racing today could not come soon enough. The prospect of more of the same tomorrow will probably be unnerving a few. By contrast, for Mick Cotter, tomorrow can’t come soon enough and he is hoping for another dose of the medicine, “I don’t think there is a better place to sail, you are nearly always going to get a breeze and it’s warm so it does not matter if the sea comes over you.” When Irish eyes are smiling.
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