A tactically challenging and meteorologically intriguing 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is developing. Thirty hours into the contest, all 83 yachts are still racing with the bulk of the fleet negotiating the infamous Strait of Messina. Leading the fleet, and midway between the Strait and Stromboli, are the 30.48m/100-ft Esimit Europa 2 (SLO), and two 21.94m/72-ft Mini Maxis Rán 2 (GBR) and Stig (ITA). Currently sailing at a meagre two knots, the three are separated by less than one mile.
Esimit Europa 2 has not broken away from the pack in the manner she has become accustomed to in previous editions. The first night proved frustrating for Igor Simcic’s crew, caught in a fading breeze that allowed her rivals to close in. On the approach to the Strait this morning, Rán 2 took advantage of a positive current to close the gap on Esimit, and even take the lead. By midday the two boats were only 100m apart exiting the Strait together, destination Stromboli.
“We enjoyed some good breeze through the Strait and are very satisfied with our progress. However, we expect conditions to be very light on the stretch to Stromboli,” reported the crew on Esimit.
Steve Hayles, navigator on Rán 2, confirmed: “It was a very tricky first night. The smaller boats made quite a big gain at one point. Our long-term strategy was to be furthest offshore. We made a considerable loss initially but managed to stretch away this morning. The race is going to be a bit like an elastic band. It’s about trying to stay on the right side of your competitor and focused on where next breeze is coming from. For us the focus is staying ahead of Stig.” The Italian boat lost ground during the morning but were able to close the gap after exiting the Strait.
Further down the fleet, things are equally intense. Philippe Falle, skipper of the 13.10m/43-ft Trustmarque Quokka (GBR), added: “It was quite a tactical night, pushing and trimming hard. It was an important night to get right. This is one of those races which will see a lot of bungee effects.”
18 yachts have now passed the Strait of Messina. The current advantage on handicap belongs to defending champion – Lee Satariano’s J/122 Artie (MLT). It is a precarious lead as the fleet heads into the second evening and a frustrating search for breeze.
Live race tracking from the 33rd Rolex Middle Sea Race is available here as a record-breaking 83 international entries contest this classic offshore race.
A fleet of 34 international Maxi yachts are braced for tomorrow’s start to competitive action at the 2012 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, held in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. Five days of racing are scheduled for the 23rd edition of this annual contest, open to Maxi yachts upwards of 18.29 metres. Boats representing fourteen different countries make up the entry list from the smallest competitor – the 18.30m Mini Maxi @robas (FRA) – to the gigantic 66m Supermaxi Hetairos (CY). A stunning spectacle is always guaranteed when the world’s most technologically impressive Maxis lock horns in the challenging and scenic racecourses offered by the Costa Smeralda and the Maddalena Archipelago.
Ever since its inception in 1980, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has represented a rare for opportunity for Maxi yachts to engage exclusively in direct competition. It has also been synonymous with the latest developments in yacht design and technology. 2012 is no exception as three eagerly-anticipated new launches prepare to make their bow: Charles Dunstone’s 30.47m Wally Hamilton(GBR) and two new entries in the intriguing Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship: Hap Fauth’s 21.94m Bella Mente (USA) and the similarly sized Stig (ITA), owned by Alessandro Rombelli.
Edoardo Recchi, Sporting Director of event organizer the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), believes a vintage edition is in store, revealing: “We are very happy to have a fleet of 34 boats with a number sailing here for the first time. The Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship, in particular, will be very competitive because all the Mini Maxis are, from a certain point of view, as good as new, with many having changed keels or rigs.” As Recchi confirms, the week will be a test of each crew’s resolve and endurance: “For the Maxis and Supermaxis five coastal races are planned and for the Mini Maxis and Wallys there will be three coastal races and four windward/leeward races.” Tomorrow, coastal races are scheduled for the event’s five classes (Maxi Racing, Maxi Racing/Cruising, Mini Maxi, Supermaxi and Wally).
A number of this season’s most successful boats are in attendance. Sir Peter Ogden’s 18.90m Mini Maxi Jethou (GBR) triumphed in May’s Rolex Volcano Race; Filip Balcaen’s 34.13m Nilaya (GBR) won line honours at that same event and returns to Porto Cervo to defend her Supermaxi class title. Igor Simcic’s 30.48m Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) has enjoyed a stellar year, smashing the race record at the recent Giraglia Rolex Cup before arriving in Sardinia in style, setting a new fastest time between Monte Carlo and Porto Cervo.
The third running of the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship is likely to be one of the week’s most eye-catching contests. The previous two editions have been claimed by the 21.91m Rán 2 (GBR). Niklas Zennström’s fully professional crew start off as favourites, but the competition will be determined and races decided by the merest fractions. Strength in depth across the Championship is provided by the revamped Jethou, George Sakellaris’ 21.80m Shockwave (USA), Stig and the 21.01m Caol Ila R (USA), the former Alegre – second place finishers in 2010 and 2011 – as Alex Schärer and his crew make the transition from their racer/cruiser of the same name.
Brand-new Bella Mente (USA), counting on the expertise of 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Mike Sanderson, concedes nothing to Rán 2 in terms of length although the crew have the challenge of tackling the competition for the first time. “We’re really excited,” remarks Sanderson. “The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is one of the great events on the calendar, where the fascination is seeing all of the hardware together – a collection of amazing boats in terms of power and sail.” Sanderson is expecting a baptism of fire: “In the Mini Maxi class, the level is very high. The other guys currently have a bit more refinement and finesse including Rán who are a very polished act with a very consistent crew.”
Navigators are facing a difficult time predicting what the week’s weather will provide: “The forecast is really tricky,” confirms Sanderson. “There is a low settling off to the west of Sardinia. Some forecasts are saying 50 knots and others five! So we are in for a pretty changeable week.”
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association, prestigious organizations with close ties to Rolex. A first-class social programme is in store, including the Rolex Crew Party and the final Prize-Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups and Rolex timepieces will be presented to the winners.
Sunday, 2 September
Inspections, registration and briefing
Monday, 3 September
Tuesday, 4 September
Wednesday, 5 September
Thursday, 6 September
Lay day or resail
Friday, 7 September
Rolex Crew Party
Saturday, 8 September
The second edition of the Rolex Volcano Race concluded in true Caprese style as fifteen international crews toasted a week’s enthralling sailing during the Rolex party and prizegiving at La Canzone del Mare on Friday 25 May. A combination of envious views of Capri’s Faraglioni rock formations and a famous venue once owned by Anglo-Italian singer Gracie Fields, and treasured over the years by glitterati and thespians alike, provided a fitting finale to a magnificent week.
During the ceremony, the crew of Sir Peter Ogden’s Mini Maxi Jethou (GBR) received the week’s most coveted prize – the Rolex Trophy and timepiece – awarded to the overall winner of Leg Two of the 400-nautical mile offshore race which started and finished in Capri and comprised a pulsating journey through the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The fastest boat on the water over Leg Two – Filip Balcaen’s 112-foot Supermaxi Nilaya – was awarded a Rolex timepiece after claiming line honours in a time of one day, two hours and five minutes.
The two celebrating crews have much in common: both are formed by an enthusiastic owner and a group of friends who have sailed together for a number of years, comprising mainly amateurs in addition to handpicked and highly-skilled professional sailors. Their respective paths to victory are the result of hard work and perseverance.
Ogden’s 60-ft Jethou has frequently been the bridesmaid at Rolex yachting events, missing out on the prizes with luck deserting her at key junctures, from crew members falling overboard to split-second defeats. It seems this team of predominantly Corinthian sailors may have finally found the winning formula. Ogden commissioned an upgrade to his Mini Maxi over the winter, drawing on the advice of professional tactician Brad Butterworth. Jethou is now more powerful following a slight lengthening and the development of a new mast and sail plan. While the yacht’s enhanced prowess has rendered her faster and more responsive in light airs, the crew’s obvious bond and unity is an equally key component in this long overdue success.
The bulk of the Jethou crew is made up of Ogden’s friends and family, the professionals onboard playing a key role in helping develop the team’s confidence and skills. America’s Cup legend Butterworth brings a wealth of experience. “I’ve sailed with other famous sailors and he is one of the guys,” reveals Ogden. “He encourages the crew, shouts at them, but they love him. It is great to have someone who really knows what he is doing. He sees things in 3D that nobody else sees.” Ogden also pointed to the contribution of professional navigator Mike Broughton; “he got us round very safely and was excellent on weather predictions.”
The sailing was a riveting affair. Jethou reached consistent speeds of 26 knots around the Aeolian Islands, the crew knee deep in water as the Mini Maxi flew past these ancient geological wonders almost like an aeroplane. At one stage, incredibly, she was ahead of two titans in Nilaya and Claus-Peter Offen’s 100-ft Wally Y3K (GER). Eventually, on the home stretch and as the wind speed picked up, these two larger yachts gained a narrow advantage over Jethou by virtue of their superior waterline length. However, Ogden’s Mini Maxi finished an impressive 41 minutes behind the first boat home, enough to help her triumph on handicap, marking an impressive week which saw the crew claim the windward/leeward race in Gaeta and second place overall in Leg One of the offshore race, which ran 100-nm from Gaeta to Capri. In the combined scoring for the three events of the week, Jethou also came out on top. An emphatic winner.
For Ogden victory crowned a memorable week, which he concluded by celebrating his 65th birthday: “It is not a professional crew. I sail for sixty days a year, and they can’t all commit to this, so we have a roster and rotate, although they’ve all been with me a long time.” According to Broughton, who steps down as navigator for the forthcoming Giraglia Rolex Cup: “They are a great bunch to sail with, there’s lots of banter and they’re very happy as we’ve now won our last two races.” With her recent success, Jethou has thrown down the gauntlet to her Maxi rivals ahead of a competitive summer.
Sir Peter Ogden, owner Jethou
Terrific team spirit
Onboard the largest, heaviest and arguably most complicated yacht – the 112-ft Nilaya – the workings of the 16-man team are down to a tee. Cajoled by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Bouwe Bekking, who calls the shots and acts as the team’s commander-in-chief, the crew of predominantly Belgian and Dutch sailors are on an upward learning curve.
Owner Filip Balcaen is proud of the progress his largely amateur crew of friends have made over the past 15 years, having started out with little or no sailing experience. “Everything we have learnt and do today comes from the professional sailors,” admits Balcaen. The crew now almost function on autopilot. “A good crew should not talk a lot when something is happening as it is used to working together and in the case of an unexpected event should know what to do. This is the advantage we have of sailing a long time.”
Balcaen and Bekking’s relationship began back in 2003 during a successful Swan European regatta in Cowes. Ever since, Bekking has been the sounding board and inspiration for the crew, which includes four other professional sailors, all Volvo Ocean Race veterans. “The crew has progressed from a 56-ft yacht to an 80-ft yacht, and now this 112-ft yacht, and we know how to communicate,” adds Bekking. “Furthermore, it is a different relationship than that often found on other boats; we call each other up in between races and talk about a lot of things aside from sailing. We have a lot of respect for each other. If people make a mistake, we speak about it calmly and nine out of ten times it doesn’t happen again. It is about giving everyone self-confidence.”
The crew’s approach to sailing Nilaya has been marked by a gradual evolution and a lack of fear at sailing such a large yacht. Bekking concludes: “A lot of people are impressed by size but the good thing about these guys is that they still approach their sailing as if on a small boat – that way they get the most fun out of it.” In a thrilling tussle during Leg Two of the offshore race, Nilaya pulled clear of Y3K and Jethou to claim a hard-fought and deserved line honours title. The entire crew stayed awake for the 26-hour journey, tired eyes and warm smiles greeted the sunset finish in Capri. Enjoyment clearly breeds success. And vice versa.
* A dedicated feature story provides further details about how the team onboard Nilaya operates.
Boat Sail No.
Sir Peter Ogden GBR 74 1
Claus-Peter Offen GER 6060 3 3.00 4 6.00 3 6.00 15.00 2
Marco Rodolfi ITA 18989 4
Filip Balcaen GBR 112 8
Alex Shaerer USA 60666 9
Vladimir Liubonirov RUS 2460 2
TWIN SOUL 6
Luciano Gandini ITA 19951 6
Escuela Mediterranea de Vela ESP 9933
Giuseppe Puttini ITA 13993 12
Michele Galli ITA 88888 10
The Newport Bermuda Race Safety at Sea Seminar on March 17-18 introduces a new approach to safety education. The seminar serves sailors in the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race as well as delivery and crews returning from Bermuda and other offshore sailors. It is also perfect for skippers and crews on coastal racers plus ocean and coastal cruisers, too. This Cruising Club of America seminar is at the Newport (RI) Hyatt Regency Hotel on Goat Island.
Register at http://www.bermudarace.com/EntryProcess/SafetyatSea/tabid/190/Default.aspx in advance. Or for those who choose to register at the door in Newport, walk-ins are welcome
On Saturday, March 17, the seminar offers two tracks. The morning �refresher course� is for anybody who has attended two or more US SAILING certified safety seminars since 2002. Participants may then do hands-on, in-water survival training in the afternoon. They will earn an ISAF Approved Certificate in one day. The other track is the All-day Safety at Sea seminar for people who have not attended a safety seminar recently.
On Sunday, there are two all-day courses� the Practical, Hands on Training Safety Seminar that combines with Saturday’s all day Safety at Sea Seminar to award the ISAF Approved Offshore Personal Survival Course certificate and a Red Cross First Aid and CPR training course. In addition, a Newport Bermuda Race Preparation Seminar aimed specifically at Bermuda Race sailors will be held in the morning.
More information about the CCA Safety at Sea Seminar and a link to direct registration and details about the Newport Bermuda Race are at www.BermudaRace.com.
Every offshore sailor worth his or her salt dreams of doing the Newport Bermuda Race. Sheila McCurdy has sailed 15 of them and will do number 16 in 2012. McCurdy, from Middletown, RI, is the immediate past Commodore of the Cruising Club of America (CCA), co-organizer of the race with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC). She has sailed nine of her Bermuda Races on Selkie.
Her first three Newport Bermuda Races— 1986, 1988 and 1990— were as navigator for her dad, James A. (Jim) McCurdy, chief designer at McCurdy & Rhodes, Naval Architects. In 1985 he designed the 38’6” Selkie for his family. Sheila has sailed six other Newport Bermuda Races as Selkie’s skipper and navigator, as well as four races in other boats including a stint as advisor aboard a US Naval Academy entry.
The only recent races McCurdy missed were in 2004, when she sailed trans-Atlantic with a crew of Navy midshipmen, and in 2010, when as Commodore of the CCA, she and RBYC Commodore Peter Shrubb had to stay ashore, prepared to address emergencies. Unable to stay away from Bermuda, she sailed Selkie to Bermuda in 2011 for the CCA cruise in the waters of the archipelago.
Her best Bermuda Races were in 1994 and 2008. In both races Selkie finished 2nd in Class and 2nd in the St. David’s Lighthouse (amateur) Division. In 1994, CCA Commodore Kaighn Smith’s Swan 38 Gaylark snatched the Lighthouse Trophy out of her grasp, winning by a mere 15-minute margin after 635 rhumb line miles of hard ocean racing.
After 15 races, with two as bridesmaids, Sheila has high hopes for 2012 and her 10th race on Selkie— “I keep doing the Newport Bermuda Race because I love the rhythm of sailing at sea for days.” Sheila said in a recent interview. “I love the fun of being with friends and family, pushing hard to get top performance from the boat.”
A true seafarer, Sheila added, “I love the complexity of developing a strategy and tactics based on the boat, the crew, the weather, the Gulf Stream and the boats in our class. I love seeing old and new friends in Newport and Bermuda. I love the elegance of the prize giving ceremony at Government House and the bugler at the ‘Sunset and Colours’ routine. I love the relaxed sail home and introducing the ocean to coastal sailors.”
When asked what was special to her about this particular ocean race, one that has been such an important part of her life, she replied, “The Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club have kept Newport Bermuda Race as a race designed mostly for very good amateurs, one that is organized by experienced volunteers who have had a connection to the race over the decades. The race has history and tradition at its core.”
“It is a race that generally rewards good all-around sea boats more than the boats specialized for around-the-buoys.” McCurdy added, “It is a family race for me. Between Dad, my brothers Jim and Ian, my husband Dave, and me, we probably have sailed 50 races. Dad was the Race Chairman in 1982 and CCA Commodore from 1986 to 1987. The race is a family habit or maybe you could better describe it as a chronic condition.”
John Rousmaniere, Newport Bermuda Race Historian and a top offshore sailor in his own right, was a watch captain on Selkie in 2008. He has also sailed with Sheila to the Azores. Rousmaniere has high praise for McCurdy, “She was the person in charge, no doubt about it, and quiet about it. She’s exceptionally well prepared and knowledgeable, a talented racing sailor with a very good feel for a boat, a terrific leader, and also extremely experienced with well over 100,000 miles behind her. I’d sail anywhere with her on a moment’s notice.”
With those 100,000 miles of salt water in her wake, McCurdy is highly experienced and knowledgeable. She is one of five authorized moderators for US SAILING certified safety at sea seminars. She served on the panel for US SAILING’s inquiry into a fatal accident in the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club’s race to Mackinac Island on Lake Michigan.
At the March 17-18 Cruising Club of America Safety at Sea Seminar in Newport RI on March 17-18, Sheila will make the presentation on the crucial topic of damage control. This seminar has an imaginative new curriculum option, a new schedule, and a new seminar attendance rule, plus special hotel room rates for attendees. For more information go to www.BermudaRace.com.
The 2012 Newport Bermuda Race starts Friday afternoon June 15th just off of Castle Hill in Newport RI. Applications for Entry into this invitational adventure are being taken under <Entry Process> on the race website at http://www.bermudarace.com. The classic 635-mile race offers racing in five divisions— The St. David’s Lighthouse (amateur) Division, The Cruiser (amateur) Division, the Double Handed Division, the Gibbs Hill (professional) Division and the Open (professional) division. There is great competition for all levels of commitment and experience.
About 40 of the two Lighthouse Division entries are expected to sail the Onion Patch series, a tough triathlon of offshore racing. Boats compete in the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta in Newport, then race to Bermuda, and finally sail in the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta. Information is online at www.onionpatchseries.com.
The race website— www.BermudaRace.com— carries Newport Bermuda Race rules, news, videos, photos, race history, and expert advice on inspections, the Gulf Stream, and preparing for the classic 635-mile race across the Gulf Stream to St. David’s Light. Race news is also posted on the Newport Bermuda Race 2012 Facebook page and on Twitter at @BdaRace.
Newport Bermuda 2012 entries on pace with past fleets
Three weeks into the entry process for the 48th Newport Bermuda Race®, applications for entry for the 2012 race continue to roll in at a rapid rate for the 106-year-old biennial ocean-racing classic, with expectations of another large fleet.
Brin Ford, Database Chairman for the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee, commented, “As of February 3rd, the rate of entries was exactly on pace with the 2010 race with 105 boats having submitted Applications for Entry (AFE).” The Newport Bermuda Race is an invitational event, so skippers must submit an application and receive an invitation before completing the registration process. The 2010 race was the third largest ever, with 183 boats. The only bigger fleets were 264 in the 2006 Centennial Race and 198 in 2008.
“Of the 105 AFE’s submitted,” Ford continued, “77 are now approved for their invitation, 35 need to provide Experience Forms, and the rest are pending. Thirty-three skippers say their boat has not done the race before. We’re still missing many of our old friends, but they have time to enter before the April 15th deadline without paying an extra late fee. An additional 17 captains have begun the registration process, but have yet to file an AFE.”
Newport Bermuda Race Chairman and a multi-race veteran, Dr. John Osmond, is enthusiastic about the prospects for another successful race with a large fleet: “The Bermuda Race Organizing Committee is gratified by this early response which shadows the very successful 2010 experience. The Organizing Committee, the Race Ambassadors (mentors for newcomers), and the Inspectors – some 140 volunteers in all – are deeply interested in presenting for our sailing friends an unparalleled racing and social experience. That is the tradition of this wonderful event.”
Some experienced Bermuda Race skippers are coming back. Among the returning boats is Rives Potts’ McCurdy & Rhodes 48 Carina (Westbrook, CT). She was the St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy winner in 2010 and also 1970, and is a veteran of 16 Bermuda Races over 40 years. Carina is now sailing home from Australia under the command of Potts’ son and nephew after competing in December’s Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race. Prior to that, she sailed in the Transatlantic Race 2011 from Newport to England and the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race before sailing to Australia. Carina will have sailed more than 30,000 miles in less than a year by the start of the 2012 Bermuda Race.
So far, other returning Lighthouse winners are Sinn Fein, Peter Rebovich’s Cal 40 (Metuchen, NJ) winner of the St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy in 2006 and 2008 and Llwyd Ecclestone’s Frers 68 Kodiak (West Palm Beach, FL).
The classic S&S yawl Dorade, which did her first Bermuda Race under the command of Olin Stephens in 1930, will be sailed by new owner Matt Brooks from San Francisco, CA. Charlie Robertson (Old Saybrook, CT) is returning after a 15-year absence with his Frers Mini-Maxi Cannonball. This is the big yellow boat he sailed back in 1988 to win first place in IMS.
Jimmy Sykes has sailed two yachts named Bombardino, a J130 once and his current Santa Cruz 52 seven times. He notes, “I have skippered all eight races and approximately half the crew have been on board for all of the races. Our best finish in class was first in 2008 and worst in class was thirteenth. Fleetwise, in 2006 we were sixth in fleet and third in class. I have done this many races because two of my three children were on board for all of the races and all three children were aboard on two. They keep me coming back.”
Among stock boat builders, currently J Boats has 21 entries, Swan has 12 and Beneteau has 8. Designer/builders with two or more entries include Peterson, McCurdy & Rhodes, S&S, Santa Cruz, Tartan, Hinckley, C&C, Cal, Baltic, IMX, Ker, Morris, Sabre and Hallberg Rassey. Gold Digger, Jim Bishop’s J44 (New York, NY) and Robert Foreman’s Hinkley SW 42 Jacqueline IV (Bay Shore, NY) will be back for their twelfth races. Gracie, Steve and Simon Frank’s McCurdy & Rhodes 69 (Darien, CT) will make her eleventh race.
Many entries are expected to sail the triathlon of offshore racing by entering the Onion Patch Series, a three-event series in which boats and crews first compete in the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta in Newport, then race to Bermuda, and finally participate in the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta. Information is online at www.onionpatchseries.com.
The race website, www.BermudaRace.com, carries Newport Bermuda Race rules, news, videos, photos, race history, and expert advice on inspections, the Gulf Stream, and preparing for the classic 635-mile race across the Gulf Stream to St. David’s Light. Race news is also posted on the Newport Bermuda Race 2012 Facebook page and on Twitter at @BdaRace.
The Cruising Club of America Newport Bermuda Race Safety at Sea Seminar will be held at Newport on March 17-18 with a new curriculum option, a new schedule, and a new seminar attendance rule, plus special hotel room rates for attendees. For more information go to www.BermudaRace.com.
Come early September and as the height of the Mediterranean summer season passes with the grace of a fading sunset, the eyes of the sailing world will be focused firmly on one stand-out attraction: the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. This annual meeting of the bold and the beautiful, elegance and finesse, onshore refinement and offshore adventure, takes place in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.
Event organisers the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) are expecting a record presence for the 22nd edition, which takes place from 5-10 September. It represents a trend. Last year’s competition welcomed 49 of the world’s most state-of-the-art yachts. Forty-two yachts from 12 countries and territories have already committed to taking part this time around. Whilst the event’s appeal has always been unquestioned, the growth in popularity of the Mini Maxi yacht and the subsequent birth of the competition within a competition, the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship (open to yachts from 18.29-24.08 metres), have led to the mushrooming of the regatta. This year promises to be an eye-catching feast.
Close attention will be paid to the second running of the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds. Whilst the final list of entries is still to be confirmed, several impressive campaigners will be attacking the waters of the Costa Smeralda. Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 (GBR) and Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) finished first and second last year. Intriguingly, 2010’s third placed yacht is also returning albeit under new ownership. The 72-ft Reichel Pugh Shockwave (USA) has changed hands from serial regatta winner Neville Crichton to George Sakellaris, who previously campaigned the CM60 Captivity. Shockwave has been preparing for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Palma.
The crew of Whisper (IRL) have long been captivated by the lure of Porto Cervo. Michael Cotter’s 78-footer has become a fixture at the event and won the Racer/Cruiser division in 2009. The experienced crew have been focused on the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup for quite a while, as captain Mark Dicker explains: “Whisper’s preparations for the Maxis started in January and this will be our sixth participation. We have a good set up and hope to be on top of our game in Porto Cervo. Over the past winter the boat undertook a large refit with the upgrade of many of its racing systems. We then did a ‘shake down’ regatta at Easter in Palma so we feel confident the boat will be in great shape for the Maxis. Currently Whisper is completing a cruising period around Greece before heading back to prepare for the event and two days training.”
The Irish crew, competing in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, have always performed impressively on the Emerald Coast. Dicker reveals the key to yacht’s success: “The Whisper team have been campaigning the boat for six years with a core crew mostly of Irish sailors, who are happy to keep on coming back. The owner is very competitive, but a laid back approach seems to help the boat stay in good form and even the small handful of professional sailors onboard relish a week’s sailing on Whisper. Certainly the secret to the event is consistency, the conditions around Porto Cervo are very challenging and any mistakes can quickly end a regatta.”
For the crew of Whisper, like many others, the appeal of the event is obvious. “Within the Med there is certainly no other regatta like the Maxis,” closes Dicker, “from the picturesque scenery to the high level of competition returning year after year. Racing up Bomb Alley and round the islands is certainly like no other race course we embark on.” Following on from the Maxis, the Whisper crew will take part at another Rolex supported event – Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.
The rest of the best
Completing the global gathering of competing nations are the Danish crew onboard the 61-ft Vertical Smile, the 78-ft All Smoke (GBR), owned by the German businessman Günter Herz, the 60-ft Arobas (FRA) and Caol Ila (USA), fresh from an impressive performance at the Giraglia Rolex Cup. Sir Peter Ogden’s 60-ft Jethou (GBR) will also be in attendance, having campaigned at both the 2009 and 2010 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.
Italian presence is guaranteed with the involvement of six yachts. Alessandro Rombelli’s Baltic-65 Stig finished second behind Aegir in the Racer/Cruiser division last year. She will face stiff competition from Riccardo de Michele’s H20 and Adriano Calvini’s 61-ft Itacentodue, both race day winners in 2010. Completing the elenco of Italian entrants are the 60-ft Aleph-Aniene 1° Classe, the 61-ft Tyke and Enrico Gorziglia’s Good Job Guys.
Outside of the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, racing will be equally intense in the prestigious and long-established Maxi (24.09-30.5m yachts), Supermaxi (those in excess of 30.5m) and Wally competitions.
The Swan-90 DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA) will compete in the Maxi category and has enjoyed a demanding season in the Mediterranean, taking part in the inaugural Rolex Volcano Race in addition to the Giraglia Rolex Cup, where she was the fifth boat to finish on elapsed time. The yacht has miles in her sails. Fortunately, the Maxis require less travelling for the crew. Owner Danilo Salsi is a member of the YCCS and Porto Cervo happens to be DSK’s crew base. “We like the race area and feel we have good local knowledge,” explains team manager Andrea Casale, “the big challenge for us is to take advantage of this.”
DSK Pioneer Investments triumphed in Porto Cervo at the Rolex Swan Cup in 2010, although the crew realise that repeating their success on the Costa Smeralda in the Maxi division will be a tough challenge. “The Swan Cup was a completely different scenario,” continues Casale, “as we were not competing against the likes of Esimit Europa 2. The yachts in our division this time around will be faster than us on the water so they will be more difficult to beat. We have to be very smart and wise with the tools that we have at our disposal.”
After the gruelling ocean challenges earlier in the season, Casale and the crew are focused on a different type of racing at the Maxis: “We are pleased with the two offshore races, but the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is going to be a very different game. ‘Day racing’ requires more manoeuvring and decision-making in a short space of time. We are adding some new crew members to our standard roster to save time when changing sails. In addition we are ‘tuning’ our rating certificate. Hopefully it will all help.”
Meanwhile, the Wally division is already shaping up to maintain its recent trend of intense battle. Claus-Peter Offen’s Y3K (GER) and Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet (GBR) have winning experience in Porto Cervo although the divisional crown is sure to be contested to the very last nautical mile of the final race. The impressive fleet comprises100-footers Dark Shadow (MON) and Kenora (GBR) as well as slightly more slender but equally impressive campaigners such as Jean Charles Decaux’s J One (GBR), winners in 2007, and Thomas Bscher’s Open Season (ESP).
Next month’s preview press release will provide full details on this year’s list of competing yachts.
On The Agenda
Racing commences on Tuesday 6 September and concludes on Saturday 10 September. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, along with title sponsor Rolex, will provide a lavish array of first class social events including Saturday’s final Prize Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups and Rolex timepieces will be awarded.
The waiting is nearly over: the 44th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race, one of the great ocean challenges is just 2 weeks away. With a staggering 350 entrants at the ready, 1979’s record-breaking tally of 303 participating yachts will almost certainly be surpassed. The sheer size of the fleet is impressive. Its quality and diversity quite breathtaking. Inspiring and exhilarating in equal measure, there is every reason to believe that the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race will maintain the event’s pioneering and prestigious tradition.
The numbers game
Due to the Rolex Fastnet’s unique allure, event organisers the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) never have any difficulty ensuring that there is a large and impressive fleet in attendance. This year is no exception. Entries came in thick and fast and were closed within ten days of opening in January. However, the requests kept arriving. After being inundated with additional enquiries from the Volvo Open 70s, the IMOCA 60s, Class 40s and Multihulls to join the 608-nautical mile marathon, the RORC adjusted the entry limit to allow these ‘professional’ classes to be counted above the initial cut-off mark.
The Rolex Fastnet Race commences from Cowes on Sunday 14 August (the first signal sounds at 10:50 BST). Whilst crews with the ambition of being the fastest to the finish will hope to spend only one or two nights at sea, spare a thought for those at the back of the pack, for whom a near week in often punishing conditions may be the order of the day.
Rambler 100 enjoying Leopard hunt
Short of a catastrophic breakdown, the fastest boat on the water at the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race will be the 100-foot trimaran, Banque Populaire (FRA), which just broke the round the Britain Isles record by almost a day and a half. However, the battle for monohull line honours is the most anticipated clash and is expected to be the privilege of two other 100-ft challengers: Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard (GBR), first elapsed-time finisher in the past two editions, and arch-rivals George David’s Rambler 100 (USA). The two crews know each other extremely well, given their series of tussles in recent months. A head-to-head battle in the Transatlantic Race, which saw Rambler 100 ease to line honours after ICAP Leopard lost her bowsprit, the freshest encounter.
“Having won the Rolex Fastnet Race twice, the big play is to win three in a row, which would be quite exceptional,” explains Slade, whose yacht also holds the course record of 1 day, 20 hours and 18 minutes [set in 2007]. “During the RORC Caribbean 600, Rambler 100 proved to be the faster boat in her ideal conditions. However, Rambler 100 may also need to protect herself in bad weather, more than ICAP Leopard. We feel we have a good chance in light and heavy airs, it is the bit in between that we might have a problem! I am really looking forward to the Fastnet, it should be a very exciting race but above all else, I don’t want to lose our record to Rambler 100, that would be heartbreaking and we will vigorously defend it.”
Rambler 100 is as keen to renew hostilities. “We’re anticipating sailing in Cowes Week from 9-11 August and hope ICAP Leopard and others will be competing as well,” explains David, “we’ve had three races together already, the Caribbean 600, the Annapolis to Newport and now the Transatlantic Race. Rambler 100 took line honours and corrected ahead of ICAP Leopard in all three.”
David is fervent about the upcoming Fastnet Race and describes his own personal highlights of the parcours: “Beating out through The Needles in a huge fleet, the beauty of the south coast of England, the approach to the [Fastnet] Rock, and the wind and weather conditions all over the place.”
Whilst these two ocean greyhounds are clear monohull line honours favourites, they may not have it all their own way. There is the significant presence of six Volvo 70s, including two of the latest breed: Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Groupama IV (FRA). Then there is the Mini Maxi class including defending Rolex Fastnet handicap winner, the 72-ft Rán (GBR), owned by Niklas Zennström, in addition to Andres Soriano’s Mills 68 Alegre (GBR), a fantastic campaigner in the Mediterranean in recent seasons. Throwing in the American challengers, the STP65 Vanquish, and the Reichel-Pugh 66 Zaraffa, who like ICAP Leopard and Rambler 100 competed in the Transatlantic Race, it promises to be a tight contest at the top of the fleet.
Tales from the foreign third
Of the record breaking 350 yachts competing at this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, approximately a third are non-British crews. A scan of the 2011 entry list highlights the global pull of the event, with yachts competing from the following countries: Austria, Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE and the USA.
Karl Kwok, owner of the 80-ft Beau Geste (HKG), will be taking part in the event for the third time. “I am definitely here for the challenge as this is one of the most interesting and competitive offshore races in the world,” he explains. “My first time here was in 1995, followed by my second appearance in the last edition [in 2009]. We did well on that occasion, but it could be better still!” Kwok adores offshore racing: “For me the top three blue water offshore classics are the Fastnet, Sydney to Hobart and Newport to Bermuda – in that order. And Rolex has the top two!” Beau Geste will be another yacht snapping at the heels of the 100-footers and also arrive in Cowes fresh from competing in the Transatlantic Race.
One overseas crew in particular has reason to treasure its association with the Rolex Fastnet. Six years ago, Frenchman Jean Yves Chateau’s 33-ft Nicholson Iromiguy won the competition on corrected time, the first time in three decades that the overall prize had been won by a yacht under 40 feet. For the Saint Malo-based skipper, the victory was both a surprise and a fulfilment of an ambition: “To win the Rolex Fastnet Race was like a childhood dream, it is like an ‘Everest’ in my life and in the life of each member of my crew: absolutely fantastic, unbelievable, gorgeous, not to mention the incredible fact of having beaten all the big guys. It was also very important for me to be the third French sailor to win this race and to have my name engraved on this Cup close to Eric Tabarly [the legendary French skipper who won the race in 1967]!”
Regarding the ‘draw’ of the Rolex Fastnet, Chateau continues: “It is a mythical race. This year will be our seventh time and we are always very pleased and enthusiastic to participate with the crazy dream of winning it one more time.” Amongst the sizeable French contingent is the intriguing story of the IMOCA 60 DCNS 100 (FRA), sailed by skipper Marc Thiercelin and his famous apprentice, former downhill skier and endurance motorsport driver, Luc Alphand. DCNS 100 is one of seven IMOCA 60s, including Cheminées Poujoulat (SUI) launched in May this year.
John Towers is helming the J/122 Oojah (GBR) with a US-based crew joining British boat owner Peter Tanner, their navigator for the race. The English Channel is some distance from their usual racing haven of the east coast of the United States. “As a group of Americans, we consider the Rolex Fastnet Race to be a once in a lifetime adventure that is a natural compliment to our passion for distance racing,” explains Towers, “the Fastnet is a big deal for us and an adventure that we have been planning for the last two years.”
Tanner continues: “Our goal will be the same as any other race we enter. Priority one is a safe passage. Priority two is that the experience is very positive for all members of the crew. Our third priority is to be competitive.”
Triple TP52 challenge
The three TP52s competing at the Rolex Fastnet Race will resume their engagement having been near inseparable at the recent Giraglia Rolex Cup. On that occasion, Franck Noël’s Near Miss (SUI) finished the 243-nautical mile race less than two minutes ahead of Johnny Vincent’s Pace (GBR). Bryon Ehrhart’s Lucky (USA) was only a further hour behind. On corrected time, only seven places separated the three crews, with Pace coming out on top. Over a considerably longer distance, this ‘race within a race’ will be one to follow come August.
Back of the pack
The crew of the Contessa-32 Drumbeat (GBR) will likely have one opportunity to admire ICAP Leopard and Rambler 100 – during the passage out of the Solent. For co-skippers and brothers-in-law, Mark Himsworth and Pierre Walrafen, the race ahead will be one of endurance and, at times, solitude: “It feels amazing to be one of the smallest and slowest boats competing, tacking or gybing down the Solent against much larger and faster machines after the start. All the while competing on handicap directly against them,” explains Himsworth, who will be taking part in the Rolex Fastnet for a third time.
The reality soon becomes quite different, as Himsworth reveals: “After 24 hours, most of the competition is long gone. Thereafter it’s occasionally difficult to keep your mind away from the thought of the faster boats turning towards (or arriving at) Plymouth while ours plugs steadily westwards round Land’s End. It’s a pretty solitary undertaking when you’re on watch and your co-skipper’s sleeping and none of your competitors are visible, but that’s all part of the attraction, and there’s still plenty going on in Plymouth when we arrive!”
The main trophy for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet is the Fastnet Challenge Cup. In addition, there are more than 30 additional trophies that will be awarded at the prize giving on Friday, 19 August at the historic Royal Citadel, home of the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, overlooking Plymouth Sound and Sutton Harbour, where the majority of the fleet will berth.