Strong start for Alegre
47 maxi yachts took to the waters off the Costa Smeralda today, for opening encounters at the 2010 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. It was a good day for most with more breeze than expected, affording all classes some quality racing. For some, of course, it was a really good day. Notables include Alegre in the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship with two wins out of two: a perfect opening salvo. Hamilton II (GBR) took Supermaxi, Ranger (CAY) won the anticipated battle of the J-Class and J-One (GBR) put one over her bigger rivals in Wally. All winners will be satisfied with a job well done, but will be keenly aware there is plenty more work to be done.
The three bigger boat divisions took on a 30-nautical mile course starting from just off Porto Cervo. A tricky beat up to the rocks at Monaci was followed by a beat up the outside of the Maddelena island chain to Isola Barrettinelli di Fuori, where the fleet cracked sheets and headed into the main channel. The predominantly westerly winds, which swung to the right throughout the day, provided a pleasant downwind run for the leg home, letting the competing maxis off the leash to eat up the miles on trip back to the finish off Porto Cervo. Wind strength floated either side of 10 knots throughout the afternoon, peaking at the top of the course at around 17 knots at masthead height, 14 or so closer to the water.
The Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds competitors had a harder time of it. The winds off Porto Cervo struggled to hit 10 knots at any time during the two windward-leeward races. The wind tracked right continually, eventually ending up from the north-east by the finish of the second race. The first race was a warm-up four-leg race of 7.2 nautical miles, which Andres Soriano’s Alegre won on real time as well as corrected, beating Neville Crichton’s Shockwave (NZL) into second place. Brian Benjamin’s Aegir (GBR) corrected out to be first among equals in the cruiser/racers, but eighth in the world standings.
The second windward-leeward race of 10.2 nautical miles was a longer affair of six legs, in increasingly tricky winds that kept competitors and race committee on their toes. Peter Craig’s team stuck at keeping the course as honest as possible for the crews, “the wind walked right all day. It made for difficult races, particularly the second one, that would test the teams. We stayed ahead of the swings, re-orienting as necessary and I’m happy there was sufficient velocity throughout the day for two good races.”
Niklas Zennstrom’s Rán led the fleet across the finish line of race two with sufficient margin over the chasing pack to finish second on corrected time, but the British crew could do nothing to stop their compatriots on Alegre. Back-to-back bullets completed a dream start to the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds that will have settled any early-series nerves for Soriano. Aegir battled back from a poor first leg to secure another eighth overall, but second behind Alessandro Rombelli’s Stig (ITA) amongst the cruiser/racers.
On the long course, the expected on-the-water mismatch in the Maxi (Racing & Racing/Cruising) Division unfolded in brutal reality. Igor Simcic’s Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) may not have won the start, with the smaller Singularity (GBR) sneaking it at the committee boat end of the line, yet she put in such a strong performance over the two and three-quarter hour race that she secured not just first home, but a well-deserved bullet too. Highland Fling (GBR) put in a powerful effort too, correcting out behind Esimit and 30 seconds ahead of DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA).
Setting off at 11.35, Esimit reached Barrettinelli at just after 13.00, all the time muscling her way with ease to a solid lead, that saw Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling round the red and black lighthouse some 15 minutes later. Esimit may no longer be a supermaxi in categorisation, but in speed and potential she is the only supermaxi in town – true irony. Her margin at this point on the course left her competitors looking much smaller than they really are.
The Wally Division includes amongst its number Y3K, which is owned by Claus Peter Offen, President of the International Maxi Association, co-organisers of the event with host club Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. Jean Charles Decaux’ J One may have won the day, but with a successful start to the Association’s biggest event of the year to add to his second place in class, Offen was well-satisfied with today’s proceedings: “On behalf of IMA I am extremely happy for all the boats, and as a competitor I am very happy with our own result, just a short distance behind the first boat. This is a spectacular event, I guess the most spectacular we have ever had here with the number of boats, the quality of the boats, the quality of the sailors, and the weather of course!”
The Supermaxi Division was the last class to set off on the coastal course. They too made mincemeat of the distance. All yachts, including the graceful and sometimes sedate Hetairos, finished the race within four hours. First home was Albert Buell’s Saudade (MLT), proving waterline length will overcome if the crew work matches potential. Scratch boat in her division, she fairly thundered past Barrettinelli in an explosion of foam and spray, with Hasso Plattner’s Visione (GER) hot on her heels. Crews looked down from on high at the posse of press boats gathered to witness this contrasting display of brute force and elegance. Saudade pushed all the way home to complete the 30nm course in a fraction under three hours, joining Esimit as the only yacht to do so. Visione was just three minutes astern. Charles Dunstone’s Hamilton II (GBR) took boasting rights amongst her modern contemporaries, whilst the two J-Class yachts prevailed overall: Ranger correcting out ahead of Velsheda to secure a class win.
Racing continues tomorrow with a projected coastal race for the Supermaxi, Wally and Maxi Divisions. Competitors in the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship face another day of windward-leeward racing.
The 2010 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, organizsd by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association (IMA), runs from 5 to 11 September. Racing continues tomorrow, Tuesday, and with races scheduled for each following day, save Thursday, the prize giving on Saturday will be the culmination of an intense week of big boat competition. 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.