Day 3 of the 2011 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup provided a second installment of scenic and scintillating racing for the now 45-strong fleet of maxi yachts. As the wind abated in Porto Cervo, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) Race Committee was able to extend its reach. The majority of the fleet – Maxis, Supermaxis and Wallys - were dispatched on a 36-nautical mile coastal adventure through the glorious Maddalena passage - better known as Bomb Alley.
The route comprised a short beat to windward, followed by a fetch to Monaci, where the fleet tacked onto starboard and headed into the channel and the next turning mark at Secca di Tre Monti. This was followed by another tack, a short beat to the island of Spargi, leaving San Stefano to starboard, and then a reach out to the rocks of Barettinelli di Fuori and the downwind leg back to the finish off Porto Cervo. A fruitful experience for photographers and crew alike.
Top of the classes were: Y3K (GER), in the Wallys, today’s first starters, Aegir 2 (GBR) in the Racing/Cruising Maxi division; Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) in Maxi Racing and Hetairos (CAY) in the Supermaxi class. The Mini Maxi yachts had their own agenda: three 8.8-nautical mile long windward/leeward races were the order of the day. Niklas Zennström’s J-V72 Rán 2 (GBR), won two of today’s three races, to lead the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship from Jethou (GBR) and Alegre (GBR).
But today’s spotlight was focused firmly on the Wally and Supermaxi (craft in excess of 30.5m) classes.
On the water the Wally class looks wide open. Come results time the field appears to be shrinking. Y3K (GER) got around the course faster than her opponents and took the bullet for a second race in a row. She now leads Magic Carpet 2 (GBR) by three points. Even the sea gods appear on her side. Thomas Jungblut, tactician, explains: “In the end it finished well for us. However, we made the wrong choice with our jib (on the first beat) - it was too small so we ended up at the top mark as the third boat and minute and a half behind Indio and Magic Carpet 2. At the top of the course, they both had problems with their spinnakers. We hoisted our kite and blew away both boats.”
Y3K looks to be closing in on a third straight Wally class win at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, but Jungblut remains cautious: “Making it a hat-trick was our goal before the event although we still have four races ahead and some tough windward/leewards. The time is now for us as a new generation of Wallys are coming through.” Claus-Peter Offen is Y3K’s owner and skipper. Clearly he has had a good two days: “Both have been brilliant races, as good as you can get in Sardinia," he said. "We weren’t sure of wind conditions at the start so we played it safe with our number three jib. We benefitted later in the race when the wind picked up and our two opponents had spinnaker problems.”
Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ 94ft Magic Carpet 2 (GBR) is second overall and Owen Jones is not in the mood to concede the title he has won twice previously. “I don’t think it has ever been this close before,” he observes, “the first three or four boats are very close in absolute terms and all of them can win on handicap. It is a highly competitive fleet. At the beginning people thought the Wally class was gentlemen’s racing but it has become much more professional and close.” As well as Magic Carpet 2, outsiders Dark Shadow (MON), owned by André Auberton, and Philippe Ligier’s Ryokan 2 (FRA) are poised in the standings to capitalise on any slip by the leaders.
Owen-Jones’ review of proceedings was concise: “We had a very good first upwind like yesterday and made some good choices on wind shifts. The front boats ended up rounding the Monaci literally all together, and stayed like that all the way up to the top, and we all then had spinnaker issues. We were on bare poles for a couple of minutes.” It was here that Y3K passed.
Driving a boat this size through the intricate Maddalena channel means Owen-Jones is unable to admire the scenery. The thrill is different. “I love mechanical sports, I used to race cars for many years, the thrill is using nature, which is the wind, through mechanical means with a lot of technical calculations and feeling this wonderful machine reacting to all the inputs and trying to optimise it - a great feeling of you plus the machine.”
“We are not the favourites,” admits Magic Carpet 2’s tactician Jochen Schümann, “Yesterday we had the opportunity to beat the fleet but unfortunately we made one tactical mistake. It is a big ask for us to win in the most important event of the year: after all, Y3K are the defending champions and Indio have won almost every race this year. Today’s result wasn’t brilliant, after leading at the top mark again, but as a smaller boat we struggled to hold them back and Y3K passed. They were a bit more polished, made less mistakes and deserved victory.” Still a gentlemen’s club then.
The nine Supermaxis started third behind the Wallys and the Maxis at the beginning of today’s racing. In this class size counts. The two largest were fastest round: Hasso Plattner’s 147ft Visione (GER) ahead of Albert Buell’s marginally larger Saudade (GER). However, on handicap it was the 125ft Hetairos (CAY) which enjoyed bragging rights.
Watching from the water Supermaxi racing looks exhilarating and easy. It is no less exciting onboard, but easy? “It is exciting to be on the helm of such a big yacht. Three hours is a long time, I would say four hours is maximum and then you have to change the helm to somebody else,” explains Buell. “The steering is a little heavier than on smaller boats, the boat reacts slower than a smaller one but it moves like a dinghy with a little time lag. Naturally I am calm, I’m not a very nervous person, but my philosophy is to calm down before we go racing. It’s like golf. You need to concentrate on the ball and then hit it. That is the same in sailing.”
Polish match racer and former America's Cup helmsman Karol Jablonski is Saudade’s tactician. His challenge is to guide this heavyweight round the course. “They were tough conditions for our boat, with a wind strength of about 20-25 knots and quite a long beat through the straits,” he explains, “Saudade is a great boat, but in this strong breeze we simply carry too much sail area and not enough stability so we have to make compromises. We sailed a good race but there were not many options to do anything better. We had a great start and first beat, but later on when it was only speed I think we were missing just a bit.”
The loads are huge on Saudade and pushing her hard is tough on the crew. Do not be fooled by her gentile and elegant exterior. Jablonski continues: “It is not a risky game, but it is a tense one and after this kind of race like this I am totally exhausted; my head is in ice, it is very busy trying to control everything, to minimise mistakes and risk. On this type of boat the preparation time is quite big, so you have to anticipate and explain exactly what you want to do.”
Saudade enjoys the perfect owner-tactician relationship. Buell closes: “I trust Karol. What he says is like a law and everyone understands that we have to do what he says because he is the tactician. That is the reason why we do good starts, why we normally go through all the other boats safe and fast.”
On board Nilaya (GBR), former Volvo Ocean Race skipper Bouwe Bekking calls tactics. Nilaya is a Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup debutant. Not that you would have guessed. She is leading the Supermaxi division after two fine days. Bekking, though, is no novice to the class: “Handling these big boats is difficult,” explains the Dutchman. “Loads are high, we have a big team of 26 people on this boat. It takes a bit of management as the spinnakers are nearly 1,000 square metres and they have to go up and down. Racing is certainly good, it is a huge challenge: you can make huge gains if you hoist and drop better than everybody else and sometimes you have to make drops two minutes in front of a mark. It is a big thrill for me as a sailor.”
“Today was a good day, everything went really well,” continues Bekking, “The Race Committee did a relatively easy course, it was a short beat with a lot of reaching. I love it over here, it is one of the best spots in Europe and so far it has not disappointed me.”
The newest Supermaxi on the scene is the beautiful 'F-Class' one design, the 114ft Firefly (NED). For the second day running, Firefly finished seventh. She lacks the power of Saudade and experience on board Nilaya. It is an interesting learning curve as skipper Mark van Gelderen explains: “It was bit easier than yesterday which was breezy. The crew are still new to the boat. Tomorrow they expect less breeze which will be to our advantage. We are learning a lot about boat handling and how to manoeuvre her round the course in 20 knots. It is important everyone knows what the next manoeuvre is and to keep good communication, it is a long way from the front to the back of the boat.” The price to pay when sailing these ocean greyhounds.
A 10:30 CEST start it scheduled for tomorrow. The Mini Maxis and Wallys will engage in windward/leewards, the others classes are coastal racing.
Provisional results after Day Three
Place, Boat Name, Owner, R1-R2, Total Points
1) DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA), Danilo Salsi, 1-2, 3.0
2) Aegir (GBR), Brian Benjamin, 3-1, 4.0
3) Kora 5 (ITA), Paolo Scerni, 2-4, 6.0
1) Esimit Europa 2 (SLO), Igor Simcic, 2-1, 3.0
2) Highland Fling (MON), Irvine Laidlaw, 1-2, 3.0
1) Y3K (GER), Claus Peter Offen, 1-1, 2.0
2) Magic Carpet 2 (GBR), Sir Lindsay Owen Jones, 2-3, 5.0
3) Dark Shadow (MON), André Auberton, 5-2, 7.0
1) Nilaya (GBR), Ficaya Ltd, 1/1-2/4, 8.0
2) Hetairos (CAY), Rockport Ltd, 2/4-1/2, 9.0
2) Visione (GER), Hasso Plattner 3/2-3/1, 9.0
The Supermaxi Class is being dual scored in each race under IRC & ORC. The combined scores determine the leaderboard. Individual race scores show IRC race position/ORC race position.
Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship
1) Rán 2 (GBR), Niklas Zennström, 1.5-1-1-4, 7.5
2) Jethou (GBR), Peter Ogden, 3-3-3-2, 11.0
3) Alegre (GBR), Andres Soriano, 4.5-2-2-3, 11.5