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2023 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Published on September 9th, 2023

Forty-five teams competed in six divisions at the 33rd edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, held in 2023 on September 3-9 in Porto Cervo, Italy.

One of the most worthy victories was in Maxi B, the most ‘grand prix’ class, comprising former Maxi 72s, the 82ft Django HF and two VO65s. American Hap Fauth is a previous three time Rolex Mini Maxi/Maxi 72 World Championship winner, a title he last won in 2016 but has since eluded him.

He returned with his present boat in 2019, but it was only on his fourth attempt this year, with the latest iteration of his 74ft maxi (now with water ballast and twin rudders) that Bella Mente returned to her old form, beating George Sakellaris’ Proteus by three points, with Peter Harrison’s Pepe Cannonball third.

“Our boat had great speed – the phenomenal boat compensated for my age!” quipped a jubilant Fauth. “We come to this event every year and we work hard at it – it is the pinnacle of our season. The hospitality is fantastic and the sailing conditions are usually the best. I will keep coming for as long as I am above the ground! I have a great crew including Terry Hutchinson, Moose [Mike Sanderson], Ado [Adrian Stead], and Soapy [Ian Moore] who keep me from making too many mistakes.”

Tactician Hutchinson said the result was vindication of the changes they had made to the boat since finishing third last year. “It was hard – because we felt we had sailed really well and it just wasn’t happening and we needed to figure out how to make it better. All our boat builders who got involved in the upgrades deserve credit. They delivered a nice reliable boat to us.”

In Maxi A (for the former <100ft ‘Maxi Racer’ class), David M Leuschen and Chris Flowers’ 100ft Galateia won by seven points from the 100ft Leopard 3, which on the final day rose to second, one point ahead of Andrea Recordati’s 93ft Bullitt after a reappraisal of the scoring. While Leopard 3 made the strongest start to the event, Andrea Recordati’s heavily refitted 93ft Bullitt won two races in lighter winds. Meanwhile Galateia simply maintained a consistent series of podium finishes.

Leuschen and Flowers divided their time on the helm. Leuschen said this year their starting had been the best it has ever been. Flowers was acclimatizing to the white 100 footer, having only become a co-owner last year. “This is my first time here,” he said. “I am delighted with our result. I’m very impressed with the competition. What a beautiful venue and what fantastic weather. I’m pleased with the result of course. For me this is my biggest achievement in sailing. I’m thinking of retiring right now!”

This was a landmark year for the event with the introduction of a new Maxi Multihull class. Again here Adrian Keller’s 84ft catamaran Allegra made a strong start claiming the first two races in strong winds while winning the last two in lighter conditions was Irvine Laidlaw’s Gunboat 80 Highland Fling 18. Ultimately Allegra won by two points ahead of Highland Fling 18 and the Gunboat 68 Convexity2 of Don Wilson and Suna Said.

In the Super Maxis there has been an exciting two horse race between Claus-Peter Offen’s new 101ft y3k and Juan Ball’s Swan 115 Moat, both having scored two bullets, but with y3k prevailing by one point in her first ever event.

“I am pleased,” said Offen, who last won his class here in 2011. “This week we had a lot of things to test. We learned a lot and we know what to improve and the technical issues. We only had three days of training before this with our brand new boat, so we have gained confidence.”

The ‘Line Honors’ prize for the yacht in Maxi A with the shortest combined elapsed time over all the coastal courses, went to the radical 60ft foiling yacht Flying Nikka. Although yet to make any impression on IRC corrected time, Roberto Lacorte and his crew have shown dramatic improvement since last year.

The most dominant performance this year was in the Js where Niklas Zennström and Filip Engelbert’s 43.6m Svea scored straight bullets ahead of Velsheda and Topaz.

“It was amazing – a fantastic week,” said Zennström, who – as on Galateia – has been sharing the driving this week with his co-owner. Svea’s secret? “This is now the second year we’ve been sailing the boat and we have tried to be systematic about our approach, in terms of understanding and learning the boat. It is really about teamwork, then practicing and doing more maneuvers because these are big boats and heavy so if you have a bad tack or bad gybe you lose a lot.”

Svea is the only Swedish-designed J, penned in 1937 by Swede Tore Holm. Zennström and Engelbert’s campaign is distinctly Swedish too: half of her crew is Swedish, although several key players such as main sheet trimmer/project manager Tim Powell, navigator Steve Hayles, and tactician Bouwe Bekking are not.

This result bodes well for Svea in next year’s J Class World Championship in Barcelona which is being held under the auspices of the International Maxi Association. “We are looking forward to that. It will be amazing in Barcelona with a few more boats,” concluded Zennström, who also won the prize for the ‘highest-placed IMA member’.

Due to the IMA’s existing class splits creating classes of awkward sizes, effectively the majority of what used to be the Mini Maxi fleet raced in Maxi C. Here Jean-Pierre Barjon’s 65ft Spirit of Lorina was run-away leader, finishing 11 points clear of an impressive group: five time winner Riccardo De Michele’s 78ft H2O, tied with Aldo Parisotto’s Mylius 65 Oscar 3, one point ahead of Massimiliano Florio’s Southern Wind 82 Grande Orazio and a further two ahead of IMA President Benoît de Froidmont’s 60ft Wallyño.

“We have been coming here for eight years and each year we hoped to win,” shared Barjon. “This year we had the best chance because we have a very good crew and boat and the weather was good, so everything worked out. It is a historic day – this is the best result of my life. As a crew we have come a long way – some like Benjamin [Enon, boat captain], have been with us since the beginning, so this is a story of friends, knowledge and a French crew. For me it is more than a dream.”

H20 won the prize for the Maxi sub-class 4 and Matteo Fossati’s Stella Maris for Maxi sub-class 5.

Of this year’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, IMA Secretary General Andrew McIrvine commented: “With 45 maxis we were close to a record entry but what was noticeable was the increased quality of the fleet, with two new boats y3k and Open Season, and numerous boats heavily upgraded and doing well such as Bella Mente and Bullitt.

“The Maxi Multihull class has integrated well into the event and will be a welcome addition to the maxi fleet in the future. Next year we plan to reintroduce more flexibility into our class splits to benefit Maxi C. I would like to thank all of the competitors, our long term sponsor Rolex and of course the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda for their hospitality.”

Event details:

Source: James Boyd / International Maxi Association

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