Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – in A Class of its Own

rolex maxi 29331_0_2_photo_MAXI13cb_10924An international fleet of 35 Maxi yachts have arrived in Porto Cervo, Sardinia for one of the sailing calendar’s great annual occasions. 2014 marks the 25th edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, a competition sponsored by Rolex since 1985 and organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) and the International Maxi Association (IMA). It’s a meeting of elegance, power and speed. Week-long racing starts today.

Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Wally 82.8m hybrid Highland Fling, competing in Maxi Racing, will be among the fastest boats on show.

Lord Laidlaw is well known in Cape Town sailing circles as he campiagns in that city and sponsors the Summer Fling Regatta each year.

Riveting racing
Three-time runner up Alegre starts off as one of the favourites. Andres Soriano’s 2013 launch will be expected to use last year’s strong showing to good measure. Soriano’s former Alegre, now Swiss Alex Schaerer’s Caol Ila R, is one of four other boats in the championship reserved for racing Mini Maxis. 2012 champion Bella Mente and Artemis/George Sakellaris’s Shockwave both represent the United States while Sir Peter Ogden, from the United Kingdom, will be expected to mount a serious challenge with his latest version of Jethou

In terms of tight competition, the spotlight will shine brightly on the fifth running of the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship. At the outset of the week the most pressing question on the sunkissed docks of the YCCS is how Niklas Zennström’s Rán 5 will perform on its championship debut. Rán’s crew has a strong Porto Cervo pedigree, Zennström is the defending champion and with his former boat Rán 2 won the competition three times. However, in a competition defined by marginal gains she will need to adapt to the challenging environment seamlessly. Curiously, Zennström will come face to face with the boat he helmed to three world titles, now a key rival in the hands of Italian Roberto Tomasini Grinover and renamed Robertissima III. The clash between Zennström’s new and old boat will be an intriguing one.

Style and power
Elegance will be provided by the J-Class . At 43,7m (143ft) Lionheart – a replica of the original 1930s design – is the largest boat in attendance. Competition will be provided by Rainbow, Ranger, Shamrock V and defending champion Velsheda . Boats which weigh in excess of 170 tonnes and possess a sail area close to 1,000m2 require expert handling.