Morning Glory, Ranger, J One and Ops 5 were among those in the chocolates - Peter Rusch & Matthew Sheahan report

It’s hard not to be impressed with the newest Maxi yachts when they blast past you on a tight broad reach, screaming along at 20 knots, just a few metres from the stern of the media boat. The boats, the equipment and the professional crew make it look effortless, although that’s surely not the case.

The impact of the speed may be hard to appreciate from a distance. But when you can just about reach out and touch them, it’s a different story. We had that opportunity on the first day of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup when the media boat followed the big Maxis up the course and then took a short cut to the channel where they would gybe, having first rounded the windward mark (a medium sized rocky island).

Alfa Romeo was the first to come roaring past, screaming along at just over 20 knots of boat speed in wind approaching 20 knots true. But Wild Oats wasn’t too far behind, and in fact, closed up on Alfa Romeo early on the downwind leg, but couldn’t get all the way through. In the end, line honours on the day would go to Alfa Romeo, who completed the 30-mile course through the islands in two hours and 21 minutes. Wild Oats was just 38 seconds behind.

“We were doing in excess of the windspeed,” said Michael Coxon, tactician on Alfa Romeo , when asked what the boatspeed had peaked at today. “Wild Oats just told me they were doing 23 or 24 knots. We didn’t see that, we saw about 20 or 21 knots of boatspeed. But I think that’s when they closed up on us very quickly. They took a lot of time out of us in one puff. These boats are that responsive. If you get a little bit of difference in pressure you can actually gain or lose a couple of minutes in a matter of five minutes.”

Once all the boats had crossed the line and the times were corrected, the smaller Maxis came to the fore, with Morning Glory winning on corrected time. Coxon thinks Wild Oats and Alfa Romeo will struggle to overcome the time they have to give their smaller rivals.

“Our owner, Neville Crichton, has a pretty good handle on how the rating system works and he picked up some time ago that the pendulum had swung against us. So we’ve worked to optimise our boat with bigger mainsails and bigger spinnakers and a longer bow pole,” Coxon said. “We’ve made the decision to chase line honours rather than rating and I think from what I’ve seen today, he made the right decision to do that some months ago.”

Rambler, which made such an impression at the Fastnet last month, is one of the smaller (27 metres, LOA) Maxis to correct out ahead of the big boys today (both Wild Oats and Alfa Romeo are 30 metres LOA). Rambler was second on corrected time, just behind Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory.

“Sailing here is magnificent. It’s as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world; shifty breezes, beautiful day, nice location, dry, clear and sunny,” said an enthusiastic George David, the owner of Rambler. ” I like the island courses a lot. It puts you in close proximity to the shore with the mountains, so the breeze is quite shifty. You can have some gainers and losers (but) I think we did pretty well with that today.”

“We always come out with an expectation that you can win the regatta,” he continued. “You can never be sure, but it’s nice to come out here to expect to have a pretty good shot at it. I think we have a decent shot. We’re going to work hard – we have a good team, good boat, good sails and good preparation, so we’ll see.”

Elsewhere on the race course there were sights to see in every direction, here are just a few that caught our eye.

The unmistakable kite of the J Class Ranger powering downwind, followed by her main competition for the week and indeed the season, Velsheda. And then the classic Hetairos, thundering downwind.


Rolex Maxi World Championships Day 1

Wind Strength: 15-22 knots

Sea State: Moderate

Race Course: Heading north from Porto Cervo the fleet threaded their way through the islands up through ‘bomb alley’ before rounding the outlying rock Spargiotto to the north of Isola Di Spargi at the top of the course where the fleet retraced its steps downwind to the finish.

PROVISIONAL Racing Division (Owner/Type/LOA)

1st Morning Glory – Hasso Plattner / MaxZ86 / 26.8m
2nd Loki – Stephen Ainsworth / Reichel Pugh 60 / 18.29m
3rd Rambler – George David / Former Shockwave / 27.32m

Mini Maxi Division (Owner/Type/LOA)

1st Ops 5 – Massimo Violati / ****** / 20.10m
2nd Atalanta II – Carlo Puri Negri / **** / 21.49m
3rd Aegir – Brian Benjamin / MD 65 / 20.00m

Wally Division (Owner/Type/LOA)

1st J One – Jean Charles Decaux / 24.24m
2nd Indio – Andrea Recordati / 23.99m
3rd Highland Fling X – Specialised Transport Ltd / 23.89m

Cruising Division (Owner/Type/LOA)

1st Ranger – RSV Ltd / J Class / 41.60m
2nd Velsheda – Turbat Investment Ltd / J Class / 39.50m
3rd Viriella – Vittorio Moretti / Maxi Dolphin 118 / 36.00m

CLICK HERE for Rolex Maxi World Championships Preview 

Matthew Sheahan and Peter Rusch talk to some of the key players during the week. You can also subscribe (free) to updates through iTunes.

CLICK HERE for ALL Audio Stories & Podcasts 
CLICK HERE for Mani Frers on Day 1 
CLICK HERE for Alfa Romeo Tactician Michael Coxon on Day 1 

****** RESULTS ******
CLICK HERE for Official YCCS Website & Full Results