Maximus loses her rig minutes from the finish line in breezy conditions at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia
The memory of sunshine and perfect summer conditions was short lived for the crews competing in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, as heavy showers, thunder and lightning rolled in 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the second race of the series in Sardinia.
Many boats in the fleet experienced major damage. But it was Maximus, co-owned by New Zealand businessmen Charles St Clair Brown and Bill Buckley, who recently took line honours in the 2005 Rolex Fastnet Race and were first on corrected time in the Grand Prix Division of the 2005 Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, who took the worst toll, losing the rig a few hundred metres before the finish line. Nobody on board was injured.
At the time Maximus was the leading boat of the fleet and looked set to add another line honours to her growing record. Race Committee support boats rendered assistance and the stricken maxi was safely moored back at the marina, while the rig – including sails, boom and vang – were left at sea and will be recovered, although probably in many pieces, as soon as possible.
With less than 10-metre visibility during the rain-squalls, the race committee had no option but to postpone the start until the worst of the storm was over. One race course only was selected for all the divisions and followed an almost identical route to yesterday’s long course for a total of approximately 29 miles, albeit sailed clockwise instead of counterclockwise.
On the first start of the day, in a south-easterly wind of approximately 13 knots, Magic Carpet Squared won the pin end of the line and was able to tack away and cross ahead of its fleet with a good lead, followed by German entry Y3K. Tuesday’s star of this division, Alexia, didn’t shine on yesterday’s start and trailed behind most of its rivals, while Italian entry Tiketitan was late on the start and subsequently retired. Italian entry Kauris III owned by Marco Tronchetti Provera was unable to start, after damaging its mainsheet track.
The second gun was fired for the Cruising A division, with all six yachts heading for the pin end and Italian entry Viriella over the line early.
The Cruising B and Racing divisions were third in the starting sequence. Australian Grant Wharington’s Skandia had by far the best start, with a strong position and good speed at the far end of the line, while its direct rival Maximus opted for a very conservative approach, trailing behind most of the fleet in the mid point. Italian Aldo Pagani’s Mister A was late on the line but must have steamed up the initial beat rounding the windward mark in a better than expected position. Soon after the start Skandia was able to tack away, cross well ahead of the fleet and gradually stretch its lead. The four Spirit of Tradition yachts were the last ones to start, with the 180ft schooner Adela taking an early lead over Whitefin, Annagine and Passe Partout.
After the start, the fleet sailed upwind to a mark set in the waters opposite the Porto Cervo harbour. Magic Carpet Squared, with British America’s Cup sailor Adrian Stead calling the tactics, rounded first, followed by Y3K with another America’s Cup sailor on board – Karol Jablonski from Poland, helmsman of the Spanish 2007 America’s Cup challenger Desafío Español. Soon after rounding this mark, the problems for the fleet started in earnest – Genie of the Lamp was first to suffer as her spinnaker exploded. In the Cruising A division, American Arne Glimcher’s brand-new yacht Ghost, with America’s Cup veteran Tom Whidden at the helm, rounded first with a large lead over fellow American, Harry Macklowe’s Unfurled. Skandia led the Racing division by a big margin over Maximus, while Mister A was the first yacht of the Cruising B division at the top mark, having recovered well from its late start.
The fleet then headed west, sailing downwind, into the channel of the La Maddalena archipelago. Once inside these protected waters, the yachts were able to power-on at full speed on a reach with gennakers tightly sheeted in. With improved visibility and a clear view of the many marks indicating semi-submerged rocks, the tacticians put their abilities to the test, having to choose on which side of the channel to sail – depending on where the wind would shift, where to gybe in order to keep their direct rivals at bay and to cover most ground on the most direct route.
Halfway through the channel the wind started to increase and swing to the left, and most of the crews had to drop their massive gennakers, which made for a great spectacle for those who had braved the bad weather to witness the Maxi yachts in their element. For some it was easy business, but others didn’t get it quite right and lost precious ground.
Skandia struggled with the takedown and Maximus, following closely, was able to close the gap and overtake its rival. Around this time, one of the two Maxi One Designs ripped its mainsail in half, while Kokomo of London lost its spinnaker at sea during the takedown and luckily a spectator boat in the area was able to retrieve the sail.
At the far end of the channel, the wind had reached 15 knots, with stronger gusts, and all the yachts paraded under mainsail and jib, with Magic Carpet still leading its division, closely followed by Y3K and Alexia. A big gap separated them from the rest of the fleet, and by now the top Racing division yachts had reached the front of the pack, while much further back the Spirit of Tradition yachts each seemed to sail a race of their own, with Adela leading its opponents by a huge margin.
The fleet then sailed upwind towards the rocky outcrop of the Barrettinelli, keeping them to starboard, as it turned back towards the Monaci rocks and finally to the last mark opposite the Golfo Pevero and the finish line in Porto Cervo. In this second part of the race the crews had to tackle quite challenging conditions, with heavy seas and wind gusting up to 26 knots. All the way to the Monaci rocks the yachts sailed upwind on port tack, but as the wind gradually shifted to the right, the back-markers in the fleet faced the prospect of tacking to the final turning mark.
In the Racing division, following Maximus’ catastrophic breakdown, it was Skandia who took line honours, followed, over 20 minutes later, by Great Britain’s Black Dragon. By only two minutes, however, Skandia wasn’t able to win on handicap. “Today was a beautiful day of sailing,” commented Grant Wharington, owner and helmsman of Skandia. “It started in 15 knots after the thunderstorm went through, which was a little bit scary. The race committee did a very good job and postponed the racing until the thunderstorm had passed. We had a very nice start and led at the top mark and we sailed down the run in a building breeze with a very high boat speed – 21 knots was our highest speed and we were leading at the bottom of Caprera. Gybing down in the channel we passed all the W Class except three and we were just ahead of Maximus, but he was then able to pass us. It’s a very, very fast boat when reaching.”
Skandia was a fair way behind when misfortune befell Maximus and Wharington felt very sympathetic towards the Kiwi crew, “on the way back, they unfortunately broke their mast just before the last mark. They were about 10 minutes ahead of us and needed to give us 14 minutes to beat us on corrected time. I feel very sad for them; losing their mast is a real shame but unfortunately we all have our problems. We had ours in last year’s (Rolex) Sydney to Hobart Race when our keel broke, the boat rolled over and we had to get in the life-rafts, so I just hope everyone is safe on board Maximus and nobody got hurt.”
In the Cruising A division, Ghost took line honours with a lead of approximately 20 minutes over Harry Macklowe’s Unfurled, however, once again this margin wasn’t enough for Arne Glimcher to win on handicap. “It was a much more exciting race today than yesterday, because we had so many more variables in the weather,'” commented Arne Glimcher
In the Cruising B division, it was Italian Filippo Faruffini’s brand-new boat Roma once again to take line honours and win also on corrected time. Italian Aldo Pagani’s Mister A, who was doing well for most of the race, drifted to the back of the fleet when the crew lost the gennaker overboard. “We had a great start,” commented Aldo Pagani. “We sailed fast and were able to pass some of the boats ahead of us. However, we lost everything when we had a series of problems with the gennaker halyard and the big sail fell in the water and we were unable to retrieve it. It’s a shame as we were doing really well in very challenging conditions. Our support boat retrieved the sail, which is now under repair and hopefully we will be able to use it tomorrow and sail a better race.”
In the Spirit of Tradition division, as expected, Adela took line honours and won also on corrected time.
In the W Class, Great Britain’s Magic Carpet Squared, owned by Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, CEO of L’Oreal, was first on the finish line with a two-minute lead over Alexia. However, it was Y3K who won on corrected time. “We’ve just had a cracking day in Porto Cervo,” commented tactician, Adrian Stead. “We’ve had quite a breezy day, probably a little bit more than forecast, up to 25-26 knots of breeze and we sailed the boat really well today. We got the first beat right, we got a good start and led at the top mark. The guys and ladies did really well with the sail changes and we were able to stay in front the whole way around so we’re really happy. Lyndsay did a great job of helming the boat today and we’re really pleased; the best we’ve sailed – a great team effort.”
According to Filippo Petrucci, official meteorologist of the event, the conditions today will be similar, although the breeze should shift to south-south-west and become lighter and more variable during the day. Isolated showers might still occur and the low-pressure system will reach Sardinia by tonight.
1. BLACK DRAGON/Performance Yachting/1/1.0
2. SKANDIA/Grant Wharington/2/2.0
3. FAVONIUS/Roland Pieper/3/3.0
CRUISING DIVISION (Provisional Overall)
1. UNFURLED/Harry Macklowe/1/1/2.0
2. GHOST/Arne Glimcher/2/2/4.0
3. VIRIELLA/Vittorio Moretti/3/3/6.0
1. ROMA/Filippo Faruffini/1/1/2.0
2. ALLSMOKE/Gunter Hertz/2/2/2.0
3. CHARIS/Fabio Mangifesta/3/7/10.0
1. WHITEFIN/Alfredo Canessa/1/2/3.0
2. ADELA/George Lindemann/3/1/4.0
3. ANNAGINE/C.E. Van Asbeck/2/3/5.0
1. ALEXIA/Alberto Roemmers/1/2/3.0
2. Y3K/Claus Peter Offen/3/1/4.0
3. J ONE/Jean Charles Decaux/4/4/8.0