A record number of entries representing 13 countries have turned up for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia which starts today

A record number of entries representing 13 countries have turned up for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia which starts today.

This event, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association (IMA), will run until Saturday with a lay-day (or reserve) scheduled for Thursday. The 37-strong fleet will be split into three divisions: IMA Racing Division comprising high performance yachts racing time-on-time under IRC and IMA experimental handicap. Wally Division, with yachts racing under their own handicap system. Cruising Division, racing time-on distance under IRC handicap system, including Spirit of Tradition yachts, sailing with a day-by-day performance handicap.

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup race week traditionally comprises a variety of inshore race courses off the stunning coastline of Northern Sardinia, known as Costa Smeralda for its crystal-clear emerald waters, and around the Archipelago of La Maddalena with its narrow straits, rocky outcrops and shifting winds.

The courses are designed to make the best use of the daily weather conditions – winds in September can be anywhere between light thermally-induced sea breezes to the famous Mistral, which can blow from the north-west at up to 45 knots at times.

According to Captain Filippo Petrucci, official meteorologist of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, “The week will start off with good weather and a regular sea breeze of 12-14 knots, however a low pressure system will slowly move towards Italy, reaching Sardinia on Wednesday night. The winds will gradually shift to the south-south-east and the clouds will move in, bringing with them showers and thunderstorms. By Friday morning the front will have moved beyond Porto Cervo and the weather will steadily improve, with plenty of sunshine and a good stable sea breeze. This morning there’ll be a northerly breeze, starting at 4-6 knots, will slowly shift to the north-east, reaching 10-11 knots by the afternoon.”

The strong international fleet (Argentina, Australia, British Virgin Islands, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain and United States) will provide plenty of close action, with a couple of strong new entries and many veterans of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – probably the most synonymous event linked to the Sardinian sailing paradise of Porto Cervo.

Two newcomers to the event, Maximus and Skandia, are likely to be the boats to watch at this year’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

Transatlantic Challenge. Australian Grant Wharington’s Skandia was rebuilt and improved in its design after the major damage suffered during the past Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. The last time these two boats met was during the Rolex Fastnet where Maximus had the better of Skandia, and it will be interesting to see who will prevail in this challenging and very different environment.

Italian entry Mister A owned by Aldo Pagani, 2004 winner in the Cruising Division in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, will be competing again this year, hoping to repeat his success. The fleet also includes four Spirit of Tradition yachts, among these the world famous schooner Adela owned by US billionaire George Lindemann. The largest yacht of the fleet, with a LOA of just over 180ft, Adela is a regular competitor at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. New York real estate mogul Harry Macklowe will be sailing his 112ft Unfurled against a series of tough competitors including Germany’s Inspiration owned by Herbert Dahm, third in the 2004 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

Twelve yachts will compete in the Wally Division, where Alberto Roemmers’ Alexia from Argentina hopes to defend the 2004 title among a fleet that includes entries from the British Virgin Islands, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway and Spain. Tiketitan, second in 2004, will once again be on the starting line, together with Great Britain’s Magic Carpet Squared, owned by Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, CEO of L’Oreal. Another prominent personality who regularly sails in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup with his yacht Kauris III is Italian Marco Tronchetti Provera, chairman of Telecom Italia and Pirelli, and main partner of Luna Rossa Challenge 2007, one of the three Italian America’s Cup teams who will be competing in Valencia in 2007.