George Sakellaris at the wheel of Proteus en route to winning today's first Mini Maxi 1 windward-leeward. Photo: IMA / Studio Borlenghi

George Sakellaris at the wheel of Proteus en route to winning today's first Mini Maxi 1 windward-leeward. Photo: IMA / Studio Borlenghi

Windward-leewards begin at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup


07/09/2022 - 07:38

While coastal races around northeast Sardinia's Costa Smeralda are among the most attractive in the world, the possibility of passing lanes and more regular shifts are greater when sailing windward-leewards on open water. So today among the 50 boat Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup fleet it was the turn of the J Class and Mini Maxi 1's former Maxi 72s to sail these. The southeasterly wind reached the low teens and occasionally dropped to 6-7 for the other classes racing coastals.

Among the former Maxi 72s it was again the turn of the 'less pimped' examples to prevail – of the two races sailed today George Sakellaris' Proteus won the first by 10 seconds on corrected time from Hap Fauth's Bella Mente, while yesterday's winner, Jim Swartz's peppermint-coloured Vesper, claimed the second and now leads Mini Maxi 1 by three points from Proteus with Dario Ferrari's heavily modified Cannonball holding third.

"We had a good start and the boat likes wind," explained Sakellaris. "The crew handles the boat very well – sometimes it all comes together and sometimes it doesn't. It is a great sailing venue here." A great joy for Sakellaris is being able to sail Proteus with his daughter Christina, who hopes to represent the USA in the ILCA 6 (Laser Radial) at Paris 2024.

On board Michael Menninger was calling tactics, Ben Lamb strategy with Will Oxley navigating. The Aussie nav legend commented: "We had a really good start, did well on the left and George did a great job driving and Christina was able to be relief helm. The boat is going well. I feel that we can do quite well in this regatta." In the second race Proteus was fourth, losing a place to Peter Dubens' North Star by just seconds on corrected time.

Also sailing two windward-leewards today were the four Js and it was again Svea, steered by a former two time Rolex Mini Maxi World Champion on these waters, Niklas Zennström, that prevailed to maintain the Swedish J's perfect scoreline. Under the J Class rule Svea finished 2 minutes 18 seconds ahead of Velsheada in the first race and 1 minutes 39 second in front of Topaz in the second.

"It was a really good day for us - the starts were dictating how you got around the course," explained Svea's tactician Bouwe Bekking. "In the first we could have tacked straight away and would have crossed everyone. We maybe got a bit lucky, but Niklas does a good job with those things. We were making good manouevres – we dared to hold the kite a little longer and that momentum carries you round when you are doing the turn. With these boats it is easy when you are ahead, so the start is very important."

Meanwhile all the other classes sailed a long windward-leeward, up and down Bomb Alley with the faster yachts rounding the island of Spargi, while the slower boats had a turning mark just south.

In the Super Maxi class that was another Swedish victory for yesterday's winner, the Swan 115 Shamanna, her time correcting out to 1 minutes 2 seconds ahead of the Spirit Yachts 111 Geist.

Meanwhile in the largest class competing, the 13-strong Maxi class, there was upset when initially it appeared that Claus Peter Offen's Wally 100 Y3K had won, only to lose out to Massimiliano Florio's Southern Wind 82 Grande Orazio following a protest over a start line infringement. Nonetheless Y3K won the unofficial 'battle of the 100s' of which there are five racing here.

"I just called the shipyard to stop the build of the new boat!" joked Offen, who has a new Wally 101 due for delivery next year. "These wind conditions are better for us. Upwind Y3K has always been good, but when there is 17-18 knots of breeze the other boats fly and we don't see them downwind." Y3K was also helped when the breeze shut down for the boats ahead allowing her to take avoiding action.

Tactician and former Match Racing World Champion Karol Jablonski added: "It was a bit tricky - we were little bit lucky and brought more breeze on the downwind to Spargi while the boats ahead were slower. Yesterday we sailed as well and made no mistakes but we came ninth. So we are happy to take this. It keeps a good spirit in the team." Leading the Maxi class overall is Lord Irvine Laidlaw's Reichel/Pugh 82 Highland Fling XI which finished third today.

The tightest leaderboard after two days is in Mini Maxi 2 where one point separates yesterday's leader, Sven Wackerhagen's Wally 80 Rose, from Alessandro Del Bono's ILC maxi Capricorno and Luciano Gandini's Mylius 80 Twin Soul B, winner of last year's 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar. The jet black Twin Soul B seems equally comfortable inshore as she won today's race. "It was a splendid day of racing - very good wind and sea and nothing went wrong," commented Gandini, President of Mylius Yachts. "We don't race every week so we needed to have a day to practice. Tomorrow we will be better still!"

Claus Peter Offen's Wally 100 Y3K was second in the Maxi class today. Photo: IMA / Studio Borlenghi

Twin Soul B tactician Tommaso Chieffi added: "Today we had a good start. We managed to stay in front at the top mark and had good speed downwind - we did everything well. I know the area well and when the wind is shifting we took full advantage of it. At the bottom of the leg Capricorno was close, but not close enough. Then on the big upwind our length came into play. We stayed in front and never looked back."

There was a repeat winner too in the combined Mini Maxi 3 and 4 class where again it was the turn of the regal-looking silver Vallicelli 78 H20 of Riccardo de Michele to come out on top. However on the ascent is the 1976 vintage Swan 65 ketch Shirlaf of Guiseppe Puttini, which now lies second overall, one point ahead of Luca Scoppa's Dehler 60 Blue Oyster, having finished second today.

Shirlaf has been highly successful under Puttini having previously won her class here. As to today's racing, navigator Stefano Pelizza commented: "It was a very easy sail as the wind was more constant. We have very little sail, so if we are in the 15-25 knot range we can have fun. Today with 14-15 knots it was at the lower limit, but we can go well, if we don't make any big mistakes, go the right way with the right sails well-trimmed and everyone concentrating!" On board all the crew are amateurs at present but from Friday will be joined by Gabriele Bruni as tactician.

Roberto Lacorte and FlyingNikka sailed the correct course today and having set off last achieved their ambition to sail up the fleet to finish in the middle of the Maxi class (which started 45 minutes before them). "The important thing is that this was in the worst case scenario with no reaching but we are happy," said Lacorte, adding that FlyingNikka's top speed today was 34 knots.

Tomorrow the wind is forecast to be from the southwest and slightly lighter than today. The Maxi class is scheduled to race windward-leewards with everyone else on coastal courses.

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup: top-notch sailing continues on Day 2
Azimut presents its low emission yachts at the Cannes Yachting Festival