George Sakellaris' Proteus prevailed in today's race around Capri.

George Sakellaris' Proteus prevailed in today's race around Capri.

Lap of Capri and a photo finish at the IMA Maxi Europeans


16/05/2023 - 18:21

While many were predicting the second day of inshore/coastal competition for the IMA Maxi European Championship would be cancelled due to the heinous conditions forecast and even an official storm warning issued because of an intense depression passing over Naples, in fact today provided some of the best competition and exhilarating racing yet.

With the wind blowing 15 knots, initially from the south (the opposite to yesterday), the course was set with a start area off the event's host port of Sorrento and with the island of Capri effectively becoming the race's giant, mountainous weather mark. Unlike yesterday when the rain seemed interminable, today there were fewer but larger and more intense squalls especially around the back (ie south and west sides) of Capri.

If yesterday's race was one for the smaller boats in the Maxi 4 and 5 classes, today the larger end of the fleet struck back with four former Maxi 72s and the ClubSwan 80 My Song, in Maxi 1 and 2, filling the top five places overall under IRC corrected time. The top three in particular had a spectacularly close race on the water with Dario Ferrari's Cannonball finishing just one second ahead of Pier Luigi Loro Piana's ClubSwan 80 My Song with George Sakellaris' Proteus a further 13 seconds back after two hours 17 minutes of racing. Under IRC the lower rated Proteus won, beating Cannonball by one minute 38 seconds.

"George was steering well and Morgan [Larson] did a great job with tactics," commented navigator Will Oxley, also sharing afterguard duty with Irish sailing legend Gordon Maguire. Proteus had started close to the race committee boat end of the line and had held on a long starboard tack during which most of the fleet had ducked her. This set her up to lead on the water past the famous Capri landmark, the Faraglioni rocks.

Pier Luigi Loro Piana's My Song approaches Capri's famous Faraglioni rocks. Photos: IMA / Studio Borlenghi
Pier Luigi Loro Piana's My Song approaches Capri's famous Faraglioni rocks. Photos: IMA / Studio Borlenghi

"Normally racing here it is a very geographical situation, but today the gradient wind was getting completely bullied by the rain squalls so you had to play those shifts and that played into Morgan's hands," explained Maguire.

While the synoptic wind was veering, the larger rain clouds were also having a major effect. While the race started with the wind from 190° the front runners saw it turn to 270° around the back of Capri when it also built to 16-17 knots, the strongest they saw. "It was a bit lumpy with the waves reflecting off the island," added Oxley.

Following the first five finishers, there was more than a half hour wait for the first of the remaining fleet to arrive. Once again Riccardo de Michele's Vallicelli 78 H20 won the Maxi 4 class, claiming sixth place overall today, but first home in this second wave was Guido Paolo Gamucci's Cippa Lippa X. The canting keel Mylius 60 had eaten up the miles on the brisk reach to the finish line, to win the Maxi 3 class, having finished just over a minute ahead of Jean-Philippe Blanpain's Vismara-Mills 62 Leaps and Bounds 2 on the water.

"It was a lucky day," said Gamucci. "Coming into Capri - there were a lot of shifty winds, 20° shifts, so if you were in the right position at the right moment, you gained a lot. At one point at times Leaps and Bounds was ahead and then after two or three tacks we were in front." Gamucci paid tribute to his tactician, former America's Cup helmsman Paolo Cian, continuing: "On the back of Capri it was both lumpy and rainy. It was tough. For us it was either too much or too little wind. I still think that we are good upwind because we have 18 people on board, but that makes us heavy downwind."

On the ascent was the ClubSwan 80 My Song, which after a difficult day yesterday was half a boat length from being first home on the water today. Her powerful crew includes North Sails Group President and renowned sailor Ken Read, who is competing at his first IMA Maxi Europeans.

"Any time a fleet of boats this size comes together or you can sail around an island like Capri or in fact all around here with the cliffs and bluffs, it is worth it - it is a great thing for sailing, because we don't see anything like this in the States," said Read of the event.

As to My Song, Read says they are still working up the new ClubSwan 80 but were pleased with their performance today, having made "lots of changes for today which we think have made another nice jump. If we are sailing upwind with the (former Maxi) 72s, which are clearly the best boats in the world in those type of conditions, then that is good because that we are better reaching and running." On today's run back from Capri they were regularly sailing at 20-21 knots, allowing My Song to catch up the former Maxi 72s.

Overall in the IMA Maxi European Championship H20 continues to lead but today's success of the former Maxi 72s has seen them take over the rest of the podium with Peter Dubens' Regata dei Tre Golfi winner North Star now up to second, trailing H20 by 5.5 points, but tied on points with third-placed Cannonball. Following her victory today Proteus is fourth, 1.25 points from the podium.

According to Proteus' Will Oxley, a respected meteorologist, the wind tomorrow is forecast to be 4-10 knots from the southwest but getting lighter for Thursday's deciding day at this second IMA Maxi European Championship. "The low is moving away but it is still drifting around to the north of us." Sadly the rain will remain.

The IMA Maxi European Championship is organised by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia (CRVI) in conjunction with the International Maxi Association, the body officially tasked by World Sailing to administer and develop maxi yacht racing internationally. It is supported by Rolex as Official Timepiece and Loro Piana.

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