While the 2020 season of maxi yacht racing has been largely wiped out thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first steps back to normality are soon to be taken with the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup set to go ahead in Porto Cervo over 30 August to 4 September.
Organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association and supported from the outset by Rolex, this will be 31st running of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. The annual highlight of the maxi yachting season, this is an international congregation of all maxi yachts (ie of 60+ft LH) from grand prix racers to cruisers; from brand new launches to classics, all lured by the supreme racing off Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda, one of the world’s best yacht racing arenas. In non-pandemic years the event has an excellent social program from the regatta’s opening cocktail party within the YCCS clubhouse to the traditional Rolex party held at the Cala Di Volpe hotel. However due to the measures designed to prevent any resurgence in the pandemic, the 2020 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will be a very different regatta.
IMA Secretary General Andrew McIrvine explains: “With the requirement to obey COVID-19 avoidance measures, including social distancing and avoidance of gatherings, crews will typically remain in their ‘bubbles’ from villa to yacht with virtually no wider interaction. The racing will still be good. We have made special provision for reduced crew number with extra adjustments of time correction for yachts taking that option.”
This year’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup fleet will be smaller than usual. Unsurprisingly, absent will be many of the grand prix maxis, especially the 100s and Maxi 72s, whose crew usually fly in from across the globe but who this year have found that travelling to Europe has either been prohibited or is just impractical due to quarantine restrictions.
However with more than 20 yachts entered, the line-up has surpassed expectations given the present difficulties attending. Competitors range from the new Farr-designed, Baltic Yachts-built and DSS foil-equipped 142 footer Canova to the 100 footers Leopard 3 and Adalberto and Guido Miani’s A Family Affair (ex-Skandia Wild Thing) to the highly competitive 60 footers, like International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont’s Wally 60 Wallyño, Peter Dubens’ Frers 60 Spectre and Gerard Logel's Swan 601 @robas.
Back again is the Mylius 18E35 Fra’ Diavolo of Vincenzo Addessi. Last year the Gaeta Yacht Club President’s team finished tied at the top of the Mini Maxi class 2, losing only on countback.
“I had such a great time at last year's Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup that I immediately confirmed my participation this year,” explains Addessi. “Of course I had to change my plans due to the pandemic, but here we are, soon to head to Sardinia.” This comes after an abbreviated Caribbean season. “Last autumn I raced the ARC, then Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta (which we won). Everything since has been cancelled due to the pandemic, so the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will be my first and probably only event this year.”
Fra’ Diavolo will be competed with 70 % of her usual crew number. “I very much appreciate this option - it makes great sense. Even with the pandemic, if we take care we can sail events like the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup without trouble. It was also a good decision to end the event one day early to minimise the clash with the Swan fleet.”
As a proportion of the overall maxi fleet, the Swan participation is larger than usual due to the YCCS hosting the Rolex Swan Cup the following week. Among them is Switzerland’s Alex Schaerer, better known for campaigning Caol Ila R, his Maxi 72 which in 2019 won both Rolex Capri Sailing Week and also the Rolex Giraglia. For the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Schaerer will be campaigning his Swan 90 Strathisla.
“This year the old wisdom that to participate is way more important than to win is even more true than ever,” Schaerer explains. “We think for Italy it makes an important statement that events like the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup are back. We are entirely doing this for the beauty of our sport and for Sardinia.”
Also returning is Italy’s Luigi Sala with his Vismara-Mills 62 Yoru: "It’s difficult to miss a Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Of course this spring, because of the pandemic, we doubted we could come, but when we heard the race was still on, we confirmed our participation. We intended our confirmation to help set an example, to show that things are gradually returning to normality. Yoru has a motto which is ‘always do your most without expecting anything in return.’”
Andrew McIrvine concludes: “Despite all the logistical difficulties associated with COVID-19 we are delighted and encouraged that so many owners have overcome them to support this flagship event.”