Competition is set to be the tightest ever at the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship which kicks off today as part of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. This annual event is jointly organised by the event's hosts, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, and the International Maxi Association, the body sanctioned by World Sailing to represent the Maxi classes.
Five custom-built Maxi72 racers are taking part ranging from the older, but heavily revised and optimised, to the newer, potentially faster, but less refined boats.
So far this season, Italian Dario Ferrari’s brand new Botin Partners-designed Cannonball claimed Sail Racing PalmaVela in May, while George Sakellaris’ Proteus took honours in the brand new Corfu Challenge on his home waters in early July. The 36 Copa del Rey MAPFRE, in Palma in August, was won by German Dieter Schön’s MOMO.
With three different winners already this year, competition in the Maxi 72 class is currently wide open.
Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup & Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship 2016. Photo Credits: Rolex/Borlenghi
As Proteus' George Sakellaris explains: “All the boats now are evenly matched so anyone can win and there is very good competition. We all fine-tune our boats so well that the game for everyone has come up.”
Defending World Champion is Bella Mente of International Maxi Association Vice President Hap Fauth (also President of the Maxi 72 Class). He agrees that the game in the Maxi 72 class has changed. While possibly his US-based team was favourite the last two times they won the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship, this is distinctly not the case this year, maintains Fauth: “Everybody has made improvements and is either equal to, or faster, than us at the moment, which will make this really interesting. Our boat is six years old now.
"This year we have not been as quick as either MOMO or Proteus and, in a lot of cases, Cannonball - they are still figuring out the buttons on that boat, which takes about a year, but they have great flashes of speed. This season we have been at the bottom of the fleet - we get great starts, but if you don’t have legs on that first windward leg you are at the back of the pack.”
Bella Mente en route to Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship victory last year. Photo: Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Fauth confides that since Copa del Rey they have made some modifications to their keel foil and are hoping that this will provide the boat speed boost they sorely need. “We’ll see if that works. I love sailing in Sardinia, even if we have had a not-so-good season.”
Maxi 72 Class Manager Rob Weiland says the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship will see a continuation of the close competition they have enjoyed at their three regattas so far this season in the Mediterranean. “It is open who is going to win. Cannonball is slowly getting stronger and stronger and MOMO is better than ever and Bella Mente isn’t bad and Proteus is always near the top. The only unknown quantity right now is Caol Ila as this will be her first encounter with the others this year.”
As to why they repeatedly return to Porto Cervo, Weiland says that the Maxi 72s are particularly appropriate for racing along the magnificent Costa Smeralda: “The Maxi 72 is one of the few classes set up for both windward-leewards and offshore/coastals. They have all the specialist reaching sails, which makes them a more complete package and quite honestly more interesting to race in Porto Cervo than boats and classes primarily set up for windward-leewards.”
Bella Mente, World Champion 2016, Maxi 72 Class. Photo Credits: Rolex/Borlenghi
The Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship takes place as part of the annual Maxi Yacht Rolex Club. The Maxi 72 class is one of two classes affiliated to the International Maxi Association along with the J Class. The Wally class is also associated to the International Maxi Association.
Racing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship takes place from 4th until 9th September with a layday scheduled for Thursday 7th September. 50 yachts are currently entered.
The International Maxi Association will be hosting its annual dinner at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda on Wednesday, 6th September, with the IMA Annual General Meeting on Thursday 7th September.