The sixth edition of the Venice Hospitality Challenge took place on Saturday 19th October, endorsed by the International Maxi Association. Gašper Vinčec and the maxi Way of Life enjoyed their second consecutive victorious Saturday, following on from their victory against the 2000+ strong fleet at the Barcolana regatta in Trieste a week ago.
A unique event that unites maxi racing with Venice’s leading hotels, each yacht in the Venice Hospitality Challenge is paired up with world-famous establishments such as the Gritti Palace, Cipriani and Hotel Danieli.
The start of the race takes place off the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute at the entrance of the Canal Grande, then heads up the Canale di San Marco to a mark off Sant’Elena, returning via a chicane off Piazza San Marco, on up the Canale Della Giudecca to a final turning mark off Venice’s cruise ship terminal before returning to the start.
This year, the maxi fleet grew from 12 maxis to 14, ranging from hardcore racers such as Arca SGR (ex-Skandia Wild Thing), Portopiccolo Tempus Fugit (ex-CQS) and Golfo di Trieste (ex-Rambler 90), to fast cruisers including the Mylius 76 E...Vai via an Il Moro di Venezia IACC yacht and three Farr 80/Maxi One Designs.
The event began on Friday night in Piazza San Marco at the Grancaffè Quadri with a ‘meet the skippers’ event for the public followed by a buffet dinner at the Ca’ Sagredo Hotel, and the final race started the following afternoon in ultra-light wind, as five yachts drifted over the line prematurely and were called OCS by the race team led by Alfredo Ricci. Way of Life (backed by The Gritti Palace) just got out from under the all-female Wind of Change crew on Golfo di Trieste (backed by the Hilton Molino Stucky).
Despite nearly coming unstuck at the bottom mark when the spinnaker halyard got caught around the top of the furled Code 0, the Slovenian maxi extended away to win the race, much to the delight of spectators and tourists lining the canals, in an elapsed time of 59 minutes and 58 seconds. Three minutes 39 seconds behind, Golfo di Trieste came in second, just under a minute ahead of the Farr 80 Idrusa (supported by the Palazzina), which is skippered by former Italian Olympic sailor Paolo Montefusco.
Way of Life's winning crew at the prizegiving
“We never had more than five knots of wind,” explained Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General of the International Maxi Association, racing today on Way of Life. “There were little tiny puffs of wind, mainly down at Sant’Elena. Once you got back past St Mark’s Square and into the middle of the Giudecca, there was very little - just enough to keep moving.”
Way of Life skipper, former leading Olympic Finn sailor Gašper Vinčec, said he had been pleased that the team had recovered from last weekend’s euphoria: “It was important that we calmed down, because after we won the Barcolana we had a lot of stress and I was worried that that would affect our race today. We knew it wasn’t luck that won us the Barcolana, it was because we are a really good team. Today we tacked perfectly, our choice of sails was perfect, our manoeuvres were perfect.”
The Il Moro di Venezia one time America's Cup challenger, skippered by Tomasso Chieffi, passes Piazza San Marco
For Francesco Clapcich’s crew on Golfo di Trieste, the huge number of manoeuvres on a big, unfamiliar yacht was a challenge. Helmswoman American Volvo Ocean Race sailor Sally Barkow, racing in a crew that also included another multiple round the world race sailor Dee Caffari, explained: “We had a lot of sail changes and choices and some chaotic manoeuvres, as we are a different team from the Barcolana last weekend. The boat was fast in the three-five knot range, and we managed to round all the marks correctly, coming back from some almost treacherous manoeuvres like putting up the big kite. In the end, it was okay. We started off second, lost a bit upwind and then did some not-so-great manoeuvres downwind and on the last upwind bit we were going well.”
This was Barkow’s first taste of the Venice Hospitality Challenge: “It is a bit crazy sailing up the tiny little channel with 13 other maxis, but it is super cool and it is really well supported. It seems like everyone gets involved, even random guests at the hotel we are staying at and it is a really good event for the city. It tested our inshore skills.”
The prizegiving for the Venice Hospitality Challenge took place at the Zattere where the trophy, made in Murano glass by the Massimiliano Schiavon Art Team, was presented to the Way of Life crew. This was followed by a party at the Hilton Molino Stucky hotel where each of the 14 hotels represented brought their own chef to prepare some of the cuisine.
The Venice Hospitality Challenge this year once again endorsed the One Ocean Foundation, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s marine preservation charity, whose aims are shared by the Municipality of Venice.
The Venice Hospitality Challenge 2019 is sponsored by the Municipality of Venice and is supported by Generali Italia, BMW Italia and Champagne Moët & Chandon, Mure a Dritta.
Images: Matteo Bertolin