September 1, 2008

The 19th Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda gets underway tomorrow with an entry list of 40 yachts representing a broad spectrum of maxi scene. Once again the canting keeled, carbon-fibre, super-maxi Alfa Romeo will brush shoulders with the polished brass and bright work of Ranger and Velsheda, from the J Class era. Whilst the 144-foot Salperton and 143-foot Esense will be casting long shadows over the relative minnows in the 60-79 foot Mini-Maxi Division that includes a whole host of pedigree performers. And, it is not just the yachts themselves that are catching the eye. The crew rosters for this festival of big boat competition boast some of the most famous names in sailing today.

The who’s who of yachting is headed by three-time Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie, fresh from his exploits in China who will be offering some strategic tips to Neville Crichton on the 98-foot Alfa. Another multi gold medallist is Torben Grael, skipper of the 69-foot Alfa Romeo 3, who has his longer-term sights set on another Holy Grail of sailing – the Volvo Ocean Race. Grael’s here to sharpen up his team’s inshore racing skills ahead of the first in port race in Alicante in October. Mentioning Around the World Racing takes us neatly to Paul Cayard, part of the burgeoning brains trust on the back of the STP 65 Moneypenny. Cayard is also a former Games competitor, but is best known for his efforts in the America’s Cup and as a winner of the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1997. Many of Cayard’s AC friends and foes are here too. Ernesto Bertarelli, founder of the Alinghi syndicate and current holder of the Cup has chartered Dan Meyer’s Numbers in the Mini Maxi Division and is racing with three-time AC winning uber-tactician Brad Butterworth, incidentally another Whitbread Race winner (this time from 1990, with Peter Blake and the then mighty Steinlager II).

Peter Craig is Principal Race Officer for the week, the man with the required broad shoulders tasked with managing the racing for a diverse fleet in terms of size, age and crew experience. Craig seems remarkably calm for someone in such a position, “we’re in for a great week. We’ve forty excellent boats in four classes comprising the full range from flat out racers, to cruiser-racers, to cruising boats. A terrific fleet.” And, whilst Craig predicts some of the best racing will be seen in the Mini Maxi Division, the biggest class here, he is clear in his goal to provide the best racing for all competitors, “The format that we know the owners are looking for is for coastal and island racing, and providing Mother Nature cooperates that’s what we will do.” Mother Nature, indeed, has her part to play. The weather forecast for the week looks decidedly difficult. The Mistral – a wind of Homeric reputation amongst the Maxi yacht participants – is not predicted, and despite the prospect of some light wind days Craig has considerable experience in regatta management and plans to take one day at a time rather than get hooked on mixed five-day outlook.

The Mini Maxi Division comprises eighteen yachts ranging in size from the 60-foot (18 metre) Massimo Violati’s OPS 5, Enrico Gorziglia’s Good Job Guys and Guido Miani’s Ads Glen up to the 78-foot (24 metre) Allsmoke of Gunther Herz, a division winner here in 2005, which despite being well-sailed will have her work cut out to repeat her past glory. In the middle are a number of serious contenders for boat of the week – Rolex Sydney Hobart winner, Roger Sturgeon’s DYT/Rosebud with another high credential pro with AC and Games pedigree, Tommasso Chieffi, providing the local knowledge; Jim Swartz’s Moneypenny andNumbers will be renewing a rivalry that has seen them already compete together this year in the Newport Bermuda Race. Elsewhere in the Division Lars Grael (brother of Torben and also an Olympic medallist) is skippering Carlo Puri Negri’s Atalanta II, racing under the Argo Challenge banner.

Whatever the week holds in weather terms, we are in for another spectacular contest between some of the finest yachts afloat and some of the finest sailors of their and, possibly any, generation.

The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda will officially greet the competitors tonight with a welcome cocktail at the stunning clubhouse that overlooks Porto Cervo Marina. At the end of each racing day, Yacht Club Costa Smeralda along with title sponsor Rolex will provide a lush array of top class social events: Highlights include the YCCS Dinner on Tuesday, the Rolex Crew Party in the Piazza Azzurra on Thursday and the Rolex Dinner at the world renowned Cala di Volpe luxury resort on Friday. The week ends with Saturday’s final Prizegiving Ceremony and Closing Cocktail, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups and Rolex timepieces will be awarded to the overall winner of each Division.

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association (IMA), will run from September 1st to September 7th. Racing commences tomorrow, Tuesday and with racing scheduled for each following day, the prize giving on Saturday will be the culmination of an intense week of big boat racing. From the most luxurious, through the most traditional, to the most advanced monohulls afloat today, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is nothing if not an astonishing line up of sailing power.

For more information about the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2008 including entry lists and results please visit

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