The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup saved the best for last with a gloriously sunny, windy day on the Costa Smeralda. The 19-knot breezes provided a thrilling finale to the 26th edition of a spectacular regatta that is the cornerstone of a longstanding partnership between Rolex and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS).
In the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship, owner Hap Fauth steered Bella Menteto victory, reclaiming the title he last held in 2012.
Bella Mente’s crew boss, the round-the-world-race winner Mike Sanderson, had felt good about his team’s chances this morning. “We can’t worry too much about what the others are doing,” said the New Zealander. “We’ve got plenty to think about on our own boat, never mind anyone else!”In the first race of the day, Dieter Schön’s Momo broke the start line too early, and while the German executed a precision manoeuvre to return to restart with minimal loss of time, it was a critical error in such a closely-matched fleet. So focused is he on driving the boat, Fauth wasn’t even aware of Momo’s mistake. “I’m sailing the boat as fast as I can, that’s all I do! I don’t know where anyone else is. I just listen to my tactician. If he says ‘get ready to tack, 3-2-1,’ well, I’m tacking!”Bella Mente’s victory in that race strengthened the Americans’ grasp on the title, but it would still go down to the final race.This time Momo didn’t put a foot wrong, taking the race by just 19 seconds fromRobertissima III. Two second places for Roberto Tomasini’s Italian crew was an excellent performance, and agonisingly close to toppling Bella Mente for the overall honours. That 19-second margin was all that stood between Tomasini and overall victory. But Bella Mente’s 3rd place in the last race was good enough for Fauth to secure the world title by a single point from his Italian rival.Asked which was the sweeter victory, 2012 or 2015, Fauth replied: “This one, because we spent a lot of time on the design of the boat. We made some big changes to the mast, sails, keel and crew. We had great expectations. We had excellent tactics, but this was a team victory. For me it was sweet, because I’m running out of runway!”Open Season: More elegance, greater performance
Innovation never stands still, and if you’re not getting the result you want, you change something. In her original configuration, Open Season had struggled to live up to expectations. Some said the boat was out of balance. A reconfiguration by America’s Cup winning designers, Judel/Vrolijk, seems to have worked wonders for Thomas Bscher’s Wally yacht, which has grown not only in size but also in stature. The Wally has bloomed from her original 100ft length to 107ft thanks to an elegant extension to her sleek transom.
The revitalised Open Season dominated the Wally division this week, winning five of the seven races, and finishing comfortably ahead of last year’s winner, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones and Magic Carpet Cubed. The winning tactician, Jochen Schümann, smiled: “The boat has improved hugely in looks and in speed. The team, the owner, everyone really appreciates what we have achieved. We have had some good successes this season, but winning here at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is the highlight. The boat is going fast and looking good.”
The multiple Olympic champion admitted to being surprised at the margin of Open Season’s victory. “We were fortunate,” said Schümann. “It was an outstanding performance this week. I think our main opponent didn’t have their best week, so that has made us look better than we are.” Victory for Thomas Bscher is particularly sweet, having competed at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup for more than a decade. “Our owner is delighted,” said Schümann. “His first big win here.”
Another first-time winner at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was Marco Vögele’s pistachio-coloured Inouï in the Supermaxi division. “We have been chasing this for the past three years and today we’ve finally done it,” beamed the Swiss owner. “It’s the important one, the last big regatta of the season and a long week. We sailed well, the boat went well and the weather was on our side.”
Comanche vs. Hetairos: A Gentlemen’s Duel
It seems strange to consider the mighty 100-footer, Comanche, as a small boat. Yet next to the 219-foot ketch Hetairos, the sleek American race boat looked miniscule. Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze Clark’s offshore speedster makes no concessions to comfort, so while she was disadvantaged in terms of size, for raw speed Comanchehad the edge over the more stately, luxurious ketch. All the same, it was fascinating to witness two such spectacularly different yachts engaging each other in gentlemanly battle.