Twenty-two Maxis (yachts measuring over 18.29 metres/60-ft in length) are expected to compete in the second edition of the Rolex Volcano Race running from 19-25 May in the Tyrrhenian Sea and marking the beginning of Rolex's impressive Mediterranean yachting season.
In contrast to last year's inaugural event when one race took place, three segments will be contested, commencing in the form of a day's inshore racing on Saturday 19 May in Gaeta, a seaport on the Italian mainland located approximately halfway between Rome and Naples. During the second segment, beginning on Sunday 20 May, the fleet tackle Leg One of the 400-nautical mile offshore race, a 100-nautical mile voyage from Gaeta to Capri through the Pontine Islands. On arriving in Capri, the fleet will berth on the island for the night of Monday 21 May before attacking the most arduous segment of the week the following day. A 300-nautical mile adventure around the volcanic, UNESCO-protected Aeolian Islands awaits. The overall winner of this last section will take the plaudits at the finish line back in Capri, receiving the coveted Rolex Trophy and timepiece during the traditional Rolex party at the iconic La Canzone del Mare.
An intriguing contest is ahead. Of the 22 registered entrants, 11 different nationalities are represented. The bulk of the fleet is formed of Mini Maxis (yachts measuring 18.29-24.08 metres in length). Nine of the 13 crews that took part in last year's inaugural race have committed to return: the rise in the size of the fleet and high volume of returning crews proves the race is an enticing prospect.
Of the larger yachts, Filip Balcaen's 112-ft Nilaya
(BEL), launched last year, will be amongst the most eye-catching craft. With experienced tactician Bouwe Bekking calling the shots the crew impressed in winning the Supermaxi class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in 2011. Close competition is guaranteed in the shape of Claus-Peter Offen's 100-ft Wally Y3K
(GER), winner of its category for three straight years at the same event, in the hands of a honed and savvy crew who have enjoyed sustained success for over a decade.
Not only is Offen owner and skipper of Y3K
, he also acts as President of the International Maxi Association (IMA), the event organisers, and is therefore particularly enthusiastic about the event. "In terms of the environment, the race course takes us to one of the most enthralling sailing areas in the world,"
he explains. "We are all looking forward to this event and finishing in Capri will be very exciting."
"Wherever we are competing in the Mediterranean there is tremendous competition. The Rolex Volcano Race will be no exception,"
continues Offen. "I expect rather light to moderate winds. Under these conditions tactical decisions will play an important role - as will a little bit of luck. This race takes us through the night with tricky, thermal wind conditions resulting from the changing land and sea breezes. A big lead can turn into a big loss in no time. You have to be cool and patient."
As is form at an IMA event, there will be a significant presence of Swan yachts. Six are set to feature. One of these is returning entrant, Danilo Salsi's DSK Pioneer Investments
(ITA), a consistent Swan 90 and another class winner at last year's Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, and sure to benefit from the experience of the 2011 race when she was the closest rival to eventual winners Alegre
(GBR). The array of international crews also features Armeigin 3 (
(RUS), Caol Ila
(GBR), Vertical Smile
(DEN) and Wild Joe
(HUN). Twelve Italian crews complete the roster including Ernesto Gismondi's Wally 65 Edimetra, a regular on the Rolex sailing circuit, and Marco Rodolfi's elegant Swan 80 Berenice Bis
featuring a crew that performed both at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Middle Sea Race in 2011.
A fascinating contest is in store, comprising a finely-matched, balanced fleet with navigators and tacticians - including former America's Cup sailors of the calibre of Brad Butterworth, Tommaso Chieffi and Tiziano Nava - currently preparing in earnest for the various meteorological challenges that await them when negotiating Europe's most volcanic region.
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Further information on the Rolex Volcano Race may be found at www.internationalmaxiassociation.com