It started gently and ended gently, but the Rolex Cup once again lived up to its reputation for providing testing sailing for the crews of the 26 maxi yacht entries.
As the winners collected their Rolex Chronometers and trophies at the prize-giving in the piazza of the old port side of Porto Cervo, they knew they had had to earn them.
In three divisions, the winners were not decided until the last race had been run. Even then, it was so close that it needed a tie-break in the Heavy Cruiser class to give Harry Macklowe in Unfurled the verdict over George Lindemann in the majestic, 180-foot, Adela.
Unfurled was one of few of the yachts competing that do not strip the boat as they rarely change their set-up from cruising to racing. "Unfurled is a cruising boat but we love to race her and there is no better place to do that than at Porto Cervo at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup." Harry Macklowe and his crew had a fantastic week both on and off the water, winning was just a bonus.
And there was just half a point between the two top Wallys, Alessandro Grande in Vae Victis pipping Mattia Medici in Askherout. There had been 39 seconds and one place between them in the final race and Askherout had had to recover from a ripped spinnaker on the second leg. It was an extremely close contest.
Alessandro Grande is new to the Wally Class but perhaps laid down his intentions by renaming Carrera, a Wally 77 to Vae Victus which means Woe un to the conquered. Alessandro was delighted with the results, "We really didn't expect to win this week, a top three would have been nice but in the last race anything could have happened and it did. Vae Victus - the outside chance took full advantage of the varying wind to come from nowhere on the last day."
A ripped mainsail prevented Carlo Perrone from posting five bullets for the week. He had to settle for fourth, but could then discard that result and count the best four, all wins, from the previous four races. His 80-foot silver-hulled and teak-decked Virtuelle had speed and the ability to match the performance targets calculated by the handicappers for a hull designed by Andrea Vallicelli and a futuristic deck and interior designed by Philip Starck.
Also out front every day was Raffael Raiola's IMS Maxi Idea, but the week's light conditions really favoured the two smaller yachts who were fighting it out for the top prize in that division. Both were designed by German Frers for the same man, Riccardo Bonadeo, but the newer, 73-foot Rrose Selavy, with, as always, Mauro Pelaschier calling tactics and sometimes steering, could not oust its smaller sibling.
The older, 65-foot Rrose Selavy is now Edimetra and is owned by Ernesto Gismondi. She counted three firsts and a second to go home with a Rolex Yacht Master Rolesium, a cup and a highly satisfactory week's work to her credit. "Our whole crew sailed very well this week and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was fantastic for us", commented Enrico Passone, helmsman of Edimetra.
In a more offbeat way, old was also beating new in the Wally class. The founder of the Wally company, Luca Bassani, brought his new Tiketitoo and was one of the most striking yachts moored stern-to on the old port wall. The hull, mast and boom are all in a metallic bronze, the deck and coach roof mix wood and mirror, and in the centre cockpit is the piano keyboard of push button controls for the winches.
That much you can see. What is less visible is an array of underwater appendages which have been developed using airplane dynamics. Those buttons also control a swinging keel, so that the fin and bulb can be pushed up on the weather side to give more righting moment. And they can raise and lower two canard dagger boards on each side, one forward, one aft. So, at any time, when you include the rudder, there could be four foils under the boat giving hydrodynamic lift.
Our experience shows us that whenever you introduce an innovation, it takes a while to fully exploit it, and the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was a great opportunity to test the boat and optimize the tuning, Luca Bassani, founder of Wally yachts.
Alongside him was his old boat, Tiketikan, now owned by a man who is more used to racing cars, Thomas Bscher of Germany. In each of the first four races the old boat beat the new, which was rather frustrating for Luca. So, when Thomas suggested that they might swap boats for the last race and see if it was the boat or the driver that made the difference, Luca accepted.
The good news for Luca was that, at last, he finished ahead of Thomas. The good news for Thomas was that his boat was still the faster. Kevin Burnham, tactician on board Tiketitan and previous 470 Olympic Silver medallist said, "I think Luca believes we should be getting more speed out of Tiketitan, but that's not been my goal. Tiketitoo is clearly faster than us upwind so throughout the week I have been playing the game of trying to control them at the start and stop giving them any air to breathe. Even the change of helmsman made no change to the end result."
And the event was enjoyable, whether winning, coming second, or last. Porto Cervo remains a highly desirable venue with its film set architecture and fashionable shops. PierLuigi Loro Piana, who brought his 85-foot Reichel-Pugh My Song and won the second race in the IMS Maxi division, was amongst those who could mix business with pleasure, paying a quick visit to the shop selling his clothes alongside other great names like Prada, Versace, and Cartier.
The party at the Cala di Volpe was its usual elegant self and the following night His Highness the Aga Khan showed be was not to be outdone at the dinner given at his lair, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. The big-screen footage of the racing - including some menacing shots of a black United States submarine powering past the start area at 18 knots cloaked in an amazing bulbous bow wave - drew tremendous applause.
Overall Results after 5 Races and 1 discard for each division:
Class : 0
1. VAE VICTIS /Alessandro Grande
2. ASKHEROUT/Mattia Medici
3. MAGIC CARPET/Lindsay Owen Jones
4. TUAMATA /Claudio Luti
5. GENIE OF THE LAMP/Gianluca Vacchi
6. TIKETITAN/Thomas Bscher
7. TIKETITOO/Luca Bassani Antivari
Division IMS Racing
1. EDIMETRA VI/Ernesto Gismondi/FRERS 65
2. ALEXIA/Alberto Roemmers/IMS MAXI
3. RROSE SELAVY/Riccardo Bonadeo/FRERS 73
4. IDEA/Raffaele Raiola/MAXI
5. MY SONG/Pigi Loro Piana/R/P 85
6. SAGAMORE/James Dolan/MAXI IMS
7. BENBOW MISTRAL/Giuseppe Recchi/MAXI ONE DESIGN
Division Cruiser over 30m
1. UNFURLED/Harry Macklowe/FRERS 112'
2. ADELA/George Lindemann/SCHOONER 180'
3. ANTONISA /Pasquale Natuzzi/124' SLOOP
4. VIRIELLA/Vittorio Moretti/FRERS 118'
5. KNICKERBOCKER/Charles Dolan/S&S 95'
6. RIPPLE /Tomas Hannell/HOLLAND 100'
1. VIRTUELLE/Carlo Perrone/PROTO C
2. Y2K/Claus-Peter Offen/SWAN 68
3. FETCH 3/Filippo Faruffini/PROTO
4. ONLY LU/Ettore Gnutti/BRENTA 65
5. ALDABRA/Marcello Niccolini/SWAN 68
6. BENBOW/Claudio Recchi/PROTO