The 2003 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, the annual meeting of the world's largest racing yachts, is shortly due to see a record number of boats enjoying the Sardinian conditions of early September.
Organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda over the week of 7-13 September, the port of Porto Cervo will be filled to bursting with a most eclectic fleet of Maxis, the final entry number is expected to be 36.
With its history dating back to the 1970s the concept of a Maxi Yacht implied the maximum size that a racing boat could be built and successfully handled around a race course. Over the years the race track types included everything from short, around the cans style events to racing round the world. And over time the generic term Maxi Yacht has evolved to include any sailing boat that is longer than 70 foot and races.
The 2003 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is the XIII edition and will consist of a series of round the buoys and coastal races in the idyllic waters off Sardinia's North East coast, and in amongst the Madelena Archipelago, the whole area more commonly known as the Costa Smeralda.
This year's fleet sees five distinct groups of boats racing for five class prizes. In the IMS class are the pure race machines that use the IMS handicap system to scientifically calculate each boat's performance potential. Ex-champion boats such as Alberto ROEMMERS' Alexia from Argentina and Rafael RAIOLA'S Italian Idea will be lining up against Arien van VEMDE'S brand new Sotto Voce from Holland. The IRC class will see the fastest boats with Neville CRICHTON'S all conquering 27-metre long Super Maxi Alfa Romeo, fresh from line honours at the Rolex Fastnet Race last month, lining up against old rival Mike SLADE and his Leopard of London. Both of these boats will be looking to beat last year's Italian champion Carlo PERRONE'S Virtuelle.
A Spirit of Tradition Class which will include boats that look like they were built more than 50 years ago but are in fact the nautical equivalent of a wolf in sheep's clothing, featuring many modern hi-tech features including speed and comfort all packaged in a retro style.
For the first time at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup the organisers have invited all sailing boats built by the Dutch yard Jongert to compete. This group and its owners, not normally associated with an active racing programme, will be enjoying another facet of their impressively luxurious sailing boats that range in size from 20 to 28 metres overall.
Last but not least will be the world famous Wally Class. The biggest class numerically, the Wally Class will see these stylised, high performance cruiser racers fight to establish honours and a pecking order across a size range with the smallest Luca BASSANI'S Wallyño at just 19 metres, through Claus Peter OFFEN'S brand new 28-metre long Y3K to one of the largest Wallys, the 33-metre long Wally B.
The conditions expected in Porto Cervo at this time of the year will include a variety of winds, from light thermally induced sea breezes all the way to full Mistral conditions. The quality of light coupled with the magnificent rock and island backdrop will once again make for dramatic imagery, one of the reasons for this important event's notoriety.