An autumn regatta bonanza for the world’s superyachts in The Med
The autumn months of September and October are filled each year with the incredible atmosphere and dramatic spectacles of big boat racing in the Mediterranean - 2018 has been no exception...
The world’s highest performing yachts have been putting in an appearance at one or more of a near back-to-back schedule of events including early September’s Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo, then later in the month in the same Sardinian port, the Perini Navi Cup, followed straight away by the Regattes Royal Cannes. Then as September closes, Les Voiles de St Tropez almost concludes the season’s headline events, but there is one more to come – the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
2-8 September 2018
The September regatta programme got started in one of the world’s great sailing venues, Port Cervo, on the second day of the month. The ultimate showcase for some of the finest sailing superyachts ever built is the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship.
The 29th edition was organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in collaboration with the International Maxi Association and title sponsor Rolex. Beautiful sailing conditions, which failed to deliver to the 41 competing yachts only on Tuesday, sealed the success of the event.
Always the icing on any regatta cake, three J class yachts, Topaz, Velsheda and Svea headlined in the SuperMaxi class. They were joined by Baltic 130 My Song and Frers 118 Viriella. Topaz clinched the class win by just one point.
The most remarkable victory was amongst the six-strong Wally class, that of the Wally 77 Lyra despite this being the first ever regatta for her owner-driver, Chinese Canadian Terry Hui. Terry started sailing just 10 weeks before the event, buying the Lyra campaign from James Murdoch complete with the majority of her crew.
Maxi class victory belonged to Massimiliano Florio’s Southern Wind 82 Grande Orazio. Florio dedicated his victory to Southern Wind Shipyard’s founder, Willy Persico who died in May. Mini-maxi trophies went to Roberto Lacorte’s Vismara 62 SuperNikka, his third Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup victory in the fast class, and to Riccardo De Michele’s Vallicelli 80 H20 in the slower Mini Maxi class. Dieter Schön’s Momo retained her Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship title.
20-22 September 2018
Still in Porto Cervo, a fleet of 21 Perini Navis gathered for three days of racing, a chance for these immense sleek machines to show off their grace and skills at the 7th edition of the Perini Navi Cup. The event is organised jointly between the renowned superyacht builder and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.
The unmistakable giant of the fleet, Maltese Falcon, at 88 metres, won both the Corinthian spirit class and the overall Perini Navi Cup, whilst the 50 metre Silencio took the award in the Cruiser Racer class. A staggered start formula sees individual departures every three minutes with racing through stunning scenery including a coastal route around the islands of Mortorio and Soffi.
YCCS Commodore Riccardo Bonadeo described the mixed Mediterranean weather offering as “characteristic Costa Smeralda weather conditions”.
22-29 September 2018
The Regattes Royal, held off the stylish Cote d’Azur town of Cannes, is a celebration of history’s most timeless sailing yachts. Described by the organisers as “a true armada of classic yachts, including several centenarians”, 200 boats and 1500 sailors, amongst them a formidable showing of 60 Dragons, experienced the changeable wind conditions of the week. Competitors stayed ashore for two windy days but this 40th edition of the Régates Royales – Trophée Panerai still managed to be one of the most contested ever, with teams coming from all over the planet. The 30 metre Moonbeam of Fife, built in 1903 won the Big Boats, while Elena of London, the same size, took the Schooner division. Kelpie, at 17.5 metres and also built in 1903 was Aurique (gaff-rigged) class winner, with the 12.6 metre Argos, a 1964 build, winning the Classic class.
As always the event concluded with a feeder race, the Coupe d’Automne, a 21 mile sprint along the coast from Cannes to St Tropez, for yachts heading to the next big event, Les Voiles de St Tropez.
29 September - 7 October 2018
For the 20th consecutive year, the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez hosted over 300 of the most beautiful classic and modern yachts in the world for the final big inshore event of the season – The Voiles de Saint-Tropez. The picturesque Gulf of St Tropez served up its usual magic and a perfect mix of weather conditions, despite the mistral of the opening day preventing the fleet from leaving the historic port.
Amongst the stars of the show was the 20-strong fleet of iconic Fife yachts, who were marking the historic Scottish builder’s 130th anniversary. The largest of them at 40 metres, Cambria, is celebrating her own 90th birthday this year. Alongside her an even more historic ‘monument’, the delicate cutter-rigged Viola, showed that in her 110th year winning is timeless, when she claimed the coveted Rolex Trophy.
Also continuing their September tour were two of the spectacular Js, Topaz, built in 2015 to a 1933 design, and the original 1933 built Velsheda, along with a spectacular line up of powerful maxis including once again the 43m Baltic My Song, Ribelle, a 35m Malcolm McKeon sloop built only last year and the fantastic 33m Philippe Briand design Inouï.
A fierce battle was guaranteed in the Maxi 72 class, with the British Jethou vying against the Italian Cannonball which boasted a top-flight crew including America’s Cup helmsman Ed Baird, teaming up with his French counterpart Sébastien Col.
The divisions each raced on their own courses, with a mix of windward-leewards and coastal races. In the Wally Class the visual spectacle belonged to the three titan Wallycentos Galateia, Magic Carpet3 and Tango, but it was Wally 77 Lyra who claimed victory once again, her second of the September season, taking the BMW Trophy.
20th October 2018
There’s one more major event to come, though – The Rolex Middle Sea Race, which is celebrating its 50th year starts in Valletta on 20th October. The 606 mile race is a classic test of seamanship for professional and amateur sailors alike. The race, which this year has attracted a record 149 entries, runs anticlockwise around Sicily and a number of small islands, with frequent corners creating identifiable course segments exposing the fleet to famously changeable sea and weather conditions that make it especially challenging. Competitors are drawn to a wealth of features: the dramatic setting for the race’s start against the backdrop of Valletta’s distinctive architecture; views of two active volcanoes, Mount Etna and Stromboli, passages around rugged, sparsely populated islands, and encounters with a wide variety of wildlife, including seabirds, dolphins and whales.
Amongst the line-up is George David’s record breaking Rambler, which has finished fastest at the past three editions, setting a race record in 2007 of 47 hours, 55 minutes and 3 seconds. Yachts from 30 countries will be crossing the Valletta start line, amongst them German Maxi 72 Momo, fresh from her win at the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championships, and E1 (Switzerland) which are expected to be among Rambler’s closest challengers for line honours. At 115 feet (35 metres) Nikata will be the largest entrant in race history, while Giovanni Soldini’s foiling trimaran Maserati Multi 70 and the MOD 70 PowerPlay should head up the multihull fleet.
Last year’s overall winner the Russian JPK 10.80 Bogatyr is returning this year, with owner Igor Rytov planning on competing double-handed.
With thanks to Marina Johnson for this article.