Double bullet day for Vesper at IMA Maxi Europeans17 May 2023
After one offshore and two days of coastal racing, today the fleet competing out of Sorrento, Italy for the International Maxi Association’s Maxi European Championship were sent off on two windward-leeward courses on the Bay of Naples along the north coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula. Once again conditions were difficult with much cloud activity as well as the occasional monsoon-grade downpour, causing crews to rechristen the race’s otherwise magnificent host port ‘Torrento’. The rain and clouds once again made for a shifty race course combined with a large swell running, the result of strong winds blowing for the last 24 hours offshore. Today was generally the windiest to date with 15 knots for the first race dropping to 10 for the second.
With substantial points to be gained today going into tomorrow’s grand finale coastal race, crews were contemplating their score-lines now they can discard their worst result (excluding the Regata dei Tre Golfi offshore).
After not racing yesterday, today Jim Swartz’s Maxi 72 Vesper bounced back with a vengeance and, in a commanding consistent performance, won both races under IRC corrected time. Strategist and three time Olympian Dan Slater explained: “We got two really good starts. We believed short term in the left and then leading back to the right, so the game plan was to start to windward of the bulk of the fleet. There was of shift coming off the land, short term, and in the first one there was a rain cloud starting to hover out there and it was a case of how close that got.” He added: “Gavin [Brady, tactician] did a brilliant job of getting Jim [Swartz, owner] to the line and Jim got us off the line and made the rest much easier from there.”
In both races, the competition was extremely tight between the former Maxi 72s and My Song, with Pier Luigi Loro Piana’s ClubSwan 80 relishing the brisk surfing conditions downwind to win on the water. Perhaps most surprising is that among the former Maxi 72 fleet, Vesper is one of the least out of class, others having been lengthened, had water ballast added, etc.
Sadly for the peppermint coloured Vesper even discarding yesterday’s DNC, she still carries relatively high scores from her offshore and first coastal. At present, before discards are applied, yesterday’s overall winner, George Sakellaris’ Proteus leads the IMA Maxi European Championship, 1.75 points ahead of Peter Dubens’ North Star with Dario Ferrari’s Cannonball third, a further two points astern. Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou received a significant blemish to her scoreline when she was disqualified after a port-starboard infringement in today’s second race.
While overall points across the whole fleet matter the most, the IMA Maxi Europeans fleet is also divided into three according to each yacht’s performance. While Proteus leads the fastest group, in the Maxi 3 class it remains close between Guido Paolo Gamucci's canting keel Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X, Jean-Philippe Blanpain's Vismara Mills 62 Leaps and Bounds 2 (which blew up her spinnaker in almighty fashion on today’s final run) and Pascale Decaux's Wally 80 Tilakkhana, this trio separated by less than five points in the overall standings.
In Maxi 4-5, Riccardo de Michele's H20 leads. Even though she has now been toppled from the top spot in the overall ranking by the dominant former Maxi 72s, the silver Vallicelli 78 still lies fourth overall, chased in Maxi 4-5 by Giuseppe Puttini's Swan 65 ketch Shirlaf and IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wally 60 Wallyño, with less than 10 points separating them.
Holding fourth place in this group and tenth overall is Paul Berger’s Swan 80 Kallima. “It is marvellous, extraordinary - it’s been raining, but that is the same in Belgium!” observes Berger. “The weather has been bad, but the crew is good and the organisation is good. Thank you to the IMA for putting this on.
“Generally we are doing very well and are happy with where we are standing. Conditions have been tricky but the coastal course around Capri yesterday was spectacular and today we had good breeze. The competition is great and in the windward-leewards there were lots of crosses. I am having a great time.”
Behind them in the ranking is Jean-Pierre Dreau’s well-travelled Mylius 60 Lady First 3. “It has been a bit wet, but very nice,” said Dreau. “Last year it was more sunny, but there was less wind. It is always different here. We have to come back every year!”
Not all competitors at the IMA Maxi Europeans are highly experienced. This is the first regatta for the Canadian-owned Swan 60 Sea Quill. the owner’s representative is Italian Class 40 sailor Andrea Fornaro: “I think this is an amazing event. The fleet is beautiful and the conditions have been good for sailing in wind and waves - we like it.”
The IMA Maxi European Championship is organised by the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia (CRVI) in conjunction with the IMA, the body officially tasked by World Sailing to administer and develop maxi yacht racing internationally. It is supported by Rolex as Official Timepiece and Loro Piana.
by James Boyd / International Maxi Association