All Hands On Deck

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2018 sets out to sea defining power, passion and performance in sailing

Among Rolex’s yachting portfolio, which includes 15 major international races and regattas, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup holds the distinction of being the second longest-running event with which the watchmaker is involved. And no small matter, this; Rolex counts six decades of association with yachting, stretching back to the late 1950s when it mingled with two of the sport’s well-heeled members—the New York Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron of the United Kingdom.

The brand, meanwhile, has been the title sponsor to the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup since 1985, a result of both its partnership with the regatta’s organizer—the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS)—since 1984, as well as with the International Maxi Association.

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2018, set to unfold in Sardinia, Italy on September 2 up until September 8, will see some of the world’s most imposing yachts competing fiercely with one another. This regatta was first held in 1980, and its 29th edition this year will feature about 44 yachts ranging in size from just over 18 meters all the way up to some 44 meters. Yachts of this size and quality demand the very best in race management, and so the crews commanding these watercrafts are expected to be just as impressive. The YCCS team itself, led by Peter Craig, is seen to deliver as well as they make the most of the Maddalena Archipelago and the prevailing winds to offer competitors challenging racing.

Guaranteeing this in part is the return to the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup the J Class, a fleet which mixes tradition and innovation. Two of the Js competing are newly built, and feature the latest construction techniques and sail technology—this, even if they are based on original 1930s designs.

Among the three J Class entries, the biggest is Svea at 43.6 meters (during the heyday of the J Class, around 30 crewmembers would be needed for racing). The other two, Topaz and Velsheda, measures 42.7 meters and 39.65 meters, respectively. Interestingly, Velsheda was launched in 1933, and at the time was fitted with the most advanced technical design for spars, rigging, sails, deck-gear and sheets (ropes). Velsheda also introduced features that are still used on yachts today—winches, rod-rigging and halyards running inside the mast are but a few examples.

The Class J trio will race in the Supermaxi division, and will compete against two other yachts—the 39.65-meter My Song (which is making its debut at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup) and perennial campaigner Viriella, a 36-meter craft.

Poised to provide a contrast in yacht length and weight, not to mention crew size to the J Class entries, are six Wally yachts, whose influence on trends and developments in the sailing world is considered by many as equally important. Wally yachts are widely regarded as having revolutionized design thinking and construction techniques for large sailing vessels during the 1990s, mixing together high-performance sailing with elegant lines and luxurious interiors.

One of the newest Wally yachts is the 30.48-meter Tango, launched in 2017. Rendered in Wallycento design, its latest-generation hull lines and structural engineering have helped reduce displacement and improve stiffness. Joining Tango are two other identically sized Wallycentos—Magic Carpet Cubed, a class winner at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in 2014, and Galateia, a winner in 2017. With their similar performances, this fleet is forecast to provide some of the most exciting competition during the regatta.

Comprising the most number of entries is the Mini Maxi class, in which yachts are typically sized between only 18 and 24 meters. The Mini Maxis are divided into the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship and the Racing/Cruising divisions, with the former set to showcase six all-carbon, stripped-out racing machines. Offering no concession to comfort below deck, these yachts deliver grand prix design and racing technology to their helmsman-owners, who are supported by an entirely professional crew.

The regatta’s remaining entries belong to the Maxi division, composed of yachts measuring between 24 meters and 30.5 meters. One of them is Rambler, the canting-keeled line honors winner at the 2017 Rolex Fastnet, first finisher at the last three Rolex Middle Sea Races, and overall winner of the 2018 RORC Caribbean 600—where Rolex is once again the official timepiece.

As one of the most prestigious yachting events in the world, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will feature first-class social programs both on sea and shore. Highlights will include the Rolex Gala Dinner and Final Prize awarding which, after days of intense competition, will see the individual class winners rewarded with Rolex timepieces.