Maxi Rolex Cup: Day 4

With the fleets taking on 'lull alley' upsets and unexpected finishes once again brought change to the leaderboard.

Two gradient breezes fighting made it a trying time and a long penultimate day for many of the 40 sailing titans competing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association.

However with the final day of racing on Saturday, following today's layday (postponed from yesterday), there are only two classes where the winners are close to being decided.

All boats, ranging from 60 footers to the massive 66.7m ketch Hetairos, today sailed a coastal course between Sardinia and the Arcipelago di La Maddalena. At start time the wind was 9 knots, but in the channel it turned extremely patchy, the northeasterly breeze occasionally being cancelled out by a north northwesterly. As a result Porto Cervo's famous 'bomb alley' was today redubbed 'lull alley', the wind holes ensnaring even some major players.

After winning two races yesterday to take the lead in the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship, MOMO finished last today after she and Sir Peter Ogden's Jethou fell into a hole southwest of La Maddalena. In a class where split second finishes are usual, MOMO today arrived 18.5 minutes behind the leader.

Conversely after a disappointing Wednesday, today's Maxi 72 race belonged to Roberto Tomasini Grinover's Robertissima III. The Italian team nailed the pin at the start, went left up the first beat and successfully defended for the rest of the race.

“It was a very complicated race today,” recounted Grinover. “There were a lot of changing conditions between the islands. The crew did an unbelievable job and it was really tough until the last 100m. Fortunately we made the right choice in sails this morning, because we chose our own personal forecast. This was different from the others, which were showing 5-7 knots more wind.”

Tactician Vasco Vascotto added: "We did a good job today in tricky conditions, We are in the game and anything can happen." Vascotto is also with Yacht Club Costa Smeralda's Azzurra team. So does he have 'local knowledge?' "No…or yes, if that will make the others more nervous! We DEFINITELY have a big advantage!"

After MOMO's result today, Hap Fauth's ever consistent Bella Mente has taken the overall lead, but with Robertissima up to second and MOMO third, just two points off first.

In the Super Maxi class, it was another good day for Marco Vogele's 33m Inoui, now four points ahead of Viriella, which finished one hour and 50 minutes (or 1 hour 21 minutes on corrected) after her.

There is a tie at the top in the Maxi Racer Cruiser class with Massimiliano Florio's Southern Wind 82, Grande Orazio, winning today, leaving the Irish Southern Wind 94 Windfall second, finishing 2 minutes 46 seconds behind her on corrected after more than five hours of racing.

Windfall’s tactician Andy Beadsworth admitting having had a frustrating day, with the stop-start racing. “At the end we only had three knots and we were doing 1.8 through the water. The other difficult place was the transition half way up, where the straits narrow. We did quite well on the way out, but on the way back we got stuck and the Grande Orazio guys did better.”

Among the Mini Maxis, the wind holes had greatest effect causing a two hour gap between the first and last boats finishing. However on corrected time today's winner, Benoit de Froidmont's Wally 60 Wallyño, finished just 2 minutes 41 seconds ahead of Gérard Logel's Swan 601 @Robas.

"Today was great," said de Froidmont. "Conditions were perfect for us. We sailed a very good race." After today Wallyño is third overall, three points off Giuseppe Puttini's Swan 65 Shirlaf and Riccardo de Michele's Vallicelli 80 H20, tied in first place in the combined Mini Maxi Racer Cruiser and Spirit of Tradition Class.

The 13 strong Wally class is one where the winner is all but certain, although the string of wins for Thomas Bscher's elongated, former Wally Cento, Open Season today came to an end, after she finished with an uncharacteristic fifth. Instead it was the turn of Jean Charles Decaux's Wally 97, J One, to take honours, causing her to overtake Magic Carpet Cubed and move into second overall, despite Sir Lindsay Owen Jones' magnificent blue Wally Cento coming home third today behind the Wally 94.3 Sensei.

Similarly Roberto Lacorte's new Mills 62 Supernikka looks set to claim the Mini Maxi Racing class. She won today's race and is three points clear of Maximilian Klink's Botin 65 Caro, which finished third today.

“Today wasn’t really good,” admitted Klink. “For the first third of the race, we were in the lead even on corrected time, but we fell into a hole and that was almost the end. We made two nice come-backs and were over the finish line first, but not on corrected.”

Caro, one of several boats to be shipped to Sardinia after competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race last month, has spent the week racing Supernikka and Peter Dubens' 60ft dayboat, Spectre. "The venue is nice!" concluded Klink. "It is a good way to end the summer here in the Med."

After today's layday, racing will resume for the final day on Saturday.

The magnificent racing around Arcipelago di La Maddalena.ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi
The Irish Southern Wind 94, Windfall.ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi
Preparing for the hoist.ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi
Racing off the magnificent, but rocky Costa Smeralda.ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi