I started writing this in Livorno, Tuscany, sheltering from yet more torrential rainstorms. Two weeks ago at the IMA Maxi European Championships I rechristened our base of operations Torrento rather than Sorrento due to the almost continuous rain. I completed this article leaving Pisa Airport in another storm.
Over this period England has been basking in sunshine with no rain. The Myth of Malham race, from Cowes down to Plymouth and back, has always been regarded as excellent practice for the Fastnet course. This was in the days we had prevailing southwesterlies. This year’s race was a mixture of easterlies and calms, very atypical.
It was good to see two IMA members competing, also in Fastnet preparation. Peter Morton’s Maxi72 Notorious (ex-Caol Ila) took line honours easily, while Jean-Pierre Barjon, venturing out of the Med for the first time with his Botín 65 Spirit of Lorina, followed.
The sailing world is increasingly getting direct experience of climate change but so far has a very poor record in playing its part to address the causes. Little of our sport is geared to sustainability, with sails, rigs and hulls mostly impossible to recycle. And, although World Sailing was forced by the International Olympic Committee into signing a sustainability agreement, there is no sign of movement. As a start perhaps the major rating systems need to give an advantage to boats with recyclable sails. Without such stimuli there is zero sign of any inclination to change.
This year’s IMA Maxi season kicked off with the RNCP’s Palma – Vela regatta in Majorca with the best Maxi attendance for some years. There was good racing for some of our largest contenders, the two 100-footers Magic Carpet 3 and Galateia. There was also much variety in the lower-rated class with Stormvogel, the beautifully restored classic, battling it out with the Truly Classic 127-footer Atalante. Stormvogel was one of the first Maxis ever to be campaigned globally by her original owner, Kees Bruynzeel, the Dutch plywood pioneer.
In fact, despite the diluvian conditions, with waterfalls seen cascading over the cliffs of Sorrento, the IMA Maxi Europeans that followed Palma were a great success. That most important commodity, wind, is often absent in the Bay of Naples in May; this time it turned up. A full and varied programme of races was expertly managed by the very experienced PRO, but new to the IMA, Stuart Childerley.
It was quite a challenge to set off such a varied fleet in one start. It was made only slightly simpler when the 100ft Arca had to withdraw with a major failure to the attachment of the canting keel ram, resulting in a near-sinking during the Regata dei Tre Golfi, the opening race of the Europeans, starting in Naples and finishing in Sorrento.
The PRO still had to contend with a large variation in performance, from the highest rated (the ClubSwan 80 My Song) down to the lowest (the vintage Swan 65 ketch Shirlaf). The conditions allowed for a full course around the island of Capri with fewer of the usual wind holes, although the beautiful scenery was less spectacular for the crews trying to see it through all the cloud and rain…
In the end we had a single overall IMA Maxi European Champion. Last year Peter Dubens’ North Star – a modified Maxi 72 – won the offshore stage but was pipped at the post in the last inshore race and lost the championship to Terry Hui’s Lyra. This year all went according to plan with North Star winning the championship overall (as well as the offshore leg…).
The IMA operates a strict owner-driver rule for all inshore racing but, like many Maxis, North Star has a professional afterguard led by double Olympic medallist Nick Rogers as tactician. Runners-up were George Sakellaris’ Proteus and Dario Ferrari’s Cannonball. In fact, the top five boats all started life as Maxi 72s although most have since been modified outside the original box rule. But they still enjoy remarkably close racing.
There was a special prize for the winner of sub-class 1 and 2 presented by Pier Luigi Loro Piana. This also went to North Star while Pier Luigi himself won the prize for the shortest elapsed time scored over all the races.
There was a lot of enthusiasm for this event which will be repeated next year, almost certainly returning to the Bay of Naples. However, whether the event can cater for more 100-footers remains a challenge, both in terms of event timing and berthing.
One of the IMA’s functions is to minimise date clashes. Inevitably the calendar becomes very crowded and professional crews are understandably trying to maximise their regatta paydays, so it is not just other Maxi events that have to be taken into consideration. The same crews are also involved in circuits like the 52 Super Series, the 44Cup, the ClubSwan 36 and 50 series and the mighty J Class. All must be accounted for to a greater or lesser extent.
We have just seen the completion of the 151 Miglia Trofeo Cetilar in its 14th edition. This event shows impressive growth mainly because of excellent organisation, co-operation between three yacht clubs and generous support and sponsorship… plus memorable parties. The thing we have not been able to control is the weather.
The race from Livorno has always been a light weather affair, but this year the forecast was so dismal that even before the start the course was shortened by 30 miles and a new gate inserted off southwest Elba, so a result could be obtained even if few reached the Punta Ala finish. Ultimately nearly all made it before the time limit but even the line honours winner, the Australian 100ft Black Jack, took 23 hours.
Although this boat achieved great results on these waters for her previous owners, as Alfa Romeo 2 and then Esimit Europa 2, this was the first race aboard in the Med for her Australian owner Peter Harburg: a very different experience from blasting across the Bass Strait to Hobart.
The 151 Miglia’s winner on corrected time was Durlindana 3, a vintage Carroll Marine 60, whose slippery, light and narrow configuration was perfect for the ultra-light conditions. Second was the well-campaigned Mylius 65 Oscar 3 belonging to Aldo Parisotto, who also received a special award, the IMA’s Gianfranco Alberini Challenge Trophy for sportsmanship and consistent performance.
I must also mention another prominent IMA member, Roberto Lacorte, who is one of the founders of this race (his company, Pharmanutra, with its Cetilar brand, is title sponsor). Sadly, in the ultralight conditions his Mark Mills-designed foiling Maxi, Flying Nikka, could never show her potential. She flies fast and happily on her AC75-style foils… once the wind exceeds nine knots. Something she saw very little of during this year’s extended drifter. The weather again.
Andrew McIrvine, IMA secretary general