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IMA Maxi European Championship gets underway tomorrow with Regata dei Tre Golfi offshore

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 13 May 22:52 BST 14-20 May 2022
Last year's Regata dei Tre Golfi sets sail from off Santa Lucia. The infamous Mount Vesuvius is in the background © ROLEX / Studio Borlenghi

24 maxi yachts are set to contest the annual Regata dei Tre Golfi that departs on Saturday evening (14th May) from Naples, Italy. This year the 67th edition of Italy's second oldest offshore race forms the opening event and offshore component of the International Maxi Association's Maxi European Championship, part of the larger Tre Golfi Sailing Week.

Supported by Rolex as Official Timepiece, the IMA Maxi European Championship is organised by the Circolo Remo e Vela Italia under the patronage of the Italian Sailing Federation (FIV) and in cooperation with Yacht Club Italiano, Reale Yacht Club Canottieri Savoia and the IMA.

The maxis will set off from Naples' Porticciolo di Santa Lucia, home to both the historic Castel dell'Ovo and the Circolo Remo e Vela Italia's clubhouse at 1900 on Saturday. The 155 mile course sees the fleet head north through the bays of Naples, Salerno and Gaeta, around Ponza and then south, where they can leave Capri to port or starboard, continuing on to the Li Galli rocks, the turning mark off the Amalfi coast. They then return, via the south side of Capri, to the finish off Marina Grande.

Leading the fleet on the water will be the Furio Benussi-skippered 100 footer ARCA SGR. However nipping at her heels will be the Reichel/Pugh 82 Highland Fling XI that was dominating her class at last year's Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup until she suffered a broken forestay. Tactician for the Tre Golfi will be South African former America's Cup skipper Mark Sadler. While he previously competed on these waters in the Rolex Volcano Race, this will be his first Regata dei Tre Golfi. "The race looks pretty exciting, but it will be a light air race and pretty tough. If there is any reaching it would be good for us. We'll just see what we get and figure it out." Standing in for owner Lord Laidlaw on this will be South African Cape 31 skipper Hylton Hale.

Philippe Ligier's Wally 80 Ryokan 2 is making the trip from France to compete. She is a previous class winner at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez but will face stiff competition from Terry Hui's hugely successful Wally 77 Lyra, Alessandro Del Bono's IMS Maxi Capricorno and Riccardo De Michele's Vallicelli 78 H20 - all class winners at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

Standing in for tactician Hamish Pepper on Lyra is Australian two time Olympic medallist Mitch Booth, who is aware he has large shoes to fill. He has previously competed in the Regata dei Tre Golfi on the Cookson 50 Kuka 3. "I am familiar with the course and it is looks alright for us. It is a very localised breeze. Right at the start the bay can be anything and around the islands it can be something different again. From my experience there is a lot of stop and start. So we'll come and see how it runs. I think it will be a game of patience, a game of tactics. Fortunately the guys know the boat pretty well." According to Booth their routing has them currently taking 48 hours to complete the course.

For Alessandro Del Bono's Capricorno, this will be the first event of the season having undergone a substantial refit in La Spezia over the winter. The team arrived in Sorrento this week and has been training since. This will be Capricorno's first Regata dei Tre Golfi although most of her crew have done it many time previously on other boats, says tactician Flavio Favini. "I have wonderful memories - it is a really nice race." As to this year's race Favini forecasts it being a long one due to "light winds - overnight on Sunday may be very very slow, but let's hope for some good breeze in the early afternoon. I have heard people expecting to reach the Monday. I hope it will be faster."

Sir Peter Ogden's 77ft Jethou has competed in the Regata dei Tre Golfi before and as the sole 'former Maxi 72' taking part in the offshore part of the Maxi Europeans is also a strong favourite for overall honours.

The smaller boats cannot be discounted. Giuseppe Puttini's well sailed Swan 65 Shirlaf may be the oldest boat competing but won last year's edition of the race under IRC corrected time. The crew of Guido Paolo Gamucci's Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X knows the area well but the light conditions may not favour a canting keel yacht. She is one of six 60 footers from Mylius Yachts entered including Maurits Van Oranje's SUD, Jean-Pierre Dreau's Lady First 3 and Fra' Diavolo, belonging to Yacht Club Gaeta President Vincenzo Addessi. Also competitive within this group is the Starkel 64 Stella Maris of Matteo Fossati.

Remarkably International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont's Wallyño will have a rare encounter with another Wally 60 in Argentinian Lucas Massa's Boabunda. However Wallyño comes with a stronger racing pedigree, including having won the 2019 edition of the IMA Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge in 2019.

"This is the first regatta for Wallyño this season after finishing a major refit," says de Froidmont. "Based on the entry list I can confirm that the fleet will be extremely competitive and I look forward of it. The whole team is ready and so am I!" His old rival Frenchman Jean-Pierre Barjon, whom he narrowly beat in the 2019 IMA MMIC returns, but aboard his newly acquired Botin 65 Spirit of Lorina (ex-High Spirits).

As IMA President, de Froidmont continues: "It's a great pleasure to see the enthusiasm of the maxi fleet for this event. With so many maxis competing in the Regata dei Tre Golfi and the Maxi Yacht Sorrento Trophy, the IMA Maxi European Championship will be one of the most successful events in the Mediterranean. It is the result of a long term collaboration between our association and the organisers. As President of the IMA I can only be proud of this. Good luck to every competitor."

The Regata dei Tre Golfi is also the third event of the IMA's annual Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge.

More information on Tre Golfi Sailing Week and the IMA Maxi European Championship here.

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