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Black Jack crowned 2022/23 IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge champion

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 19 Sep 2023 18:01 BST
IMA Secretary General Andrew McIrvine presents Black Jack's owner Peter Harburg with the IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge trophy © IMA / Michelangelo Forza

Despite his team being new to the racing in Mediterranean, Peter Harburg's Black Jack team arrived from Australia with their 100ft maxi this spring and on their first attempt secured victory in the International Maxi Association's annual Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge (MMOC).

Black Jack joins a prestigious list of past winners including Rambler 88 (2015-16), Atalanta II (2017-18), Vera (2018-19) and Spirit of Lorina (2021-22).

The seven-event MMOC began in October 2022 with the Royal Malta Yacht Club's Rolex Middle Sea Race. It resumed in 2023 with La Larga, the offshore race of the Real Club Nautico de Palma's Palmavela season opener in the Balearics followed by the Regata dei Tre Golfi, the offshore component of the IMA's Maxi European Championship, from Naples to Sorrento.

Freshly arrived from Australia, Black Jack joined the MMOC series for its fourth event, the 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar from Livorno to Punta Ala via the Giraglia Rock, in which she won line honours.

She rounded the famous rock off northern Corsica for a second time soon after in June's Rolex Giraglia race, again securing line honours but with perennial winner, the 100ft Magic Carpet Cubed, close behind, just over nine minutes astern of her.

Missing the breezy Aegean 600, Black Jack rounded out her MMOC campaign again winning line honours in August's Palermo-Montecarlo.

Peter Harburg was presented with the silver trophy for the MMOC at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda during the recent Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

"It is a thrill to win it," said Harburg. "We came over here to present the boat the best we could. I am surprised to win it first time around. We know it is a good boat and we have worked very hard on it over the years and have got it operating really, really well. So I am very happy to win it."

Compared to the often brutal conditions the Black Jack team is used to in their native Australia, the team faced the new challenge of having to excel in the light conditions they experienced in the Mediterranean up until the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup earlier this month. However, pointed out Harburg: "This is a very good light airs boat. It doesn't mean we can't do heavier winds... We have proven the boat to be very good and very fast. In Australia we get the extremes - we are extremely good in light weather and Comanche is extremely good in heavy winds. They get more of that there and we get more light weather here." Compared to racing in Australia, in the Mediterranean there are many more 100ft maxis to race against. "The competition has been strong," continues Harburg. "They have not made it easy for us. The boats are good and they are very well sailed."

Harburg's highlight of this year's MMOC was claiming line honours in the Rolex Giraglia. "It is a big name to win. It was the second time we'd seen the Giraglia Rock and neither time was it kind to us - no wind at all. Winning Palermo to Montecarlo was a thrill too as I know a lot of people in Montecarlo."

This is not the first success the Black Jack 100 footer has enjoying since she was first launched in 2005 as Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo II. In these colours she won the coveted Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours in 2009, the same year as she won the 'Barn Door Trophy' for line honours in the Transpac, when she also established a new race record. Then as Igor Simcic's Esimit Europa II she spent 2010-15 as the line honours king of the Mediterranean, setting race records for the Palermo-Montecarlo in 2010 and 2015 (still stands) and Rolex Giraglia in 2013, venturing out of the Med in 2013 to visit Germany and Sweden and claim Rolex Fastnet Race line honours. She was acquired by Harburg in 2019 following on from his 66 footer and VO70.

The present crew of Black Jack is led by Mark Bradford, with an afterguard comprising tactician Adam Beashel and navigator Alex Nolan, sailing with a crew often including as many as 20 including ex-Team New Zealand/Alinghi legends Brad Butterworth, Dean Phipps and Simon Daubney plus numerous other world champions and Volvo Ocean Race sailors.

Next up for the Black Jack team is the Rolex Middle Sea Race starting on Saturday 21 October.

Further IMA challenges

Looking ahead, the IMA's parallel inshore series, the Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge (MMIC) will conclude at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez in early October. Meanwhile maxi competitors are looking forwards to next spring's IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge (CMC): Following on from the RORC-IMA Transatlantic Race starting from Marina Lanzarote in the Canary Islands on 7th January 2024 and bound for Port Louis Marina in Grenada, the IMA's CMC will again comprise the RORC Caribbean 600 (19th February), St Maarten Heineken Regatta (29th February-3 March) and Les Voiles de St Barth (14-20 April).

Since it was introduced in 2022 the IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge was won in its first season by the Polish VO70 I Love Poland then this year by Roy Disney's VO70 Wizard, the outright RORC Caribbean 600 winner.

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