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IMA Maxi Europeans sets sail with Regata dei Tre Golfi offshore

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 17 May 15:46 BST 17 May 2024
Peter Dubens' North Star is favourite having won the last two Regata dei Tre Golfi offshores © Rolex / Studio Borlenghi

The 69th edition of the Circolo del Remo e della Vela Italia's offshore race, the Regata dei Tre Golfi sets sail this afternoon (Friday, 17 May) at 1635 from Naples' Porticciolo di Santa Lucia.

Supported by Rolex as Official Timepiece, the race kicks off the International Maxi Association's Maxi European Championship before continuing next week with four days of coastal racing. The Regata dei Tre Golfi is also the third event in the IMA's 2023-24 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge (MMOC), which started last autumn with the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

Over recent years the Regata dei Tre Golfi has become a more serious yacht race - gone is the romantic midnight start after dinner at the CRVI's clubhouse in Porticciolo di Santa Lucia. Instead the warning signal for the 25-strong maxi fleet will be at 1630, to make use of the remaining sea breeze to exit the Gulf of Naples. The maxis are followed ten minutes later by the remainder of the Regata dei Tre Golfi's 106 boat fleet.

The course is a WNW-ESE sausage crossing 'three gulfs'. Leaving the Gulf of Naples, it heads WNW to Ponza, before returning past Ischia, Capri and then Punta Campanella, at the tip of the Sorrento peninsula, to the southerly turning mark of the Li Galli islands off the Amalfi coast. New for this year's race is the finish line off Naples which lengthens the course by around 15 miles to 170 miles.

Highest rated under IRC and line honours favourite is Furio Benussi's ARCA SGR. The 100ft racer, formerly the 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner Skandia Wild Thing, suffered a serious canting keel failure last year but is now 100% fixed, says Benussi: "The boat is perfect - it's never been this good. We have worked hard over the winter for it to be competitive and safe."

Benussi thinks that the race record of 15 hours 30 minutes 1 second, set last year by Sir Peter Ogden's 77ft Jethou, looks safe. "The first part will be light but the second will have a little more wind from the land." He believes ARCA SGR may reach Li Galli by 0600-0700 Saturday, finishing at around 1200-1300.

This year ARCA SGR faces some serious competition from the trio of Wallycentos - Chris Flowers' Galateia, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones' Magic Carpet Cubed and Karel Komárek's V (ex Tango) - and Andrea Recordati's Wally 94 Bullitt. Bullitt started the 2023-24 MMOC strongly, winning the Rolex Middle Sea Race outright. Two weeks ago Galateia won PalmaVela and has been dominant over the last two seasons while Magic Carpet Cubed, with overall and line honours wins in past Rolex Giraglias, is perhaps the specialist in this kind of race.

The Magic Carpet team competed in the Regata dei Tre Golfi in their first boat more than 25 years ago and the recollection of skipper Danny Gallichan of it being a long light race. Today a key crew is navigator Marcel van Triest. Of the weather he says: "With the 1630 start, the sea breeze will be light and dying out. There will be a park-up at 1930-2000 for about three hours, when the drainage breeze will start filling in from the northeast. Hopefully that will get us to Ponza, where it will be around 7-10 knots. Then it will be upwind into the mid-teens on Saturday afternoon when we're expecting some thunderstorms." The towering Dutchman says they should take 24-28 hours. "The difference between two and four knots of wind is so big - two knots you are parked and four knots you are sailing at six knots."

There will also be top competition between the former Maxi 72s. These are Jethou, Hap Fauth's Bella Mente, Peter Harrison's Jolt (ex-Cannonball) while favourite must be Peter Dubens' North Star, winner of the last two editions and reigning IMA Maxi European Champion.

"I am never overly confident because it is a difficult race and it is always in very changing conditions," admits tactician Nick Rogers. The team has been in Sorrento training and over the winter, they, like the rest of the ex-72s, have increased their water ballast and lightened their keels. North Star also has a 'twisting' rig, as used in the past on America's Cup monohulls. "We are better armed than we have ever been," continues Rogers. "Last year we did this race with a 2019 mainsail and very old sails. This year we have new sails and new kit." At 1.5 tonnes they have the least water ballast compared to Bella Mente and Jolt which have around two tonnes (equating to 25 crew).

As to the conditions Rogers says: "It will be tricky. The big unknown at the moment is when we come back, the models show not great southeasterly flow which is what we were all hoping to have to beat back up in." Rogers is hoping for a 20-22 hour race.

The next group includes Guido Paolo Gamucci's canting keel Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X, the Baltic 78 Lupa of the Sea, Paul Berger's Swan 80 Kallima and the trio of Mylius 60s - Jean-Pierre Dréau's Lady First 3, Maurits van Oranje's Sud and Franz Wilhelm Baruffaldi Preis' Manticore.

Favourites among the smallest/slowest group are certainly IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wally 60 Wallyño, winner of last year's IMA Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge; Riccardo de Michele's serial winner, the Vallicelli 78 H2O; Fra Diavolo, the Mylius 60 of Yacht Club Gaeta President Vincenzo Addessi and Giuseppe Puttini's venerable Swan 65 Shirlaf, a past winner of this event.

"For most of us it is the first regatta of the season," commented de Froidmont. "The Tre Golfi is a beautiful race; a key part of our IMA European Championship and it is becoming one of the major maxi events in the Med. The level is extremely high among the fleet here."

His tactician Cedric de Pouligny shared his predictions: "Benoît was hoping for dinner at a restaurant on Saturday evening, but I think it will be more like nightclub time!"

Meanwhile spare a thought for Shirlaf, by far the lowest rated yacht competing, which may struggle to finish before the Sunday 1730 time limit.

For more on the International Maxi Association visit www.internationalmaxiassociation.com

More information on the IMA Maxi European Championship here.

Follow the yb tracking for the Regata dei Tre Golfi here.

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