The sheer beauty of the Costa Smeralda does not tell the whole story about why sailors come back year after year to the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Day 3 threw up a different set of challenges to the first two days of competition, and it’s the challenge of the unknown, how you handle the unexpected, that keeps these competitors coming back for more.
Lighter, shiftier breezes worked very nicely for Momo, Dieter Schön’s new 72-footer which won both today’s races to seize the lead in the Rolex Maxi 72 World Championships. Of the 40 boats and five racing classes, Thomas Bscher’s 107 footer Open Season is the only one to have kept a clean sheet thus far, winning all her races in the Wally Division.
However it’s not only the newest boats that are faring well in the mix of conditions in Porto Cervo. Latest leader in the Mini Maxi Racer Cruisers is Giuseppe Puttini’s 1976-vintage Swan 65 Shirlaf, one of the most advanced yachts of her day and still gracing the world’s great regattas almost 40 years later.
Comanche is on a globe-trotting quest to prove that she is the world’s most powerful and technically advanced monohull of the modern era. There are few better ways to validate that claim than to compete in three of the most prestigious Rolex sponsored events in her first year on the water.
At the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup for the first time, for sheer speed there is no other boat that can touch Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze Clark’s 100-footer. Yet there are still very good reasons for this state-of-the-art yacht being here in Porto Cervo, as skipper Ken Read explained: “The priority for the boat is to take part in every great offshore race on the calendar. So far we’ve done a Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, we’ve raced across the Atlantic, and we’ve done a Rolex Fastnet Race.”
It has been an incredible start for a yacht that was only launched at the end of 2014, with Comanche establishing her credentials as the fastest offshore monohull in the world with a searing pace across the Atlantic in July, quickly followed by line honours victory at the Rolex Fastnet Race in August.
However, there is one big gap in her CV, a failed attempt to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in Australia last Christmas. That one hurts, even if it was a tall order expecting Comanche to be able to deliver such a world-beating performance so soon after her launch. Like any precision instrument, it takes time to fine tune such a complex and technically demanding racing yacht.
This is one of the other reasons for Comanche’s participation at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, a perfect venue and opportunity for testing new equipment and new ideas. “We learn something new every time we leave the dock on this boat,” says Read, a veteran of many America’s Cups and Volvo Ocean Races. “We’re working on our crew manoeuvres, our team communication. We couldn’t take our big furling sail down yesterday. We need to make sure that when we do go offshore that we’ve ironed all the bugs out, and that’s why an event like this is perfect for us.”
Sailors like Read never leave any stone unturned, it’s a quest for excellence that has guided his career, and courses through the whole Comanche campaign. Navigator Stan Honey and local legend Lorenzo Bortolotti spent four days before the regatta using hi-tech sonar to carefully research the depths. Together the American and Italian painstakingly charted any hidden rocks that – if the yacht’s 6.8m-deep keel was to strike – would bring a sudden and disastrous end to Comanche’s campaign.
For Comanche, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup ticks a lot of boxes. But for the owners, the skipper and this highly ambitious campaign, the 26th December 2015 is their date with destiny. The start of Ken Read’s second attempt to win the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race. The missing jewel in Comanche’s crown. With the forecast of good breeze on Thursday, racing at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup continues tomorrow, with the lay day now rescheduled to Friday. Racing runs from Monday 7th September with a first warning signal at 11:30, until Saturday 12th September with a layday on Thursday 10th when the International Maxi Association AGM will take place.