We are back in peak Maxi racing season having just completed a very successful Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup (MYRC) in Porto Cervo and are now en route for Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez (LVdeST). Both attract some 50 Maxis although there is substantial variation between the fleets which begs the question: ‘what makes a regatta really attractive to Maxi owners?’
As estate agents say the main drivers really are location, location and location. We go to Saint-Tropez twice in a season – in June for the Rolex Giraglia Regatta which has inshore racing followed by the classic offshore, and then again in October where there is just inshore racing.
At the glamorous 12-strong racing boat end of the Saint-Tropez fleet, 10 were also racing at the MYRC. But scrolling down to the sub-class of smaller, more cruiser-racer boats it is a very different mix with 14 boats only two of which were in Sardinia.
In the past LVdeST might have been viewed as more of a social gathering than a serious regatta, but the IMA have become much more involved in the last few years and we now have our own race officer for the Maxis embedded in the Société Nautique de Saint- Tropez race team. This allowed for a better understanding of the kind of racing best for Maxis and has prompted a number of positive changes. The complete separation of Maxi, Moderne and Classique fleets changed again this year so there will be some overlaps and hopefully no one will feel like the poor relation… The Maxis will have a separate lay day and opportunity for our own Club 55 challenges.
Back to the reasons that some regattas continue to be more attractive than others. After location the major factors are good race management and logistics.
Race management by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda has evolved as they have been running top-of-the-range Maxi yacht racing for longer than anyone else anywhere in the world. They have a professional, well-practised team and they demonstrate incredible attention to detail. The YCCS have been very much the role model when we as the IMA advise other clubs on how to improve their management for Maxi racing.
Background logistics are vital. Larger Maxis travel with a full support team with containers both for storage and as workshops, such that almost anything can be fixed in-house. Reliable weather used to be a driver but, as we know, today that is becoming less and less predictable.
In the end Maxi teams keep coming back to the same places because it is much easier than exploring new pastures. If you are spending the huge sums required to get a full crew and boat functioning at peak performance you do not need surprises.
One of the major difficulties is the increasingly crowded calendar and the limited pool of top professional sailors. Despite the America’s Cup needing hardly any sailors, and just a few cyclists, the 52 SuperSeries, the RC44s, class world championships and classic offshores all draw on the relatively small numbers available.
At the sharp end of our fleet this is especially critical, while the trend to faster boats with more complex systems means the requirement for professionals is unlikely to diminish.
One of our dilemmas is how to keep one of our fundamental principles alive – the preservation of the owner-driver rule. This has been chopped, changed and adapted over the last decades and although always strongly defended at our AGM it seems to be almost too complex for most to understand. For certain it is now more honoured in the breach than the observance.
There are strong opinions on all sides, but undoubtedly if owners are just there to keep the cheque book dry they will melt away and take up something more personally involving – such as golf!
A reason it has become more complicated is the advancing demographic of sailors. Typically to have amassed enough wealth to run a Maxi requires a large chunk of a lifetime; therefore many owners are senior in years while steering a Maxi can be a physical challenge – especially on a reach in stronger winds. In response as IMA we have introduced varying periods of rest according to length of race… and age. But to police this is nigh impossible, even if it had a majority support of the owners, which it certainly has not.
Ultimately we are meant to be a self-policing sport. In theory it could be solved by a protest or two but unsurprisingly owners do not want to get involved in dinner-wrecking evenings in ‘the room’. We allow for replacement helms, carrying a small penalty – but they have to be Group 1 amateurs, which in practice is a stumbling block.
At present relief helms in rest periods do not have to be amateurs – mainly because, as one owner said to me, ‘I am the only amateur aboard my boat’. It has been suggested that we tear up the existing rule and start again… easy in theory but I suspect we will hit the same roadblocks.
Reporting on the often contentious subject of sub-class splits, we attempted to fix them between events this year, so that arguably the same boats would race each other all year long; but with great variety of entries between events this resulted in anomalies where some sub-classes were so small they had to be combined in a less than satisfactory way. In future we will go back to having flexibility to set sub-class limits between events while keeping to five main sub-classes within the fleet. The principle of division by performance (judged by IRC TCC) rather than hull length remains. Increasingly these days length is a less dominant performance factor.
Our latest class of Maxi multihulls made an encouraging debut at the MYRC. We hope this will expand beyond catamarans to MOD 70 trimarans and the like, as well as extending the scope from the Med to the Caribbean next winter.
Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General, IMA
We invite you to read on and find out for yourself why Seahorse is the most highly-rated source in the world for anyone who is serious about their racing.
To read on simply SIGN up NOW
Take advantage of our very best subscription offer or order a single copy of this issue of Seahorse.
www.seahorse.co.uk/shop and use the code TECH20
Or for iPad simply download the Seahorse App at the iTunes store