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Racing on Maxis

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Racing on Maxis

The Rolex Capri Sailing Week for quite a number of maxi owners is the first regatta of the year in the Med. Those who participate in both the Regata dei Tre Golfi (2020 marks the 66th edition of this classic offshore race) as well as in the Maxi Yacht Capri Trophy, set themselves the complicated task to prepare for a wide variety of course types, from offshore to windward leeward racing. And not just for the planning and logistics of starting the Tre Golfi offshore in Napoli and finishing in Capri to then start the 4 days Maxi Yacht Capri Trophy roughly 2 days later, allowing for some practicing and converting from offshore to inshore mode.

The approximately 150 miles-long offshore race traditionally is a light breeze affair, and quite a number of the maxis will choose to race with less than full crew - in order to be as light as possible in search of better acceleration and in the hope to ghost through the light patches better than the competition, weighing the benefits of this against being a little slower at max heel, which for pure racers is already the case from 9 or 10 knots of breeze. Depending on how much weight one leaves on the dock, a 70ft maxi can be floated about 5 to close to 10mm higher than when fully crewed, and together with which sails to carry for the race, one can imagine the decision requires a good weather study!
Once in Capri the maxis, racing under IRC, are permitted to chose their sails and crew on daily basis, so the decision game which sails and how many crew to bring for the day continues for the Maxi Yacht Capri Trophy. But generally the shorter the race is, the closer the boats will be to each other and then the capacity to hold the upwind lane or position with other boats on your hip can be vital for the outcome of the race. The tendency will therefore be to take less risk dropping crew as crew also functions as moveable ballast when hiking from the windward rail. In close racing manoeuvres need to be executed fast and flawless which requires quite a few hands, so it is rare to see boats dropping more than 2 crew for inshore racing. The crew left ashore obviously often are the ‘big fellows’, the grinders, their power and weight are not required in the light but grinding is much more than turning handles so leaving them on the dock requires other crew to be well experienced on the handles too. Maxi racing is team work, and the teams are big. A 60ft Mini Maxi will be ok with 15 or 16 crew but a Maxi72 already carries up to 22 and in Supermaxi we will see numbers substantially above 30, not rarely further increased by guests of the owner.

On a Maxi72, 6 grinders supply the main power but with at least 4 pedestals there will be others combining their primary function with some time on the handles.
The afterguard is made up by a trio of navigator, strategist and tactician. The tactician is the one communicating with the owner-helmsman, as well as the crew on imminent action which he puts together from the bigger picture the strategist and the navigator give him. There will be three dedicated sail trimmers for main, jib (upwind) and gennaker (downwind) trim and a team of three who run bow, mid-bow and pit. A dedicated sewer person is the one sweating down below to repack what he not long ago handed up as a ready to hoist well packed sail.

The more serious racing programme will have a dedicated shore team. On a Maxi72 that team quickly will consist of 4 or 5, each a specialist as well as all-round and a good team player ready to help each other. Expect a sailmaker, a boatbuilder, a diver and somebody handy with hydraulics. The onboard electronics often are taken care of by the navigator and the shore team is active on the water as well, driving the team tender or as part of the delivery crew. The captain, as the title suggests, is in charge when the boat is not racing. As one of the few full time employed, often a long time trustee of the owner and often managing more than the boat and the shore crew, certainly as soon as the owner and racing crew are out of town. Not much will happen without his blessing.

With a fleet of about 20 maxis foreseen to join the RCSW in May 2020 it is quite a... circus coming to town. Expect crews, relatives and friends to be at least 500, most to be flown and ferried in and out, housed, catered and amused with the odd party. Trucks, vans and containers to be brought in, stored and shipped out again. To organize and run the racing and shore activities the host clubs, marina’s and cities of Capri and Naples, will have a small army of staff running around. Media and event sponsor staff, many long time involved with the Rolex Capri Sailing Week, complete the picture. Many hands to shake, stories to tell, memories to share. Ready to race and very much looking forward to be in Capri again!

Rob Weiland Maxi 72 class manager

Fri, 31 Jan 2020 © RolexCapriSailingWeek

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