04 September 2016
Two to Watch at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup
Two J Class yachts have made the pilgrimage to Sardinia for the annual Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. Lionheart won the honours in 2014 when four boats raced as a class at the event whilst Velsheda, which arrives in Porto Cervo fresh from a six month long refit at Pendennis in Falmouth won a three cornered battle in 2013 against Rainbow and Ranger.
Lionheart – hull length 43m – and Velsheda - hull length 39.25m – compete under the ORCSy rating system in the ten strong SuperMaxi class. Their fleet contains yachts such as the new Swan 115 Highland Fling, the 49.6m Dubois designed Ohana and the Farr designed 34.99m Sojana. The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has drawn a record entry of 52 boats.
Biggest J Class prize at stake this week is the Owner/Driver Corinthian King's Cup, which was won last June by Lionheart in Falmouth. The regatta will also be dual scored under JCA handicap this week and the top J Class team will lift the most coveted award.
Lionheart have had three good days of training leading into Monday's first racing day, an essential practice when, as tactician Bouwe Bekking notes, there are 38 people on board the race boat. The Lionheart team were particularly dominant in the 2014 season. For them, winning in Sardinia would be a significant success, but Bekking again says he considers every outing on to the race course as vital training for next year's J Class America's Cup regatta in Bermuda and the J Class regatta in Newport. A record fleet of eight Js are expected at both. "We have had a few days good training here." Bekking confirms, "It is always important to have been out and run through a few manoeuvres to make sure it is all working well. With 38 on board it's essential!" Bekking adds: "The highlights of next year will be Newport and Bermuda. Of course we want to win here and we'd like to beat Velsheda and there are a lot of other boats here to beat too, but for us it is all about work towards next year. We have had pretty much the same team since 2011 and are always looking at getting better. This is a big boat and so we always have to be careful but we like to be able to treat it is like a big dinghy and that needs work."
Having been denied access to his pride and joy for six months while the 20 year survey was under way for Velsheda, the Owner was today (Sunday) delighted to be back behind the wheel. The refit was largely below decks and included replacing the engine and some systems, but none that will directly affect performance in any way. Changes to their team since Saint Barth's include the return of Hamish Pepper as strategist and Campbell Field stepping in as navigator. "We'd like to win a watch here, for sure. I think we are in good shape now and our owner is raring to go." Says Velsheda's tactician Tom Dodson. "We love being here and we love racing together. And we always go out to win. We were talking about next year and really I don't think for us there is any drive to peak at Bermuda or Newport, we always just take each regatta as it comes, we always prepare as best we can and we always go out to win. I don't think there is anything reflected in our spending or our effort which is geared particularly to winning Bermuda. That's not our approach. We want to win everything."