It has taken a number of years, delayed by the pandemic, however formal Maxi yacht racing is coming to the Caribbean, significantly growing the aggressive alternatives sailors need to race their smooth monohull behemoths that may attain 100 toes lengthy.
Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille, which begins on Sunday, will be a part of the inaugural I.M.A. Caribbean Maxi Challenge, a four-stop occasion created to extend the participation of Maxis in these regattas and draw extra Maxis to the Caribbean crusing circuit.
“Maxi sailors are really excited because this increases the standards and quality, and the number of regattas they can sail,” mentioned Benoît de Froidmont, president of the International Maxi Association. “Now we will have proper starts and courses.”
And extra alternatives to sail their boats, that are costly to keep up and value as a lot as $10 million — house owners need to get as a lot out of their boats as attainable. “The biggest sin is to let these boats just sit,” mentioned Ken Keefe, a former America’s Cup sailor who manages and sails on Vesper, a Maxi 72.
After a two-year pause for a lot of regattas around the globe due to the pandemic, sailors are excited concerning the new collection, Keefe mentioned. But many are additionally working towards a level of restraint due to Covid and the struggle in Ukraine.
“Everyone is still a little shellshocked coming out of Covid,” he mentioned. “We are all counting our blessings, but are more reserved this year — we won’t be dancing on tables. But the overall feeling is: Let’s get back to sailing, let’s get the band back together.”
Modeled after the races within the Mediterranean Maxi circuits, the Caribbean problem invitations Maxis over 60 toes lengthy to compete February by way of May on the Caribbean 600 in Antigua, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, Les Voiles de St. Barth, and at Antigua Sailing Week.
To qualify for the collection, sailors should compete in a minimal of two of the occasions, although this will likely ultimately be elevated to 3 as soon as the circuit is healthier established, mentioned James Boyd, an I.M.A. spokesman. Teams that compete in additional than two occasions get to discard their worst end result.
Technically, the addition of the Caribbean Maxi Challenge provides to I.M.A.-sanctioned Maxi occasions, however not all Maxi sailors had been planning on crusing all 4 of the Caribbean occasions. Many will sail in simply two or three and win on cumulative efficiency factors, de Froidmont mentioned.
Keefe, who manages logistics for Vesper, which incorporates transporting the boat around the globe, mentioned it will be attainable to do all 4 of the Caribbean regattas and nonetheless participate within the Mediterranean crusing seasons.
“It can work out to move these boats around and boat in nice places and do it in a safe manner,” Keefe mentioned. “The trick is to get the boat out of the Caribbean as soon as the series ends to avoid the hurricane season.”
The first cease of the collection was the Caribbean 600 in Antigua. Comanche, a 100-foot Verdier design, received the regatta, adopted by the VO65 Sailing Poland and the VO70 I Love Poland.
Conditions had been difficult. One sailor instructed the I.M.A web site that the race was one of many hardest on the planet.
“It is like a heavyweight boxing match — the lefts and the rights just keep coming at you and you wait for that knockout punch,” mentioned Richard Clarke, a tactician for Warrior Won. “No lead is safe until the very end.”
The Russian-owned Comanche, a current trans-Atlantic ocean race winner and a dominating presence in regattas, withdrew from the Caribbean Maxi Challenge after World Sailing, the sports activities’ governing physique, banned Russian participation due to the struggle in Ukraine. Skorpios, a ClubSwan 125 Maxi yacht, additionally withdrew underneath comparable circumstances.
“There’s an awareness of what’s going on in Ukraine,” Keefe mentioned. “The Russians have touched our sport in a strange way.”
The second cease, the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, held in early March, was 4 days of racing. Sailing Poland took first, Janssen de Jong-DutchSail second and I Love Poland third.
The third cease is the Les Voiles de St. Barth, and the fourth and remaining is Antigua Sailing Week, which begins April 30.
The winners of Maxi racing obtain solely a trophy and bragging rights. “It remains an ancient sport,” de Froidmont mentioned. “There is no prize money, just very passionate people who enjoy the challenge.”
The variety of Maxis competing has elevated over the previous a number of years, he mentioned, and may proceed to rise.
Boyd, the I.M.A. spokesman, mentioned it would take a number of years to construct a deep fleet for the Caribbean Maxi Challenge.
“This is the first year,’’ he said, “so we imagine it will take a few years for this to gain traction fully. Nonetheless, we are pleased with the Maxi turnout.
“The Maxi participation in Les Voiles de St. Barth is also looking strong with I.M.A. members participating from both sides of the Atlantic,” Boyd added. Twelve Maxis are scheduled to race.
Currently main the collection is the VO70 I Love Poland forward of the Farr 100 Leopard 3.
“But neither is competing in St. Barth, so it could be that we will see some new teams move into the lead after St Barth and Antigua,” Boyd mentioned.
“We have some incredible competition this year,” mentioned Keefe, who has received the Voiles de St. Barth 4 occasions. “I can’t wait.”