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Rán peak at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

September 14, 2009 12:22 0 comments

Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Rán peak at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Since 1980, the magnificent Yacht Club Costa Smeralda has hosted the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. The glamorous location has staged racing for some of the most outstanding yachts of the past three decades. Every year, the world’s best sailors gather in Porto Cervo, Sardinia for the inshore big boat showdown of the season.

From the 7th to the 12th of September 2009, the 20th edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup was staged with over 40 yachts, of mind-bending performance, gathering at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. Without doubt the most competitive yachts were the Mini Maxi division. Eight Mini Maxis from Britain, New Zealand, Italy, Germany and America battled it out over seven races, on both coastal and windward leeward courses. Conditions for the week were in the middle to upper wind strength and the sea state kicked up a decent swell to provide fantastic conditions for some high octane racing.

The early leader was Patrizio Bertelli’s, Luna Rossa with his America’s Cup crew including Torben Grael but the Italian team fell away during the windward leeward racing. Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo held top spot for most of the regatta, the New Zealand owner had Triple Olympic Gold medalist, Ben Ainslie in the afterguard and the star studded crew were a class act. On the penultimate day, Niklas Zennström’s Rán was unstoppable scoring two bullets on the windward leeward courses and overtaking Alfa Romeo, to lead the Mini Maxis for the first time in the regatta.

Saturday saw the final race of the series, a windward leeward course of three laps with a short spreader leg and a leeward gate. At midday, a perfect breeze of about 12 knots was blowing from the north east, as the eight highly impressive Mini Maxis jostled for position in the pre-start. The scene was set for a dramatic conclusion to the ‘Champion’s League’ of yacht racing. Going into the last race, anyone of the top three yachts could win the overall title. Niklas Zennström’s Rán, Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo and Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente were all in with a chance of lifting one of the most sought after prizes in world yachting..

In the pre-start, the atmosphere was tense, the crews on all eight Mini Maxi’s hit the rail, at maximum hike, fully powered up, heading for the line. Rán, Alfa Romeo and Bella Mente chose the left hand side of the course. Rán had shown impressive speed upwind all week and the Judel Vrolijk designed 72 ft carbon flier pulled ahead. In clean air, Rán extended and was well clear at the top mark. A text book bare-away set and the massive spinnaker on Rán exploded into action, sending the boat downwind. Bella Mente was not far behind and had engaged Alfa Romeo into a tacking duel sailing her left and outside the layline.

On Rán the crew were working the puffs downwind, taking off on the surf. One electric gybe and Zennström’s crew were bang on the course, barreling towards the bottom gate. The round up was executed with expert precision, as Rán went right looking for more pressure away from land. Alfa Romeo had a good downwind leg, passing Bella Mente and closed on Rán and decided to take the left mark of the leeward gate. The breeze picked up a notch and started to clock right, favouring Rán’s chosen side and the sleek grey hull started to pull away. Rán tacked to cover Alfa Romeo from in front and when they altered course onto the same tack, the enormous lead enjoyed by Rán became all too apparent. Minutes ahead at the top mark, Rán nailed another inch perfect hoist at the spreader and took off. The breeze had clocked right , causing the race officer to move the top mark. The only thing that was going to stop Rán running away with a win was a massive wind shift but it didn’t come. The afterguard on Rán kept a close eye on the opposition in their wake

Rán blasted through the line with their gossamer white spinnaker up and the crew punched the air with delight. Eight Mini Maxi’s had come to Sardinia to contest a major championship. They had come out on top in a world class line up of eight boats from the best sailing nations in the world and the elation on board was evident as Skipper Tim Powell and owner Niklas Zennström soaked the crew with champagne.

“Coming from behind to win finishing the series with three bullets in a row was very satisfying.” Beamed a delighted Niklas Zennström, “The Mini Maxi Class is a very competitive fleet and we were pushed very hard. Winning here has been absolutely fantastic and I must praise the entire Rán team on a terrific job, they gave their all. We have been together for a while now and that is definitely a big part of our success. We are a happy team that work together to produce the results. Whilst the sailing team have performed to a very high standard, the work of the shore team is just as important, especially when we had a few minor breakages in the big breeze on the first couple of days.”

Tim Powell was understandably proud of what Team Rán has accomplished. “The coastal racing at the start of the series with very little upwind racing didn’t favour our boat and a few breakages in the big conditions, effected our performance. Although we won it on the last race, perhaps the decisive moment was in the very first race; in four metre swell and over 25 knots of breeze, a tack fitting failed to stand up to the shock load as we came off a wave and backstay issue had us in trouble but we managed to fight our way back to take fourth place. We had a fair bit of ground to make up after a bad start but we always backed ourselves and we are very confident of the boat, especially on the windward leeward courses. Winning here is very special, something that the whole team will remember for the rest of our lives.’”

Team Rán: Niklas Zennström, Catherine Zennström, Tim Powell, Steve Hayles, Adrian Stead, Jeremy Robinson, Thierry Peponet, Richard Clampett, Richard Bouzaid, Dick Meacham, Jonathan Taylor, Matteo Aguardo, Mo Gray, Gareth Bainbridge, Guy Reid, Scott Crawford, Chris Dougall, Anthony Haines, Andrew Hemmings, Lou Varney, James Stagg, Freddy Shanks, Troy Kennedy, Neil Crutcher, Keith Glynn, Tom Buggy, Clare Hancock, Stephanie Ralston.

After a night of celebration, Team Rán were back at work preparing themselves and the boat for the next regatta; Les Voiles de St Tropez from the 26th September to the 4th October.

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