Rust Off training for the Maxi Regatta

Store a sharp blade for a year and it may rust. The same goes for professional and highly qualified sailing teams. While they train an...


Store a sharp blade for a year and it may rust. The same goes for professional and highly qualified sailing teams.

While they train and run regularly, the pandemic has forced many teams into hibernation. For some, this break ends with the start of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, which will be hosted by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Sardinia from September 5 to 11.

The catch, however, is that racing large, powerful yachts in close proximity to each other and through rock-strewn waters is not straightforward. Do it well and it is beautiful; botch things and the boat risks generating costly splinters. So being rusty is not an option.

Preparing for a maxi-yacht race requires working on the choreography of the crew, regaining confidence and courage, job-specific skills and physical strength.

This is especially important aboard the J-Class yachts, which are approximately 120 to 143 feet in length and represent some of the larger yachts participating in this year’s regatta. Preparing to face them in an international regatta after more than a year of pandemic-induced downtime is not easy.

“J boats are extremely difficult to drive and maneuver, and it will certainly take me several days to regain comfort and confidence after such a long hiatus,” said Peter. Holmberg, Olympic silver medalist and coxswain of the 140-foot J-class yacht Topaz, which has not raced since the Superyacht Challenge Antigua in March 2020.

“But after thousands of hours of driving boats, I expect to be back in race mode after the workout and before the race.”

The 130-foot J-class yacht Velsheda, who will compete in the Maxi Yacht, also raced for the last time in the Antigua Regatta.

“The level of competition will be higher than ever,” said Barnaby Henshaw-Depledge, captain of the Velsheda, whose core crew have been racing aboard the yacht for almost 20 years. He added that they would first “slow down” during the regatta due to the downtime last year. “As the confidence returns, I’m sure we’ll go back to our usual mode.”

For Hap Fauth, owner and coxswain of the Maxi 72 Bella mente, the usual mode is intensive training.

“Over the past 10 years, we have made the discipline part of the program,” he said. Fauth said the team traveled overseas with three or four 40-foot sea containers, one of which has been turned into a carbon fiber manufacturing store, and 32 people, including a chef.

“We are a lot like a NASCAR team, very self-sufficient,” he said, adding that the team generally budgets a pre-regatta practice day for each scheduled race day. “If you want to do it, do it right.”

The current fourth generation Bella Mente was launched in 2018. “It’s still a new boat, and last year’s Covid lockdown cost us precious development time, so I don’t know how we’re doing. do, “Fauth said.

Growing pains are a part of every new racing yacht, but last year’s canceled season was not helpful.

“We’ll be at 85-90%,” Fauth said, adding that Bella Mente competed in the New York Yacht Club’s annual regatta and Block Island Race Week, both in June, before the boat was shipped to the United States. Europe. “Will we be perfect? No, but there will be no penalizing errors.

Others describe similar schedules.

“We will do two training sessions before the regatta”, Holmberg noted. The first Topaz session involved testing the yacht’s sails, systems and recent modifications with a small crew.

He said the entire team then arrived in Sardinia for five days of training. “Development [was] both on speed and maneuvering, ”he said.

While it was impossible to sail on a J-Class yacht with its 25 to 30-person crew and remain socially distanced, some sailors remained active.

Fauth was one of the principal who funded the American Magic team at the New York Yacht Club to fight for the 36th America’s Cup, in New Zealand in March. The team failed, but the race provided training opportunities. “Six guys on the Bella crew of 22 came from American Magic,” said Fauth, adding that two of those six had previously raced aboard Bella Mente.

While time on the water matters a lot, “it would be presumptuous to place us with or without an advantage,” he said of the crew’s experience on American Magic. “We were here before American Magic, and we’ll be here after them. We’re a whole different agenda.

Luc Foltzer, the captain of @robas, a Swan 601 who, at 60 feet, is one of the smallest entries in the regatta, said the interruption of the race did not have much of an impact on the race. ‘crew. “We usually plan a few days of training before the regatta,” he said, adding that @robas would only sail with seasoned veterans.

While Topaz and Velsheda will welcome a few new faces to their crews, both teams have the budget, the technology and the culture to effectively jumpstart their programs.

“We place great importance on doing full regatta debriefings and recording all of our lessons learned after each regatta,” said Holmberg. “It allows us to pick up where we left off and not have to relearn routines, settings and lessons. “

Another smart strategy involves careful checking.

“We have held all positions with world class sailors, many of whom have sailed with us before. [or] sailed with our long-term race crew, ”said Henshaw-Depledge, adding that his job was to make sure Velsheda finished the regatta without damage or injury,“ and hopefully gets a good result. “

The protection of bodies and boats is vital. “Absolutely there will be rust and safety issues from some competitors who don’t train enough after such a long hiatus,” said Holmberg. “We will certainly sail with an additional level of awareness whenever we are near other boats.”

Other than the rust, the crews are working hard to prepare. “Our ground crew works through the night,” said Fauth, describing their nightly efforts to make sure Bella Mente is always competitive. “It’s a 24 hour program. But if you do that, that’s what you need to do to run in all conditions and keep Bella on the water.

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