Despite their size and complexity, these yachts are raced with great skill and determination, often within metres of each other, as seen here at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Porto Cervo. ©Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
Not so long ago the boats raced at these events were predominately very much cruising yachts that simply wanted to enjoy some friendly competition during a season spent in the Mediterranean or Caribbean. To some extent that’s still the case, for instance some events have more than half a dozen 80+ foot Oysters on the entry list, albeit some of them with Olympic stars shipped on board for the racing.
Nevertheless, there’s now also a growing demand for enormous dual-purpose performance cruising yachts that can be converted to racing machines for these events. For a few years these yachts appeared to be becoming ever larger, with some of the latest launches more than 60m (200ft) in length and each successive generation pushing the boundaries of both technology and existing sailing skills.
Stunning locations – this is part of the Costa Smeralda near Porto Cervo – is a big part of the attraction. ©Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
Approaching a mark rounding with a yacht of that size fully powered up is an awesome experience, but with plenty of potential for something to go badly wrong. The current trend, however, appears to be for a consensus towards a sweet spot at around 120ft, that still provides incredible power married to sumptuous accommodation, but is also small enough to give a more direct feel of the boat.
The growth in popularity of such regattas has undoubtedly changed the nature of superyachting for many owners, with these events providing a rich social scene in addition to the contest afloat. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, for a group of highly competitive people, as superyacht owners tend to be, the prizes are almost unbelievably modest. The clearest example of this is surely found in one of the earliest popular superyacht regattas, the Barth’s Bucket, the main prize for which is, as the name suggests, a beaten up old metal bucket.
The boats are always an awe-inspring sight when racing. ©Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi