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Around 242 yachts, including eight in the ‘IRC Over 60’ maxi class and three more maxis in the ORC class, will set sail today at 1400 from Livorno to Punta Ala on the 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar. This event is the fourth in the International Maxi Association’s 2023-24 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge, which began with last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race and will conclude with August’s Palermo-Montecarlo.

With a powerful unseasonal westerly Mistral blowing, this year’s 15th edition will be very different to last year’s ultra-light affair. Due to the strong forecast, plus the requirement to avoid a new traffic separation scheme off northeast Corsica, the race’s organising clubs – Yacht Club Repubblica Marinara di Pisa, Yacht Club Punta Ala and Yacht Club Livorno – are sending competitors on a revised course.

Roberto Lacorte (left), Alessio Razeto and Maurits van Oranje in pre-race discussion. Photo: Studio Taccola

Still 151 miles long, this year’s route (right) will avoid the Giraglia rock and instead will pass the islands of Gorgona, Capraia, Pianosa, following a gentle arc from southwest to southeast. This will also avoid the island of Elba with a southerly turning mark now Isola di Montecristo before turning northeast to the usual final mark, Formiche di Grosseto and the last sprint leg north to the Punta Ala finish.
With the strong westerly Mistral, mountainous Corsica is casting a giant wind shadow over the 151 Miglia’s course. Therefore competitors will potentially experience strong headwinds during the first afternoon and evening followed by a shut down between Capraia and Montecristo before they key into a southerly flow from Montecristo to the finish.

Given the above the race record of 13 hours, 50 minutes and 43 seconds, set in 2019 by George David’s Rambler 88, might tumble. Excitingly two boats are capable of this: Furio Benussi’s 100ft ARCA SGR and Roberto Lacorte’s fully foiling 60ft FlyingNikka.

151 Miglia – Trofeo Cetilar registration. Photo: IMA / Studio Taccola

IMA Vice President Lacorte, is the founder of this race and his company is title sponsor. Winning line honours, and setting a new record, would be well deserved after launching his ‘offshore AC75’ two years ago. Continuous develop has recently included revised foil design with new wingtips and an enlargement of the sail area. “We’ve improved a lot, especially in marginal foiling conditions,” says Lacorte.

Routing such a machine in such a forecast is inaccurate but one optimistic run shows FlyingNikka’s race taking as little as 10 hours. But most enjoyable will be watching the line honours race between her and ARCA SGR. “ARCA is a good reference – a big quick boat but she works in different conditions to us,” continues Lacorte. “The mid-part of the race we reckon will be better conditions for ARCA. So we need to gain a good advantage in the first part of the race…”

Line honours favourite, FlyingNikka showing her new wingtips which permit her to take-off in as little as 9 knots of wind. Photo: Studio Taccola

Benussi’s ARCA SGR is a repeat 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar line honours winner and in 2022 scored line and overall honours under IRC (when Lacorte was a guest on board). Benussi agrees that it is likely to be a fast race, but is uncertain of the outcome versus his flying rival: “Above 12-14 knots they are very fast – I think the second part in the light can be good for us. Then, at the end in the southerly, I am not sure we will be the winner.” Ultra-light or in 20+ knots and waves is when Benussi reckons his boat has the upper hand.

In terms of the overall IRC prize, the Mylius 65FD Oscar 3 has finished second in the last two editions but owner Aldo Parisotto is not confident of even repeating that this year thanks to the weather: “I am not relaxed about it, because I don’t want to destroy everything and also because I have a reduced crew. I hope the race committee comes up with a good solution,” he said prior to the race committee announcing their revised course.

The marina off Yacht Club Livorno, where many of the competitors are moored in the build-up to the start. Photo: Studio Taccola

The maxi class sees the welcome return of the del Bono family’s famous 78ft ILC racer Capricorno, winner of the 2022 IMA Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge. This has been sold to Marco Malgara, President of ICE Yachts and his friend and ICE 52 owner Alex Lang from the Cayman Islands.

Oscar 3’s Aldo Parisotto hard at work pre-start. Photo: Studio Taccola

“I wanted a fast boat with history – I didn’t care if it was not built by ICE Yachts,” explained Malgara of his latest acquisition. “This is a different kind of project.” The boat has been renamed Nice, as a nod to his company. “I come from a marketing background and the ICE Yachts brand is very strong all over the world.” ICE is soon to launch a new Farr-designed 66 footer and has an 80 footer in build that is destined for the race course. Nice’s international crew includes former America’s Cup skipper Paolo Cian calling tactics.

Owner Guido Paolo Gamucci on his canting keel Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X is race-fit following last week’s IMA Maxi Europeans. Photo: Studio Taccola

Also returning to the race track is the Wally 80, formerly known as Indio, Inti, Tonemai and Bombarda. This has been acquired by Maurits van Oranje and a friend – the new Sud replaces the Mylius 65 of this name that van Oranje raced only last week at the IMA Maxi European Championship in Sorrento. Currently in cruising mode, the intention is to upgrade Sud over the next seasons. Among her crew is tactician Andrea Casale. Of this year’s conditions the experienced Genovese hand warns: “The wind situation is statistically not common, because it is already summer, so it will be interesting and tough because the biggest part of the fleet – the smaller boats – will be heading west against the wind and the sea.” While the forecast shows as much as 40 knots around the Giraglia rock, with the new course, Casale believes the wind won’t top 20. “It won’t be as tough as it could be, but it will be black and white,” he adds referring to the brisk upwind slog followed by the lull behind Corsica.