The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 2018 will pitch some of the world’s most imposing yachts in close competition. First held in 1980, the 29th edition will this year feature some 44 yachts, ranging in size from just over 18 metres (60 feet) all the way up to some 44 metres (144 feet).

The crews commanding this impressive fleet will be of the highest calibre, exhibiting the requisite dedication, skill and finesse to manoeuvre powerful craft in the heat of a contest that will unfold on the spectacular waters of the Costa Smeralda from 2 – 8 September.

Organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and the International Maxi Association, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is the second longest-running event in the Rolex yachting portfolio, and a pivotal part of the brand’s six-decade-long association with the sport of yachting. Rolex has been a partner of the YCCS since 1984 and Title Sponsor of this regatta since 1985. As expected, the organization behind this event is top-class. Yachts of this size and quality demand the very best in race management. The YCCS team, led by Peter Craig, invariably delivers on this need, making the most of the Maddalena Archipelago and the prevailing winds to offer competitors challenging racing against one of the finest backdrops in the sport.

The return of the J Class will offer a seamless marriage between tradition and innovation. Two of the Js competing are new builds, featuring the latest construction techniques and sail technology, but based on original 1930s designs that reflect the passion within the yachting community to retain ties with the past through modern day interpretations. In the heyday of the J Class, the permanent crew would have been around 16, increased to 30 for racing. Today’s technology means the permanent-crew requirements are now far less, while the competition crew remains similar in size. The biggest of the three Js entered is Svea at 43.6m (143 feet), with Topaz just under a metre shorter at 42.7m (140 feet). Velsheda is not just the smallest at 39.65m (130 feet), but she is also the oldest and considered a bona fide original.

Launched in 1933, Velsheda was named after commissioning owner, W. L. Stephenson’s three daughters – Velma, Sheila and Daphne. At that time, she represented the most advanced technical design for spars, rigging, sails, deck-gear and sheets (ropes), and introduced features that are still used on yachts today: winches, rod-rigging and halyards running inside the mast are but a few examples.

Svea, Topaz and Velsheda will race in the Supermaxi division, open to boats measuring in excess of 30.5m (100 feet). They will be joined by two other yachts: the 39.65m (130 foot) My Song, for her first Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, as well as the perennial campaigner, the 36m (118 foot) Viriella.

The six participating Wally yachts offer a contrast in length, weight and crew size to the J Class, but their influence on trends and developments in the sailing world is arguably just as important. Widely regarded as having revolutionized design-thinking and construction techniques for large sailing vessels in the mid to late 1990s, Wally yachts offer high-performance sailing. With elegant lines and sophisticated, luxurious interiors, they are both innovative and captivating. One of the latest examples is Tango, launched in 2017. A Wallycento design, her latest generation hull lines and structural engineering have helped reduce displacement and improve stiffness. At 30.48m (100 feet) in length, she is much smaller than a J Class. Her displacement is also significantly lighter: 47.5 tonnes compared to the 175 tonnes of Topaz. This year marks Tango’s debut at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.

The Wally fleet is enhanced by the presence of two other 30.48m (100 foot) Wallycentos: Magic Carpet Cubed, a class winner at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in 2014, is joined by Galateia, a winner in 2017. With similar performance profiles, and as demonstrated at the recent Rolex Giraglia, the three Wallycentos should provide some of the most exciting competition of the week.

The largest class of competing yachts will be the Mini Maxis, measuring between 18 and 24 metres (60 – 80 feet). The class will be divided into two principal divisions: Rolex Maxi 72 World Championship and Racing/Cruising. The Rolex Maxi 72 Worlds will showcase six all-carbon stripped-out racing machines. Offering no shred of comfort below deck, these yachts deliver grand prix design and racing technology to their helmsman-owners, who are supported by an entirely professional crew.

The remaining entrants fall into the Maxi division, open to yachts between 24 metres and 30.5 metres (80 – 100 feet), such as Rambler, the canting-keeled line honours winner at the 2017 Rolex Fastnet, first finisher at the last three Rolex Middle Sea Races, and overall winner of the 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 where Rolex is again the official timepiece.

Befitting its standing in the world of yachting, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will look after its participants on both the sea and shore. The first-class social programme, including the Rolex Gala Dinner and Final Prize giving, offers an opportunity to reflect on the week and the sailing industry at large. And, after five days of intense competition, the individual class winners will be justly rewarded for their triumph with Rolex timepieces, a recognized emblem of excellence.