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Defying Covid-19, Two Major Sailing Yacht Races Go Forward in Italy

The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and Rolex Swan Cup will both take place, with fewer teams. "We're doing this for our sport," said one participant.

Nautor's Swan Studio Borlenghi

As with just about every other organized sport, Covid-19 wiped out most of the 2020 maxi-yacht racing season. Despite that, two major sailing yacht races will take place in Italy at the end of this month and into September. The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup will take place from August 30 to September 4. The Rolex Swan Cup will happen Sept. 5 to 13. Both events are being organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.

The 31st edition of the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is expected to be a smaller version of previous events, according to organizers, without the pre- and post-race social events that have defined it in the past.

“With the requirement to obey Covid-19 avoidance measures, crews will typically remain in their ‘bubbles’ from villa to yacht with virtually no wider interaction,” said Andrew McIrvine, IMA’s secretary general. “The racing will still be good. We have made special provisions for reduced crew numbers with extra adjustments of time correction for yachts taking that option.”

Rolex Maxi Cup

The large sailing yachts are ideal for practicing social distancing with smaller crews.  Studio Borlenghi

Twenty yachts have signed up for this year’s event, including the recently launched 142-ft. Canova, the 100-ft. super sailing vessels Leopard 3 and Adalberto and multiple 60-footers. But this year’s event will have fewer of the largest yachts, including many 100- and 72-footers, because international crews are prohibited from traveling to Italy or quarantines make it impractical to participate.

A day after the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup concludes, the Rolex Swan Cup will take place. Organizers said that more than 60 Nautor’s Swan yachts will participate across seven classes. Many of the Swans will also race in the Maxi Yacht event. Nautor’s Swan said its brand-new Swan 98 would participate in the event.


Alex Schaerer is one of the sailors who will be campaigning his Swan 90 Strathisla in both events. “This year the old wisdom that to participate is way more important than to win is truer than ever,” said Schaerer. “We think for Italy this makes an important statement that events like the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup are back. We are doing this for the beauty of our sport and for Sardinia.”


While the events will be much smaller this year because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, one yacht owner said he wanted to show that “things are gradually returning to normal.” 

“We doubted we could come, but when we heard the race was still on, we confirmed our participation,” added Luigi Sala, who will be sailing the 62 Yoru in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. “We wanted to help set an example, to show that things are gradually returning to normal. Yoru has a motto which is, ‘always do your most without expecting anything in return.’”

“Despite all the logistical difficulties associated with Covid-19, we are delighted and encouraged that so many owners have overcome them to support this flagship event,” says McIrvine.

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