Following on from their multi-event Mediterranean Inshore and Offshore Challenges, the International Maxi Association (IMA) is to hold its first series in the Caribbean in 2022. The IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge is open to all maxi yachts of 60+ft LOA. Backed by Rolex, the IMA is officially tasked by the sport’s governing body, World Sailing, to oversee and develop maxi yacht racing internationally.
Following the RORC-IMA Transatlantic Race which sets sail from Puerto Calero, Lanzarote in the Canary Islands on 8 January 2022, bound for Camper & Nicholsons Port Louis Marina in Grenada, the IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge will comprise four events, one offshore and three inshore.
Benoît de Froidmont, President of the IMA, who has pushed for the new circuit, explains: “Like our two IMA Challenges in the Mediterranean, the IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge aims to encourage maxi owners to visit the Caribbean and compete within a more formalised structure. Being part of the IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge is good for the individual events too because it acts an endorsement which helps encourage maxi yacht owners to participate. We hope this will be a positive step to help our event partners bounce back from the pandemic.”International Maxi Association launches new Caribbean maxi circuit
The IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge starts with the RORC Caribbean 600 on 21st February from Antigua, where it also finishes. The course winds between 11 Caribbean islands, as far north as St Maarten and south to Guadeloupe, including Barbuda, Nevis, St Kitts, Saba and St Barths. The present monohull race record was established by George David’s Rambler 88 in 2018 with a time of 37 hours 41 minutes 45 seconds.
“From the outset of the RORC Caribbean 600, maxi yachts have formed the backbone of the Caribbean 600,” says RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone. “In fact they seem to be the perfect size to do the course as they can perhaps handle the waves better and can keep going in light parts, such as in the lee of Guadeloupe. We welcome all IMA yachts to our race.”
In the 11 editions of the race held to date, maxi yachts (ie yachts of 60+ft) have won nine outright under IRC corrected time and have claimed monohull line honours in all. IRC Overall winning maxis have included Hap Fauth’s Bella Mentes twice, George Sakellaris’ Proteus and Shockwave Maxi 72s, two of George David’s Ramblers, Niklas Zennström’s Rán II, Karl Kwok’s Beau Geste and finally in 2019 the Askew brothers’ VO70 Wizard.
From Antigua, the maxis will head northwest to St. Maarten Heineken Regatta taking place over 3-6 March. Michele Korteweg, General Manager of The Sint Maarten Yacht Club, commented. “I am thrilled to see the IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge taking place in 2022!
“The St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is very proud to be listed as one of the events on the IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge. Our Race Committee will be accommodating the maxis with exciting and interesting courses, suitable for the variety of maxis that will be making their way across this season. Of course our onshore crew is ready to assist with preparations, providing information with regards to logistics, entry protocols, docking, etc. The island is waiting in anticipation for the comeback of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and of the sailors who bring with them all that fantastic, positive energy and all of those Regatta fans.”
From St Maarten it is a short jump to Les Voiles de St Barth Richard Mille, taking place over 17-23 April. This comprises five days of racing for maxis under IRC on a variety of coastal courses around the paradise French island, plus a strong social program including concerts every evening, a Crew Party and a layday.
Organisers François Tolède and Luc Poupon welcome the maxi fleet: “Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille is delighted to be a featured event for the new IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge. What a wonderful new element of competition to showcase the beauty and excitement of racing in the Caribbean. We look forward to welcoming all competitors and friends – new and returning – to the island of St. Barthélemy in April 2022.
“Our special island and regatta are well known for combining legendary hospitality, and a festive and friendly atmosphere on land, with a premier professional regatta that delivers intense competition on the water. We look forward to seeing you over 17 – 23 April!”
Finally there is the event that is the oldest, original Caribbean regatta – Antigua Sailing Week. This takes place over 30 April to 6 May, the final race week of the season. During this, racing will be on a variety of courses, determined by the size of boats competing and the weather conditions with the aim of racing lasting for three to four hours daily.
“We are looking forward to working with the IMA to create challenging and exciting races in our near perfect racing conditions off the southeast coast of Antigua and seeing the Maxis back on the stage at our final prize-giving,” says Alison Sly-Adams, President and Commercial Director of Antigua Sailing Week.
Michele Korteweg, President of the Caribbean Sailing Association concluded: “We are looking forward to hearing from the boat owners, managers and crew to see how we can make this IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge an unforgettable experience for all, so we can further develop this in upcoming years.”
Well known professional sailor Peter Holmberg, a former CSA President and St Thomas, US Virgin Islands native, added: “This is a great idea. We have been talking about that for years. It is nice of the IMA to come in and spark it off and make more of it. The Caribbean is back on its feet now, we didn’t get smashed this year. The Caribbean Maxi Challenge includes some stellar events, so hopefully with a bit of a spotlight on it, it will entice more maxis to come down and play in the Caribbean.”