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Maxi Class to join the fun at 2024 ORC World Championship

oaked into the floorboards of this town’s saltier watering holes are stories from the 1980s and 1990s when the globe-trotting Maxi class would regularly call into the quaint New England port to contest a major championship.

Bend an ear into a swampy southwesterly seabreeze, the grey beards will say, and you can still hear echoes of wire sheets and overtaxed aluminum rigs straining to hold back spinnakers the size of circus tents.

“The last Maxi worlds I did was in 1987,” says Art Santry. “I skipped my business school graduation and sailed on Cannonball. Back then you had eight of them, the crews were big, and it was a lot of fun. Late summer was a great time of year to do it because the town was a little quieter and you could take over Thames Street. Watching those boats go through the water, it was unbelievable. When you were on one and crossing tacks, it was like ‘Whoa, don’t get too close.'”

While an octet of 80-footers is unlikely to once again furrow the waters off Newport, Santry is expecting at least a handful of 60- to 80-footers to join his 66-foot Temptation Oakcliff Sailing in the just announced Maxi Class at the 2024 ORC World Championship, scheduled for September 27 to October 5 out of the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court in Newport, R.I. The Maxis will be contesting a North American title, unlike the world crown on offer for the four other classes, and will sail buoy and coastal races, eschewing the opening overnight contest. But the majesty of these yachts—now imbued with remarkable performance in all wind conditions—will make this new group the belle of the ball.

“You’re going upwind at 11.8 knots and downwind at 20-plus,” says Santry. “It’s outrageous. You can’t believe how fast these things go. Our boat has twice the sail area and little bit less displacement than the Frers 57 my family bult 40 years ago. And she was a fast boat at the time. It’s pretty spectacular.”

Since 1969, the Offshore Racing Congress has been a world leader in providing a scientific and transparent rating system used to create fair racing among a broad variety of boat types, from sportboats to superyachts. Since 1999, ORC has organized annual ORC World Championships and other inshore and offshore racing events sanctioned by World Sailing, with recent events attracting over 100 entries from dozens of countries around the world. The 2024 ORC World Championship will be held in Newport, R.I., and hosted by the New York Yacht Club. Registration and measurement starts on September 27, with racing kicking off on Monday, September 30, and finishing on Saturday, October 5. The ORC World Championship is sponsored by Helly Hansen and Peters & May.

See current entry list

The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, Italy, hosts an annual world championship for the Maxi class and has become the place where sailing’s biggest and most advanced craft go to test their mettle. But there are large boats in many other parts of the world and the inclusion of a Maxi class in the first ORC World Championship in the United States in nearly a quarter century fits right into the class’ efforts to broaden its base.

“It is good to see a new stimulus for Maxi competition in North America, once the home of many classic maxis,” says Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General for the International Maxi Association. “More recently there have been strong and growing fleets in Europe, and some in Australia.”

Likewise, the Offshore Racing Congress, which has traditionally capped the ORC Worlds at boats just over 50 feet, is excited to see these ocean thoroughbreds competing alongside the smaller, but more popular, classes that will make up the bulk of the 60 to 80 entries expected for the 2024 edition.

“We’re excited that the worlds event will also have this new Maxi class,” said Bruno Finzi, Chairman of ORC. “We are ready to help showcase use of our system of rating and scoring tools to help create fair racing among these exceptional yachts.”

In addition to Temptation Oakcliff Sailing, the 74-foot Foggy, co-skippered by New York Yacht Club Commodore Jay Cross and Richard Cohen, has confirmed it will enter the Maxi class. Foggy was drawn by the legendary yacht designer Germán Frers, with stylistic input from architect Frank Gehry. It’s a work of art as much as it is a race boat. But the beautiful wood exterior obscures a carbon core that makes it something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

“We believe a world big-boat championship is always more fun with the Maxis,” says Cross. “We are looking forward to hosting North America’s maxis in Newport this fall.”

Measurement for the 2024 ORC Worlds will start on Friday, September 27. The first race, an overnight race of roughly 36 hours in duration will kick off the competition on Monday, September 30. The remainder of the regatta will include three days of buoy racing and one day of coastal point-to-point racing. The Maxis will not compete in the overnight race, sailing coastal or buoy races on the opening two days.

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