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Spirit of Portopiccolo - Ca’ Sagredo: second maxi victory in Venice

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Venice Hospitality Challenge 2018
Venice Hospitality Challenge 2018

There are a few places in the world where maxi yachts truly ‘belong’ – Porto Cervo, St Tropez, St Barts, Newport, etc. Today Venice provided a firm reminder of why it too is on this exclusive list, when 12 maxis competed on the St Marco Basin at the annual Venice Hospitality Challenge.


This weekend’s event, the fifth edition of the Venice Hospitality Challenge, was supported by the International Maxi Association, the officially-recognised body that oversees and promotes maxi boat racing globally. The event ties together maxi boat racing with Venice’s world-famous hotels, such as the Gritti Palace, Cipriani and Hotel Danieli.

Eleven of the maxis entered this year were each backed by a hotel:

Spirit of Portopiccolo - Ca’ Sagredo: second maxi victory in Venice
Spirit of Portopiccolo - Ca’ Sagredo: second maxi victory in Venice

The twelfth was Viriella, the Maxi Dolphin 118 of IMA member Vittorio Moretti, which was backed by the city of Venice while flying the flag for both the International Maxi Association and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s One Ocean Foundation.

Today’s race took place in light 4-6 knots winds, the fleet divided into two classes, according to their size.

The bigger class was won by Spirit of Portopiccolo. Impressively this maxZ86 canting keel racer, once Dr Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory, for a second year running won not only the Venice Hospitality Challenge, but also the Barcolana the week before in Trieste.

Supported by the Ca’ Sagredo hotel, located on Venice’s Grand Canal, Spirit of Portopiccolo won the Venice Hospitality Challenge’s ‘Doge Hat’ trophy, crafted in glass by leading Murano artisan F. B. Signoretti.

Maxi fleet takes to the St Marco Basin for the 2018 Venice Hospitality Challenge. Photo: Matteo Bertolin

Tactician on board, Furio Benussi, said: “The team is very proud of today's result. This is a very important project and we are improving every year thanks to special people within the team. Racing in Venice is unique. I am sorry my brother Gabriele could not join us today, but, even so, we had a very exciting tacking duel with Way of Life...”

Way of Life and Anemos picked up the remaining places on the Class One podium.

Way of Life’s tactician was Slovenian Olympic Finn sailor Gašper Vinčec, who observed: "Racing in Venice is some how romantic, not just exciting! This may have been a short race, but we worked a lot with the keel and we hoisted the gennaker at least three times. Our start was not very good, but at the end we had very good match race with Portopiccolo.”

Partnered with Way of Life was The Gritti Palace. Manager Paolo Lorenzoni said: "I am very pleased the Way of Life team have represented the Gritti Palace for the last three years. My dream would be to see ten important yacht clubs joining our hotels next year, also twinning themselves with maxi yachts."

In the smaller class Pendragon VI won ahead of Any Wave. The remaining maxis were unable to complete the course in the allocated time. Sadly Viriella was among them, as owner Vittorio Moretti explained: "Viriella is a big heavy boat, so in light winds we weren’t expected a terrific result."

On board Viriella today was Yacht Club Costa Smeralda Commodore Riccardo Bonadeo and Italian sailing legend Mauro Pelaschier, there to promote the YCCS’ One Ocean environmental sustainability project.

While the Venice Hospitality Challenge has helped to put Serenissima/the City of Canals back on the maxi boat community’s map, the tie with the International Maxi Association goes back much longer.

Italian corporate titan Raul Gardini based his Il Moro di Venezia challenge for the 1992 America’s Cup here. While best known for winning the 1992 Louis Vuitton Cup and lining up against the US defender in the America’s Cup, Gardini was also a keen maxi boat racer and back in 1980 had been a founder member of the International Maxi Association.

In 1990, the first of Gardini's IACC yachts was launched, spectacularly surrounded by gondolas in Venice, where he also based his challenge out of the Magazzini del Sale (salt store). Appropriately this was the venue for today’s briefing.

Mirko Sguario, President of Yacht Club Venezia, noted: “I conceived this event some six years ago. First of all I proposed the idea to Paolo Lorenzoni [Manager of the Gritti Palace] and then he called the managers of each of the 5-Star hotels in Venice. And here we are: With 12 magnificent boats and a unique race course, with the help of local authorities. The briefing this morning was held where Raul Gardini first dreamed of the presence of Venice in the maxi boat sailing world. That place is, for those of us from Venice, a kind of temple to sailing. I am so proud to see such talented crews gathered here today."

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