Victory in Venice

Maxi Jena has scooped top prize at the 2021 Venice Hospitality Challenge, marking 1,600 years of 'La Serenissima'.

Written by James Boyd/International Maxi Association
Photography by Studio Borlenghi

18 October 2021


The annual Venice Hospital Challenge was won by Maxi Jena, competing around a racecourse set in the magnificent, unique setting of the San Marco and Guidecca canals, with Venice’s famous Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), its Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale as its backdrop.

The event grew a scale larger this year with an increased fleet of 16 maxi yachts.

This was the eighth edition of the event, organised by the Yacht Club Venezia with the support of the International Maxi Association, the officially-recognised body that oversees and promotes maxi yacht racing globally.

The Venice Hospitality Challenge ties together maxi yacht racing with many of Venice’s world-famous hotels, such as the Gritti Palace, Cipriani and Hotel Danieli.


This year it formed part of the celebrations marking the 1,600th birthday of the regal canal city.

The event started with a parade of sail between Saint ‘Elena to just off Piazza San Marco before the race itself set sail at 1355 CEST in 6 to 8 knots of wind from 335°.

With a Race Committee led by Alfredo Ricci and assisted by Gianfranco Frizzarin, Emilia Barbieri and Alina Dix, the course took the boats from the start off Punta della Dogana at the entrance of the Canal Grande to a mark near Saint ‘Elena, back to two marks off Piazza San Marco, then to an offset mark off the Guardia di Finanza before returning to the start line, onto another mark off the Hilton Hotel and from there to the finish.

On the congested start line, it was Maxi Jena – Sina Centurion Palace led by Slovenian skipper Milos Radonjic, that got away cleanest. From here the 80-foot Andrej Justin-design hung on, despite competition from longer potentially faster entries, such as the Furio Benussi-skippered 100-foot Arca SGR, to maintain her lead to the finish line which she crossed after roughly one hour of racing.

Top International Maxi Association yacht  to finish was the Slovenian Reichel/Pugh 87, Way of Life (ex-Morning Glory), skippered by two time Finn Olympian Gašper Vinčec, which came home second behind Maxi Jena. Way of Life was once again representing the Gritti Palace – The Luxury Collection and the hotel’s manager, Paolo Lorenzoni, competing on board.
Vinčec admitted that they had lost out at the start.

“Our approach was not perfect, because there was pressure from all the other maxis, so it was a little bit of a mess. But when we started to sail alone we slowly caught the other boats one by one. It felt romantic, as it always does in Venice!”

The 16 maxis were divided into two classes with the class of smaller maxis won by the Farr 80 Anemos, skippered by Gughi Danelon.

At the prizegiving held at the Zattere, President of the Yacht Club Venezia, Mirko Sguario and the Councilor for Tourism Simone Venturini presented the winners with their trophies in the shape of the Doge’s hat, crafted specially by the historic Ars Cenedese glass factory in Murano.

This year’s Venice Hospitality Challenge was attended by International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont.

At the prizegiving Mirko Sguario appointed de Froidmont as an Ambassador for the Venice Hospitality Challenge, along with double Olympic 49erFX gold medallist Martine Grael and Italian Ruggero Tita, the Nacra 17 gold medallist from Tokyo 2020.

The gala dinner for the Venice Hospitality Challenge was hosted by the Hilton Molino Stucky.

Among the 16 entries were the America’s Cup challenge Il Moro di Venezia and the 1993 Whitbread Round the World Race winner New Zealand Endeavor representing the City of Venice and the Francesco Morosini Military Naval School respectively.

Venice Hospitality Challenge 2021 – Final podia

Class 1
1 Maxi Jena – Sina Centurion Palace
2 Way of Life – The Gritti Palace
3 Arca SGR – Ca ‘Sagredo

Class 2
1 Anemos – JW Marriott
2 Bamar Ancilla – Hotel Excelsior
3 Kiwi – Londra Palace

Hotels participating in the Venice Hospitality Challenge 2021: Bauer Palazzo, Ca ‘di Dio VRetreats, Ca’ Sagredo Hôtel, SINA Centurion Palace, Hôtel Cipriani, Hôtel Danieli a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hôtel Excelsior Venice Lido Resort, The Gritti Palace a Luxury Collection Hotel Venice, Hilton Molino Stucky Venice, Hotel Londra Palace, JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, Palazzina and The St. Regis Venice and Alajmo Ristorante Quadri.

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