Officine Panerai's own Eilean is helmed in competition by New Zealand sailing legend and five-time America's Cup winner Russell Coutts
Thursday, September 15, 2016 2:57 PM
Moonbeam IV (Big Boats), Chinook (Vintage Yachts), Il Moro di Venezia I (Classic Yachts) and Kookaburra III (Spirit of Tradition) emerged as the winners of the coveted Panerai watches at the 19th Vele d’Epoca di Imperia, which finished on September 11 at Imperia (Italy). The fleet competing in the third Mediterranean round of the 2016 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge raced over a mix of coastal and triangular courses in superbly sunny weather and winds of around 15 knots.
The extraordinarily spectacular sight afforded by the 70 participating boats attracted not just thousands of sailing professionals and enthusiasts but also one very special guest: New Zealand yachtsman Russell Coutts who was in Toulon for the America’s Cup World Series but made the trip to Imperia to compete aboard Eilean, Officine Panerai’s own 1936 yacht. Coutts, who won gold in the 1984 Olympics and is a five-time America’s Cup winner, is one of the living legends of international sailing. However, Imperia was the first time he had helmed a vintage craft in competition, something he did with great success as Eilean took one second and two firsts in her category in her three races.
That said, the main attraction remained, of course, the yachts themselves, particularly the winners in the various categories. The 1914 gaff cutter Moonbeam IV, winner
also of the prize for the most elegant yacht, clashed
with other high profile Big Boats such as Moonbeam of Fife (1903) and Hallowe’en (1926). All were built by the legendary Fife shipyard in Scotland.
Very fittingly given that this is the centenary of her launch, the gaff cutter Chinook, one of just four New York 40s still afloat, continued her winning streak at Imperia where she took one first and two second-place day finishes in the Vintage class.
With three out of three victories in her races, the historic German Frers-penned 20.41-metre Italian yacht, Il Moro di Venezia I, took the honours in the Classic Yachts category. Launched in 1976, and owned and skippered by Massimiliano Ferruzzi, the Bermudan sloop previously won the prestigious Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge in both 2013 and 2015.
Another three-out-of-three was delivered in the Spirit of Tradition by the 1986 International 12-Metre Kookaburra III, the Australian defender in the 26th America’s Cup in 1987. An excellent result for the 20-metre aluminium racer, which only debuted in the Panerai regattas last year.
The Vele d’Epoca di Imperia also attracted several other yachts of great historic value for the first time this year, not least Spartan, a 22-metre gaff sloop built at the Herreshoff yard in the US in 1913. Cargo-shipped from Newport to the Mediterranean just a few months back, she is the only surviving New York 50. Java (1938), on the other hand, was the first Concordia Yawl ever built, ushering in a series that ran to more than 100 examples over the next decade. Java too was cargo-shipped from New Jersey to Italy to compete in the vintage class.
The Vele d’Epoca di Imperia fleet was split into 10 subcategories. The winners of the various groupings were as follows: Moonbeam IV (Big Boat), Chinook (Vintage Gaff), Leonore (Vintage Marconi 1), Rowdy (Vintage Marconi 2), Eilean (Vintage Marconi 3), Namib (Classic 1), Giraldilla (Classic 2), Huna II (Classic 3), Il Moro di Venezia I (Modern Classic), Kookaburra III (Spirit of Tradition).
The fourth and final round on the 2016 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge Mediterranean Circuit is being held in France between September 18 and 25 at the 38th Régates Royales de Cannes, during which the overall 2016 Panerai Trophy season winners will be presented with their prizes.