Swans embrace the challenge of the Rolex Giraglia
Saturday, June 15, 2019 7:09 PM
The Rolex Giraglia is one of the Mediterranean’s oldest and most loved events. It has evolved continually since its launch in 1953. 2019 marked the 67th edition. With 291 boats competing across all the component parts of this varied and spirited contest, and 243 of them taking part in the offshore race, it is an event in rude health. It is an unmissable fixture for committed racers. And, it is with this background that Nautor’s Swan has chosen to include the regatta in its Swan One Design circuit – The Nations Trophy Mediterranean League – and to encourage non-one design Swans to participate by putting up trophies for the best performing yachts of the marque.
2019 has proved a bumper year for Nautor’s Swan. The conclusion of a highly successful three days of inshore racing off Saint-Tropez, showing the short-course prowess of the Finnish brand, saw 22 yachts compete under Swan One Design and 18 boats in the handicap divisions. Last, but not least, the results in the offshore race to Monaco, where 24 Swans took part, have proved that today’s models remain true to the historic DNA of Nautor’s Swan. Ocean-going racehorses, wolves in sheep’s clothing, performance cruisers of the highest order.
“The Rolex Giraglia is the perfect fit for our strategy,” says Giovanni Pomati, the Nautor’s Swan Group CEO. “We decided some years ago to focus our business on different divisions all linked to performance, seaworthiness, elegance. The Rolex Giraglia offers the possibility for all our owners interested in racing to compete in either one design or under handicap, both inshore and offshore.”
“It has been great to see our owners sharing their enthusiasm for the sport with their friends and competitors throughout the event, no matter what boat they are sailing upon,” continued Mr. Pomati. “The Rolex Giraglia is a true festival in this respect.”
Mr. Pomati was also keen to stress the importance of events like the Rolex Giraglia within the wider Swan world. “Nautor’s Swan is more than just a pure boat builder,” he advises. “We are one of the only yards that designs, develops and offers circuits to our owners that mix top events like the Rolex Giraglia and Copa del Rey Mapfre with exclusive regattas like Scarlino and Monaco Swan One Design.”
“Our aim is to provide a top-level experience for both the owners and sailors of the one design fleet and to those of our performance-cruiser boats who wish to race. Events like the Giraglia help bring the whole Swan family together, which is positive for everyone involved.”
For some owners, the experience has been unsurpassed and unexpected in terms of reward, particularly the offshore race. August Schram, winner of the ORC Division overall with his ClubSwan 50, Stella Maris, entered with few expectations at all: “We started this campaign less than a year ago at the Copa del Rey and in under a year we have won a major race which is way above anything we could have imagined and which is way above what is reasonable to believe we could do.”
Schram’s doubts centred not just on his crew’s ability to perform at the required level, but also the ClubSwan 50s suitability for an offshore race: “I am very surprised by the versatility of the ClubSwan 50. It is a true one design racer and this how the competitors and Nautor’s Swan want to keep it, which is correct. So, going offshore we were surprised how well this boat is built and suited to offshore racing. We never felt we ever crossed the limit even though we were pushing quite hard. It is just really well-suited to offshore racing, which we did not know and did not expect.”
In terms of the result, the crew of Stella Maris were justly rewarded in Schram’s view: “The most beautiful experience is to know we were well prepared, that we have a great motivation to perform and that it has worked out so. We put in so much effort and it has really shown in the result. It is great to have won this ORC event with two other ClubSwan 50s in it because that is a real reference for us. Two great teams and we have been a little bit faster than them both!” As for winning the Best-Placed Swan Trophy, Schram is circumspect: “To be the best-placed Swan, for now, is a really good feeling.”
The race had not been plain sailing. Stella Maris was not the quickest off the line and had to overtake both of the other ClubSwan 50s. This, though, gave the crew confidence: “We realized that we were going well because we had two close competitors from the ClubSwan 50 fleet in Ulika and Skorpios. Both are wonderfully well sailed boats, but we were making a little distance on them and so knew we had an edge.” This edge in sailing speed was assisted by good crew work and slick decision-making in crossing transition zones between systems: “It all made a real difference and the difference was as close as an inshore race could be, which was amazing.” Skorpios ended up second overall under ORC and in Class 0, with Ulika in fifth overall and in class.
One of the most memorable moments in the race for Schram was reaching the famed rock: “The Giraglia rounding was beautiful. The sun had just gone down and we were just entering the dark. The wind dropped, everything became calm and we could see the rock really well due to the moonlight. It is an impressive picture”
Another Swan yacht making her offshore debut was the Swan 78 Kinina, launched in July last year, so also campaigning at a high level with less than 12-months experience with the boat. Finishing sixth overall in ORC just behind the ClubSwan 42 Fantaghirò (fourth overall & in ORC A) and Ulika, Kinina was first in Class 0.
The owner, Enrico Bonatti, was unsurprisingly in an enthusiastic mood: “I am very happy with the race. It is the first we have done and while we have many things to learn and one or two to change, it went very well.” As a first-time participant, Bonatti was impressed by the Rolex Giraglia: “I really liked it. It was a fantastic race with so many boats. I loved the fact that we started after the small boats so had to overtake them. It was a special spirit.” Kinina sailed sensibly and carefully, taking extra care at night with the manoeuvres.
Bonatti put their achievement down to a couple of major factors: “We had really good people in the team who stayed motivated. Our tactician was Francesco de Angelis, the America’s Cup sailor, who did a very good job keeping everyone going particularly at night when he was very strong with the crew. The crew boss is Elio Petracchi and I must credit him with putting everything together. We were strong on the bow and with the trimming.”
The second factor was the conditions and the way Kinina handled them. “The strong winds really suited Kinina. I was really impressed. Several times downwind I saw 20.7 knots, something I did not expect. The boat was at all time safe, nothing broke and nobody was injured, what else can you ask for.”
Just like Schram, a high point in the race was rounding the Giraglia: “We reached the rock at about twenty past midnight. There were 3 or four boats with us and the moon was bright. It was a beautiful moment. We then found we had a great trajectory to the finish.”
With attention in the Mediterranean now turning to the Copa del Rey Mapfre (27 July to 3 August) and in northern waters to the Rolex Fastnet Race (3 August), there is plenty of racing action ahead. Although, it may take some time for the excitement of the Rolex Giraglia to wear off.
The final word lies with Nautor’s Swan Vice-President, Enrico Chieffi: “The whole organization of the event has been a success thanks to the cooperation between the Yacht Club Italiano and the three other yacht clubs: Yacht Club Sanremo, Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez and Yacht Club de Monaco. The beautiful setting of Saint-Tropez has been enriched by the social activities organized with the professionalism of Rolex, making once again the event charming and amazing for both our owners and their crews. Moreover, the weather conditions have created a great “battle camp”: compelling, competitive and unexpected!”
Rolex Giraglia: Selected Nautor's Swan Results:
ClubSwan 50: Cuordileone, Leonardo Ferragamo (winner)
Swan 45: Porròn IX, Luis Senìs (winner)
ClubSwan 42: Fantaghirò, Carlandrea Simonelli (winner)
ORC 0 Cruisers: Lorina, Jean Pierre Barjon (winner)
ORC A: From Now On, Fernando Chain (winner)
ORC Overall: Stella Maris, August Schram (winner)
IRC Overall: Spare a thought for Jerome Stubler and Raving Swan, one of a handful of sub-50 foot yachts to sneak into the top-twenty of the IRC division.