Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Giraglia Rolex Cup: The Cup Runneth Over

Container. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

by Anna Maria Gregorini

The 2010 Giraglia Rolex Cup is firm fixture and firm favourite in the Mediterranean yachting calendar. The festival of sailing that links France and Italy is mix of hard competition on the water and conviviality ashore. The French and Italian protagonists that form the bulk of the fleet take both elements seriously, and this draws the sizeable foreign contingent each year. The 58th edition looks set to be another success with 233 yachts registered for the weeklong contest that combines three days of inshore racing with a 245 nautical mile distance race. It will be an international affair, with 16 nations and the European Union flag represented. The inshore series starts on Sunday, 13 June and the offshore race on Wednesday, 16 June.

With the FIFA soccer World Cup kicking off on 11 June, the dockside atmosphere in Saint-Tropez will be more tangible than usual. The friendly rivalry ashore a little more tense than usual. Someone has clearly had a word with race organizers, the Yacht Club Italiano, because the Azzurri’s first two matches straddle the offshore race. Pity the French. Most will be at sea when Les Bleus take on Mexico in their first game.

182 of the entered yachts have so far committed to the offshore element that, this year, will take the yachts from Saint-Tropez across the Ligurian Sea to the Giraglia rock and back to San Remo. A version of this course last raced in 1999. The Italian finish port is a mere 60 nautical miles up the coast as the crow flies from Saint-Tropez, but the trip out to the rock off the northern tip of Corsica and back will be no easy jaunt. This region favours light winds or strong winds and rarely a straightforward ride. Whatever the weather holds, the race stands on the threshold of a major milestone.

Start of the Giraglia Race 2009. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

The entry level is just a handful short of the all time record of 197 set in 2006 when, coincidentally, one of the smallest yachts in the fleet at 33-feet/10.15 metres, Ala Bianca (ITA), won overall. Owner Camillo Capozzi is back again this year and may view the prospect of a record entry as a good omen for a second such extraordinary performance.

The largest yacht in the competition is set to be the 34.34 metre Swan 112 Highland Breeze, which is closely followed in the glamour stakes by the 27.71 metre, Swan 90, Solleone (ITA) and the 26.31 metre, CNB 86, Spiip (FRA), which was launched in October last year.

Fastest in the fleet, on paper at least, is the 100-foot/30.5 metre Esimit Europa 2 (EUR). Skippered by America’s Cup helm and eight-time world champion Flavio Favini and owned by Igor Simcic, the former Alfa Romeo II is the course record holder for the offshore component of the Giraglia Rolex Cup. Favini and Simcic aim to follow in the footsteps of previous owner/skipper Neville Crichton who racked up and impressive record of line honours victories with the Reichel-Pugh designed rocketship.

Luna Rossa and Alegre. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

Crichton is back this year with his latest iteration in the Alfa Romeo yachting stable. At 70-feet/21.28 metres, Alfa Romeo III (NZL) is a Mini Maxi and already has an enviable record having won her class at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup last September. Her interior design is styled after the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione motorcar, in red, silver/grey, black and white, with a companionway ladder, which resembles the car's grill. She is not the only hot property on the track in this class. Alegre (GBR), owned by Andres Soriano, also has an exceptional record. She has won line honours and overall at the Rolex Middle Sea Race, and, at the end of May took the Mini Maxi title at Rolex Capri Sailing Week. The Mini Maxi competition will once again be some of the most interesting with Udo Schutz’s STP 65 Container (GER), Sir Peter Ogden’s carbon black Jethou (GBR) and Brian Benjamin’s Aegir (GBR) in the line-up.

Competition amongst the 50-footers looks just as intense as at the front. Sam Chan has brought his TP52 Free Fire all the way from Hong Kong, and will join battle with the likes of Atalante II (BEL), Plis-Play (ESP), Imagine (GER), Lurigna (SUI) and, of course, plenty of competition from Italy and France.

Groupe Bel passes Giraglia Rock lighthouse. Image copyright ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi.

There are 80 yachts entered that are under 40-feet/12.2 metres in length. Sub-40s have won the distance race in the Giraglia Rolex Cup three times in the past ten years confirming this is a race where weather plays a key part. In the year Capozzi won conditions definitely favoured the smaller boats as Ala Bianca crewmember Adelaide Giromella explained. “It was good for us,” she said. “We found no wind near the Giraglia Rock. But after Giraglia we had good southerly wind, which took us to the finish in Genoa. The big boats found no wind at Giraglia and no wind in front of Genoa. They had to stop more times than we did.” When a small boat wins a race like this the innocent delight is palpable. Capozzi got the better of Russell Coutts back in 2006. In what other sport could you show up with yester-year’s equipment and hose the sport’s grand master. Advantageous conditions or not, you still have to sail your best.

2010 Giraglia Rolex Cup programme
Friday, 11 June: Prologue race - 
 San Remo to Saint-Tropez.
Saturday, 12 June: Registration/Measurement
Sunday, 13 June: Inshore Race(s)
Monday, 14 June: Inshore Race(s)
Tuesday, 15 June: Inshore Race(s)
Close of Entries for Giraglia Rolex Cup distance race
Gala Dinner & Inshore Prize giving at La Citadelle
Wednesday, 16 June: Start of Giraglia Rolex Cup distance race
(245nm) Saint-Tropez - La Fourmigue - La Giraglia - San Remo.
Thursday, 17 to Saturday 19 June: Finishers arrive San Remo.
Saturday, 19 June: Prize giving at Yacht Club San Remo

Giraglia Rolex Cup