Less than a month remains before the start of the 2015 Giraglia Rolex Cup, the popular and historic event encompassing the Mediterranean’s oldest offshore race.
Saint-Tropez acts as the focal point for the weeklong sailing contest. This chic harbour town, famed for its artistic roots born during the emergence of the Fauvist movement in the early 20th century, welcomes the fleet following a short, overnight race from Sanremo (starting on Friday, 12 June).
Saint-Tropez then plays host to three days of inshore competition (from Sunday 14 – Tuesday 16 June) before the eye-catching start of the main event, the famous 243-nm offshore race (commencing Wednesday 17 June) to Genoa via the Giraglia rock.
Each and every summer for the past 63 years, sailors have made the pilgrimage around the Giraglia rock, a small island on the northern tip of Corsica, which signals the halfway point of the offshore race. The event has a certain charm, brought to life by a prevailing spirit of camaraderie. Rolex has partnered the Giraglia Rolex Cup since 1998 and the event opens the Swiss watchmaker’s 2015 European yachting season.
Line Honours: Closer Contest
When the offshore race gets underway, almost certain to lead the fleet en route to race organizer Yacht Club Italiano’s homebase in Genoa is Igor Simcic’s Esimit Europa 2. The 100-ft Maxi has dominated the recent history of the offshore race winning line honours at the four editions she has entered. In 2012, Esimit set a new race record, finishing in just under 15 hours to smash the previous record by over three hours – only the sixth time the race record has been broken since the famous photo finish which marked the inaugural race in 1953 (EA of Italy and Amity of France crossing the finish line at the same time).
Despite Esimit’s strong pedigree at the event, a closer contest for line honours is forecast. Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’s Magic Carpet 3 should present a tough adversary. In 2013 and in her debut offshore race, Owen-Jones’s Wally Cento claimed line honours in Genoa. The opportunity to see these the two boats in direct competition for the first time is an intriguing one. The two have strikingly different philosophies – one is an all out racer and the other a dual-purpose yacht. With Esimit Europa displacing half the weight of Magic Carpet it looks a one-sided contest on paper, but the Giraglia Rolex Cup rewards tactical nous as well as raw speed.
These two 100-ft yachts will be pursued closely by the ever-competitive Maxi 72 racers comprising Roberto Tomasini Grinover’s Robertissima III (formerly the two-time Rolex Fastnet winner Rán 2) in addition to Shockwave (overall winner of this offshore race back in 2010 when owned by one of the race’s most successful competitors, New Zealander Neville Crichton).
Overall Winner: Open Field
The week’s most illustrious prize awarded to the overall winner of the offshore race on handicap can theoretically be claimed by any boat in the fleet. The race is intense and usually completed in a 24-48 hour time frame by the bulk of the fleet. The crew which makes the smartest tactical decisions given the prevailing weather conditions and demonstrates the most fluid teamwork is usually rewarded.
Recent winners have hailed from a range of backgrounds and include yachts of different sizes including entirely Corinthian crews such as last year’s victor the Swan 42 Tixwave owned by Swiss Bernard Vananty, and the most recent French winners Alizée (44-ft) in 2013 and Foxy Lady (37-ft) in 2011. More professional based crews on racing boats such as Shockwave and Franck Noël’s Near Miss of Switzerland (2012, 52-ft) have also had their success.
The 63rd edition of the Giraglia Rolex Cup, set to welcome an international fleet of over 200 yachts, commences on Friday 12 June. The final prizegiving will be held at the Yacht Club Italiano in Genoa on Saturday 20 June following the conclusion of the offshore race.