Under alluring blue skies in Saint-Tropez, the first of three days of inshore racing took place with the 2012 Giraglia Rolex Cup’s international fleet, in excess of a hundred yachts, divided into two groups. The larger boats, including the Maxi yachts (measuring over 60-feet), attacked a 31.9-nautical mile course, whilst the smaller classes were confronted with a 26.4-nm challenge.
Conditions were testing: 15-18 knots of breeze were present for the 11:20 CEST start, reaching 30 knots during parts of the race. Impressing on the water were the winners: Jethou (GBR) in Group 0 IRC, Near Miss (SUI) in Group A IRC, Swift (FRA) in Group B IRC, Mandolino (ITA) in Group A ORC and Baciottinho (ITA) in Group B ORC. The inshore racing followed Friday’s prologue race, which ran from Sanremo to Saint-Tropez. Sixty-two boats participated with the 52-foot Maltese yacht Dralion prevailing on handicap.
Meanwhile, thoughts are firmly focused on the week’s main event – the circa 242-nm race from Saint Tropez to Sanremo via the Giraglia rock, located off the northern tip of Corsica, which commences on Wednesday 13 June. Yachts representing almost twenty countries are expected to participate in this historic 60th edition of the race.
Carlo Croce, President of event organizers Yacht Club Italiano, is looking forward to the contest ahead: “Almost two hundred boats should be participating, demonstrating that the Giraglia Rolex Cup has a place in everyone’s heart. Many nations, from almost everywhere, are represented and above all lots of larger boats which hasn’t always been the case. A very high level of competition is in prospect.”
Croce, whose father Beppe was one of the race’s co-founders, is delighted that the ethos and traditions of the event have been maintained despite the enormous changes that have taken place during sixty years of competition.
“The spirit of the Giraglia comes from having a mixed fleet: from small, family-run boats to professional crews who have taken part in events like the America’s Cup. This is the essence of the Giraglia Rolex Cup and it is important that it has not been lost.” Fittingly, this year’s race finishes in Sanremo – just like the inaugural event in 1953 (when the start was from Cannes) and the subsequent editions from 1954-1958 which departed from Saint-Tropez.
On the second day of inshore racing, a 30.3-nautical mile course was set for most of the fleet, a 25.4-nm course reserved for the smaller classes. Conditions were again boisterous, with winds reaching speeds of 30 knots. Winners were: Jethou (GBR) in Group 0 IRC, Near Miss (SUI) in Group A IRC, Ondine (ITA) in Group B IRC, Paul & Shark Competition (ITA) in Group A ORC and Symfony (RUS) in Group B ORC.
Jochen Schümann, one of the world’s most respected sailors, is skipper onboard the event’s largest and fastest boat – the 100-foot Maxi Esimit Europa 2 (SLO). Owner Igor Simčič and his pan-European crew are widely expected to claim a third straight line honours title and Schümann is in confident mood: “We hope the weather stays similar to what it is now with this strong Mistral. It could be quite an exciting, rough and fast offshore race. I think we’ve not had these type of conditions for a while.”
Esimit Europa 2 is hoping to break the race record set in 2008 by the same boat under its guise as Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo 2 (NZL).
Schümann believes a shot at the record – standing at 18 hours, 3 minutes and 15 seconds – is a realistic prospect. “It will be much faster than last year when there was almost no wind. If the weather forecast stays as it is with a strong breeze around the Giraglia Rock then we have a great chance of beating the race record.”
Schümann brings a wealth of knowledge to Esimit Europa 2 but is taking nothing for granted having competed in the Giraglia Rolex Cup for the first time last year. “Sailing is about experience,” he closes, “having done this race last year is an important thing as are the days of practice we are currently undertaking. It has been a while since this boat and crew sailed in breezes above 20 knots.”
America’s Cup legend Brad Butterworth – calling tactics on the in-form 62-ft Mini Maxi Jethou (GBR) - also believes an interesting offshore race is ahead. “It looks very windy and we would prefer slightly lighter conditions than forecast. However, the recent Rolex Volcano Race (which Jethou won) was a good experience as the middle section of the race was very testing. We’re looking forward to the Giraglia, and it will be great to finish in Sanremo.”
Giraglia Rolex Cup