The 2016 Giraglia Rolex Cup will be archived as one of the most challenging. Starting light with a tactically demanding middle, it ended with a flourish; at times an alarming one. For many yachts the final leg from the Giraglia to Genoa will last long in the memory, as a bruising south-westerly wind built rapidly to 30 plus knots and whipped up the seas. Lasting from late on Thursday night to Friday morning, this wind added serious gasoline to the efforts of the slower yachts to overhaul the fastest in the race for the corrected time, and overall, win. When Gilles Pages and the French crew of Tip crossed the finish in the early hours of Friday morning they moved to the top of the podium. On Saturday morning Tip was confirmed as the worthy winner of the 64th Giraglia Rolex Cup.
“We knew the weather forecast was favourable to a small boat before the start,” said a delighted Pages, who raced his Sunfast 36 with a crew of six other Corinthian sailors. “We managed the first part of the race very well, and rounded the Giraglia in good shape. We knew the second part would be difficult with the building wind, but the crew were not tired and the boat was comfortable in the conditions. My crew is experienced. We have been successful this season, and last year won our class here, so we were well-prepared.” In recognition of his success, Pages was awarded the Rolex Challenge Trophy and a Rolex Submariner timepiece.
The 2016 race will be noted too for a record total fleet of 268 entrants and its eclectic composition. Yachts racing represented 18 nations, ranged in size from 6.5 metres to 30.5 metres, comprised solo crews and those of 20 or more, and included yachts from the early 1900s and those launched this year. And, as always, it will be revered for its generous dose of camaraderie, for its unfailing ability to live up to the philosophy of its founding fathers.
Carlo Croce, the President of both World Sailing and the Yacht Club Italiano, and son of one of the founders has a strong sense of what makes the Giraglia Rolex Cup such a fascinating contest: “The attraction comes from a central spirit which has set it apart from other races since the beginning. Top professionals racing against Corinthians; different types of boat and each with a chance to win. This motivates people to be part of this mythical race.”
LARGE & SMALL, MANY & FEW
Croce is proud too that the race is unafraid to expand its horizons, particularly in recent years with the addition of double-handed entrants, single-handers and this year Mini 650s. The doors first opened to short-handed sailing in 2014 and, so readily has the concept been accepted, it feels they have been part of the event since the outset.
This year the solo class was 11 strong. Denis Bouan from Marseille racing Broceliande typifies the latest breed of yachtsman breathing passion into the ‘old lady of the Mediterranean’. “Solo sailing is a great personal challenge in every respect,” he explains. “You have to deal with everything on your own. You can ask for help but no one answers.” He also appreciates being part of this historic maritime pageant: “It is great to see all these different boats, even if I am not able to look around too much because I have a lot to get ready! It’s really nice to be part of such a huge fleet.” Bouan would finish fourth in class.
At the opposite end of the size and personnel scale is Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’ Magic Carpet Cubed. 100-feet of sleek sail power. Crewed by 22, including Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker and Marcel Van Triest, one of the world’s most sought-after navigators. Being defending champion has given Owen-Jones immense pleasure: “This is the historic race of the Mediterranean. It is a mythical race. It’s the race we want to do every year, and do well. It is really difficult to win, and it was something we had tried to do for many years.”
For a moment it seemed we might have a repeat of 2015. The first boat to finish, it would be a nine hour wait from the arrival of Magic Carpet Cubed for someone to topple her from the top of the podium. A reflective Owen-Jones remained extremely satisfied with his crew’s efforts feeling that they had dealt well with everything in their control: “Marcel (Van Triest) and Ian (Walker) made all the right choices. Every single move we made happened to take us to where there was wind, maximizing the speed of the boat.”
FAVOURED BY CONDITIONS
Late on Thursday night it was clear that the advantage in the wind conditions would lie with the slower boats. The building south-westerly that dominated the Ligurian Sea reached the Giraglia-Genoa area of the course after sunset and would serve to propel those boats still on that leg with greater efficiency than the winds serving larger, faster rivals.
The 15-Metre Rule Mariska was one of the yachts to benefit. Built in 1908, 45 years before the Giraglia Rolex Cup was founded, she is constructed from mahogany, iroko and teak planking, sports a low freeboard and an extreme rake; hugely different to today’s designs. “It is one of the most beautiful races in the Mediterranean. It completely fits the spirit of our crew,” commented owner Christian Niels, notwithstanding some concerns about the forecast: “The race will be very challenging for us. After Cap Corse they have announced 30 to 35 knots. Big waves can put the mast at risk.”
At the finish, relief as well as elation was palpable: “After the Giraglia the wind increased suddenly to a challenging 30 to 40 knots. It became difficult to handle the boat, and we finished with just the jib. It was absolutely fantastic to race against the modern yachts and well-prepared competitors. For sure we are coming again!” Mariska finished first in her class.
Opposing Mariska was Maverick. Launched in January 2016, sporting a canting keel and directional stability foils, she was arguably the most advanced yacht in the fleet. Designed and built “without compromise to the quest to go fast” according to owner Quentin Stewart. This boat is dramatically different to the others racing here, says Gordon Kay of builder Infiniti. “Racing yachts are all about the alchemy between power and weight. Maverick is a narrow, light design. The foils we deploy make her more powerful, effectively lighter, and reduce drag. A canting keel also gives us more power. We are extraordinarily quick for a yacht of 46 feet, accelerating fast. We don’t heel very much, race with only seven crew, and the stronger the wind the faster we go.”
Like all competitors this year, Maverick had its share of lows and highs, according to Kay: “Parking under rain clouds, finishing at 25 knots of boat speed!” Tactical errors also cost her, especially at the Giraglia itself where they strayed outside the wind line and watched a number of competitors slip past. Overall, the team were delighted with the performance particularly on the last leg where they experienced sailing at between 20 and 25 knots, in complete control.
Of course, it is the foot soldiers of the fleet, the yachts between 30 and 50 feet that make up the core of participation. Yachts like Giancarlo Ghislanzoni’s Chestress 3 which compete year after year, drawn by a passion for their sport and the special spirit that imbues this event. Their feeling for the race is infectious: “It’s truly unique. The spirit is the combination of breadth and size of the fleet; the diversity of teams with professionals, Corinthians, different nationalities. It is also about the intimacy. The melting pot. It is tremendous. The race itself is very special, it requires a combination of skills and tactics. The scenery is wonderful. This year the clouds coming off the mountains of Corsica were like wild horses tumbling to sea. It is never the same.”
The 2016 Giraglia Rolex Cup was organized by the Yacht Club Italiano, the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, the Yacht Club Sanremo and the Cercle Nautique et Touristique du Lacydon. Rolex has been a partner of the event since 1998.
2016 GIRAGLIA ROLEX CUP PROVISIONAL RESULTS
Giraglia Rolex Cup Offshore Race (Saint-Tropez - Giraglia - Genoa)
1. Tip (FRA), Gilles Pages (winner Rolex Challenge Trophy & Rolex Submariner)
2. Give Me Five 5 (FRA), Adrien Follin
3. Epsilon (FRA), Jean Rameil
1.Scricca (ITA), Leonardo Servi (winner Trofeo Challenge Nucci Novi)
Magic Carpet Cubed (GBR) (26 hours, 48 minutes and 56 seconds) (winner Rolex Trophy, Réné Levainville Trophy & Rolex Yacht-Master)
Current course record:
Esimit Europa 2 (SLO): 14 hours, 56 minutes and 16 seconds in 2012
Giraglia Rolex Cup Inshore Series (Saint-Tropez):
IRC 0 Wallyno Benoit de Froidmont
IRC A Team Vision Future Jean Jacques Chaubard
IRC B Easy Jean Marie Vidal
ORC 0 Southern Star Luigi Cimolai
ORC A Samantaga Philippe Moortgat
ORC B Aria di Burrasca Franco Salmoiraghi
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