Franck Nöel’s TP52 Near Miss (SUI) has been confirmed as the overall winner of the 2012 Giraglia Rolex Cup.
A big boat race was predicted ahead of the historic 60th edition of the race from Saint-Tropez to Sanremo. And so it proved. Yesterday morning, the 100-foot Maxi Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) smashed the four-year old race record by over three hours, completing the circa 242-nautical mile course in 14 hours, 56 minutes and 16 seconds. Near Miss was the fourth fastest boat on the water, finishing just 31 minutes outside of the previous race record. As most of the Maxi fleet (yachts measuring over 60-feet) made short work of the course, the drop in conditions throughout yesterday ensured that the smaller boats still at sea could not surpass the corrected time set by Nöel’s predominantly French crew.
Prevailing from a fleet of 170 international yachts, victory capped a successful week for Near Miss following her impressive performance during the three days of inshore racing in Saint-Tropez. Nöel cut an ecstatic figure: “It was an extraordinary race and we nearly beat Alfa Romeo’s record with a 52-foot boat. It was at the very limits of comfort, we got very wet! Near Miss is not a boat made for offshore racing, more for inshore, but we are very happy to have done it.” Nöel has form at the Giraglia Rolex Cup having also claimed the combined inshore and offshore race prize in 2010.
Near Miss can count on the experience of America’s Cup yachtsman Karol Jablonski. “It was a very exciting race – the conditions were very extreme,” confirmed the Polish sailor, a recent addition to the team. “We anticipated the changing winds and the crew did an excellent job in changing sails so we didn’t waste time. The boat always went at the maximum speed possible according to the conditions.” As helmsman, Jablonski had a unique view of the race. “It was very wet as I was the guy sitting furthest forward – it was like a cold water Jacuzzi or whirlpool!” Whilst Near Miss celebrates, the elements proved demanding for much of the fleet with around fifty crews forced to retire from the race.
Near Miss will be presented with the Rolex Challenge Trophy and a Rolex timepiece during tomorrow’s prizegiving at the Yacht Club Sanremo, the final act of the 2012 Giraglia Rolex Cup.
The Giraglia Rolex Cup is organized by the Yacht Club Italiano, in conjunction with the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez and the Yacht Club de France, prestigious organisations with well-established ties to Rolex.
This morning in Saint-Tropez began with grey skies and calm conditions, but by noon the sun broke through and the wind had picked up. While shifty all day within the gulf, the wind surprised all and came from the East, instead of the usual Southwest, leading to a change in the direction of the start for the traditional classes. The smaller divisions had their start just past noon, following a 14 nm course towards Pointe des Issambres. Meanwhile the Big Classic division experienced a sharp drop in wind, and was unable to start until just past 15.00.
The Modern classes started racing at La Moutte and, wishing to spend more time on the water, began racing a longer 28-mile course in winds that were steady at about 8 knots.
Courses for all classes were shortened by 17.00 due to a lack of wind.
The Rolex Trophy will be given during the prize giving ceremony on Sunday, 4 October to the Tradition class boat over 16 metres, which has accumulated the fewest points over the week of regattas. The winner will also receive a Rolex Submariner, close companion to all nautical achievements.
Currently in the top three positions, all tied with a score of five points following two races, are Rowdy, Avel and Oiseau De Feu. Positions to be updated once latest results are known.
It’s 10am, ready to race in Saint-Tropez
While the mornings may start slowly in Saint-Tropez, by 10am the shops are open, the streets are busy, and the port is in constant motion. It is a well-known popular pastime to wander the docks and admire the many incredible yachts and artists that line the waters edge. During Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, the usual megayachts have given their mooring space to competitors, filling the sky with ropes and wooden masts. The ambling crowds stop to stare and take pictures, as competitors prepare their boats for the day’s racing to come.
“We like to present the boat to the public when she is clean, so every morning we polish the bronze and make sure she looks nice before going out to race,” says crewmember Jonathan Greenwood of last year’s Rolex Trophy winner, Rowdy. Work onboard begins as early as 8.30, so by 10.00 most everything is in place and the crew can relax, he said. “Once we’ve readied the boat for racing the crew usually goes to the race village to have a coffee with the other sailors.”
Today when the Rolex clock in the race village struck 10am, the crowds had already begun to arrive. In addition to those having breakfast or coffee at the bar, race organization had already set their courses. “The Race Committee of the modern class heads out around 9.30 or 10.00 since the course is usually set farther out and they need more time to reach the start area,” said Principal Race Officer Georges Korhel. “This is followed by the Wally boat departures from 10.00 -11.00, and then the Tradition class boats, who demand more preparation time, usually leave around 11.30.”
Helping over 200 boats to leave the docks at more or less the same time is no small task. “There is someone in control of who leaves the port when, because you can’t have all the boats leaving at once, it would be a complete disaster,” said George. “You’ve got the participants, the spectator boats, passenger boats, media boats. and for coming back into the port it is the same thing. The dock master tower takes care of all of that.”
Known as la Capitainerie in French, the dock master tower functions much like an air control tower, in charge of the difficult task of directing all boats in and out of the Saint-Tropez harbour. “There is no pre-established order for the release of the vessels,” said Jean Marc Le Saux of la Capitainerie. “The only thing we take into consideration is that the modern boats have priority since their start is usually around 11.00, while the classics only start around noon. Once a team is ready, the ‘go-ahead’ is given. We are just here to help avoid crashes and assist with manoeuvres.”
As the Wallys leave, the teams are decked out in matching uniforms, bright green for Esense and navy blue and white for Magic Carpet. The sails are prepared, the ropes (hawsers) packed away and the city shoes left in a basket ashore as the teams make their way one by one out of the port for their start zone situated off the beaches of Pampelonne.
On board the Classics the movements are similar, but the number of crewmembers can differ drastically, sometimes reaching up to 30 people on board. With no hydraulic systems and no electronic assistance, every crewmember must do his part in keeping the boat under control and moving forward. When there is lots of wind, crew must be on high alert even when leaving the port, as the larger boats take fair muscle power to control and navigate.
Once out on the bay, the boats must wait for the start cues from the race committee. In the meantime they seem to drift, crowding the water in a spectacular sight that spectators come from far and wide to witness. When start details are announced the boats form a line, all aiming to cross the start line with perfect timing. And they’re off!
Rounding the Mark
Whether it is a navigation mark, a buoy, a lighthouse or even an island, the race committee can use any one of a number of marks when plotting race course direction. Sailing ships bound for Pampelonne Beach often use La Basse Rabiou, a concrete marker that tells the fleet they are leaving St. Tropez and heading out into the open Mediterranean. But whether one uses Lion de Mer, Seiche à l’Huile, Roches de Fouras, La Nioulargue or even Cap Camarat, the mark rounding is of extreme importance in yacht racing.
Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez uses a variety of marks depending on the chosen course for each division. In addition to navigation marks, there are many volunteers present from the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez who are responsible for the placement and anchoring of buoys during this week’s racing. Without them, the race would be endless and sailboats would continue on an endless course, never to return to port…
Over the past week, we have focused on a series of moments in time here in Saint-Tropez. As tomorrow is the final race day, we will take a look at the arrival of the boats in port after racing, when crews will be berthing for the final time for this edition of Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.
Racing will continue through Saturday, 3 October with the awards ceremony to take place on Sunday, 4 October.