2013 marks the first edition of the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean, held at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s new clubhouse in the sailing paradise of the British Virgin Islands. The event is organized by Rolex, Nautor’s Swan and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, who have established close ties through organizing the Rolex Swan Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia since the early 1980s.
A full fleet of Swan yachts, an alluring playground and four days of intense racing: all hallmarks of the upcoming Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean. Commencing today, Monday 11 March, the event will be held over the next 5 days at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s recently launched base on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
Swan yachts ranging from 12.98 metres (42 foot) to 30.20m (100 ft) and representing countries including Belgium, Italy, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States make up the entry list. Competing Swans will be divided into two groups: Class A (Maxi), measuring upwards of 18.29m/60-ft; and, Class B, reserved for yachts measuring less than 18.29m.
Registration took place today, followed by the opening reception on the spectacular terrace of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. Competition on the water starts tomorrow, Tuesday 12 March, and the round Virgin Gorda race is scheduled for Wednesday 13 March. Ideal sailing conditions are forecast.
A range of Swans will grace the event: from historic Sparkman & Stephens models including Hokusai (FIN), Lianda (BEL) and Swan Lake (USA) through to more modern designs from German Frers including the Swan 90 Freya (USA) which is also taking part and was the 2,000th yacht to be built by Nautor in Finland.
Other Class A entries include Varsovie, the largest competing yacht, the Swan 80 Selene and Stark Raving Mad a Swan 601, whose crew has enjoyed a successful last twelve months. In Class B, the week’s smallest entrant – the Club Swan 42 Arethusa (USA) – is using the waters of the Caribbean to continue preparations for September’s New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex.
Crews will need to marry sharp tactics and cohesive teamwork to prevail in a fleet renowned for sportsmanship and graceful sailing. The week’s standout performers will be rewarded at the final prizegiving, on Friday 15 March, where the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean Trophy will be presented.
The eagerly anticipated event marks a continuation of the long-standing relationship between Nautor’s Swan, Rolex and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, which commenced in 1984 with the first edition of the now biennial Rolex Swan Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.
A fleet of 34 international Maxi yachts are braced for tomorrow’s start to competitive action at the 2012 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, held in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. Five days of racing are scheduled for the 23rd edition of this annual contest, open to Maxi yachts upwards of 18.29 metres. Boats representing fourteen different countries make up the entry list from the smallest competitor – the 18.30m Mini Maxi @robas (FRA) – to the gigantic 66m Supermaxi Hetairos (CY). A stunning spectacle is always guaranteed when the world’s most technologically impressive Maxis lock horns in the challenging and scenic racecourses offered by the Costa Smeralda and the Maddalena Archipelago.
Ever since its inception in 1980, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has represented a rare for opportunity for Maxi yachts to engage exclusively in direct competition. It has also been synonymous with the latest developments in yacht design and technology. 2012 is no exception as three eagerly-anticipated new launches prepare to make their bow: Charles Dunstone’s 30.47m Wally Hamilton(GBR) and two new entries in the intriguing Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship: Hap Fauth’s 21.94m Bella Mente (USA) and the similarly sized Stig (ITA), owned by Alessandro Rombelli.
Edoardo Recchi, Sporting Director of event organizer the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), believes a vintage edition is in store, revealing: “We are very happy to have a fleet of 34 boats with a number sailing here for the first time. The Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship, in particular, will be very competitive because all the Mini Maxis are, from a certain point of view, as good as new, with many having changed keels or rigs.” As Recchi confirms, the week will be a test of each crew’s resolve and endurance: “For the Maxis and Supermaxis five coastal races are planned and for the Mini Maxis and Wallys there will be three coastal races and four windward/leeward races.” Tomorrow, coastal races are scheduled for the event’s five classes (Maxi Racing, Maxi Racing/Cruising, Mini Maxi, Supermaxi and Wally).
A number of this season’s most successful boats are in attendance. Sir Peter Ogden’s 18.90m Mini Maxi Jethou (GBR) triumphed in May’s Rolex Volcano Race; Filip Balcaen’s 34.13m Nilaya (GBR) won line honours at that same event and returns to Porto Cervo to defend her Supermaxi class title. Igor Simcic’s 30.48m Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) has enjoyed a stellar year, smashing the race record at the recent Giraglia Rolex Cup before arriving in Sardinia in style, setting a new fastest time between Monte Carlo and Porto Cervo.
The third running of the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship is likely to be one of the week’s most eye-catching contests. The previous two editions have been claimed by the 21.91m Rán 2 (GBR). Niklas Zennström’s fully professional crew start off as favourites, but the competition will be determined and races decided by the merest fractions. Strength in depth across the Championship is provided by the revamped Jethou, George Sakellaris’ 21.80m Shockwave (USA), Stig and the 21.01m Caol Ila R (USA), the former Alegre – second place finishers in 2010 and 2011 – as Alex Schärer and his crew make the transition from their racer/cruiser of the same name.
Brand-new Bella Mente (USA), counting on the expertise of 2006 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Mike Sanderson, concedes nothing to Rán 2 in terms of length although the crew have the challenge of tackling the competition for the first time. “We’re really excited,” remarks Sanderson. “The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is one of the great events on the calendar, where the fascination is seeing all of the hardware together – a collection of amazing boats in terms of power and sail.” Sanderson is expecting a baptism of fire: “In the Mini Maxi class, the level is very high. The other guys currently have a bit more refinement and finesse including Rán who are a very polished act with a very consistent crew.”
Navigators are facing a difficult time predicting what the week’s weather will provide: “The forecast is really tricky,” confirms Sanderson. “There is a low settling off to the west of Sardinia. Some forecasts are saying 50 knots and others five! So we are in for a pretty changeable week.”
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and the International Maxi Association, prestigious organizations with close ties to Rolex. A first-class social programme is in store, including the Rolex Crew Party and the final Prize-Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups and Rolex timepieces will be presented to the winners.
Sunday, 2 September
Inspections, registration and briefing
Monday, 3 September
Tuesday, 4 September
Wednesday, 5 September
Thursday, 6 September
Lay day or resail
Friday, 7 September
Rolex Crew Party
Saturday, 8 September
Come early September and as the height of the Mediterranean summer season passes with the grace of a fading sunset, the eyes of the sailing world will be focused firmly on one stand-out attraction: the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup. This annual meeting of the bold and the beautiful, elegance and finesse, onshore refinement and offshore adventure, takes place in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.
Event organisers the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) are expecting a record presence for the 22nd edition, which takes place from 5-10 September. It represents a trend. Last year’s competition welcomed 49 of the world’s most state-of-the-art yachts. Forty-two yachts from 12 countries and territories have already committed to taking part this time around. Whilst the event’s appeal has always been unquestioned, the growth in popularity of the Mini Maxi yacht and the subsequent birth of the competition within a competition, the Mini Maxi Rolex World Championship (open to yachts from 18.29-24.08 metres), have led to the mushrooming of the regatta. This year promises to be an eye-catching feast.
Close attention will be paid to the second running of the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds. Whilst the final list of entries is still to be confirmed, several impressive campaigners will be attacking the waters of the Costa Smeralda. Niklas Zennström’s Rán 2 (GBR) and Andres Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) finished first and second last year. Intriguingly, 2010’s third placed yacht is also returning albeit under new ownership. The 72-ft Reichel Pugh Shockwave (USA) has changed hands from serial regatta winner Neville Crichton to George Sakellaris, who previously campaigned the CM60 Captivity. Shockwave has been preparing for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Palma.
The crew of Whisper (IRL) have long been captivated by the lure of Porto Cervo. Michael Cotter’s 78-footer has become a fixture at the event and won the Racer/Cruiser division in 2009. The experienced crew have been focused on the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup for quite a while, as captain Mark Dicker explains: “Whisper’s preparations for the Maxis started in January and this will be our sixth participation. We have a good set up and hope to be on top of our game in Porto Cervo. Over the past winter the boat undertook a large refit with the upgrade of many of its racing systems. We then did a ‘shake down’ regatta at Easter in Palma so we feel confident the boat will be in great shape for the Maxis. Currently Whisper is completing a cruising period around Greece before heading back to prepare for the event and two days training.”
The Irish crew, competing in the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, have always performed impressively on the Emerald Coast. Dicker reveals the key to yacht’s success: “The Whisper team have been campaigning the boat for six years with a core crew mostly of Irish sailors, who are happy to keep on coming back. The owner is very competitive, but a laid back approach seems to help the boat stay in good form and even the small handful of professional sailors onboard relish a week’s sailing on Whisper. Certainly the secret to the event is consistency, the conditions around Porto Cervo are very challenging and any mistakes can quickly end a regatta.”
For the crew of Whisper, like many others, the appeal of the event is obvious. “Within the Med there is certainly no other regatta like the Maxis,” closes Dicker, “from the picturesque scenery to the high level of competition returning year after year. Racing up Bomb Alley and round the islands is certainly like no other race course we embark on.” Following on from the Maxis, the Whisper crew will take part at another Rolex supported event – Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez.
The rest of the best
Completing the global gathering of competing nations are the Danish crew onboard the 61-ft Vertical Smile, the 78-ft All Smoke (GBR), owned by the German businessman Günter Herz, the 60-ft Arobas (FRA) and Caol Ila (USA), fresh from an impressive performance at the Giraglia Rolex Cup. Sir Peter Ogden’s 60-ft Jethou (GBR) will also be in attendance, having campaigned at both the 2009 and 2010 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup.
Italian presence is guaranteed with the involvement of six yachts. Alessandro Rombelli’s Baltic-65 Stig finished second behind Aegir in the Racer/Cruiser division last year. She will face stiff competition from Riccardo de Michele’s H20 and Adriano Calvini’s 61-ft Itacentodue, both race day winners in 2010. Completing the elenco of Italian entrants are the 60-ft Aleph-Aniene 1° Classe, the 61-ft Tyke and Enrico Gorziglia’s Good Job Guys.
Outside of the Mini Maxi Rolex Worlds, racing will be equally intense in the prestigious and long-established Maxi (24.09-30.5m yachts), Supermaxi (those in excess of 30.5m) and Wally competitions.
The Swan-90 DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA) will compete in the Maxi category and has enjoyed a demanding season in the Mediterranean, taking part in the inaugural Rolex Volcano Race in addition to the Giraglia Rolex Cup, where she was the fifth boat to finish on elapsed time. The yacht has miles in her sails. Fortunately, the Maxis require less travelling for the crew. Owner Danilo Salsi is a member of the YCCS and Porto Cervo happens to be DSK’s crew base. “We like the race area and feel we have good local knowledge,” explains team manager Andrea Casale, “the big challenge for us is to take advantage of this.”
DSK Pioneer Investments triumphed in Porto Cervo at the Rolex Swan Cup in 2010, although the crew realise that repeating their success on the Costa Smeralda in the Maxi division will be a tough challenge. “The Swan Cup was a completely different scenario,” continues Casale, “as we were not competing against the likes of Esimit Europa 2. The yachts in our division this time around will be faster than us on the water so they will be more difficult to beat. We have to be very smart and wise with the tools that we have at our disposal.”
After the gruelling ocean challenges earlier in the season, Casale and the crew are focused on a different type of racing at the Maxis: “We are pleased with the two offshore races, but the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is going to be a very different game. ‘Day racing’ requires more manoeuvring and decision-making in a short space of time. We are adding some new crew members to our standard roster to save time when changing sails. In addition we are ‘tuning’ our rating certificate. Hopefully it will all help.”
Meanwhile, the Wally division is already shaping up to maintain its recent trend of intense battle. Claus-Peter Offen’s Y3K (GER) and Sir Lindsay Owen Jones’ Magic Carpet (GBR) have winning experience in Porto Cervo although the divisional crown is sure to be contested to the very last nautical mile of the final race. The impressive fleet comprises100-footers Dark Shadow (MON) and Kenora (GBR) as well as slightly more slender but equally impressive campaigners such as Jean Charles Decaux’s J One (GBR), winners in 2007, and Thomas Bscher’s Open Season (ESP).
Next month’s preview press release will provide full details on this year’s list of competing yachts.
On The Agenda
Racing commences on Tuesday 6 September and concludes on Saturday 10 September. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, along with title sponsor Rolex, will provide a lavish array of first class social events including Saturday’s final Prize Giving Ceremony, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups and Rolex timepieces will be awarded.
Side by side there is an impressive quarter-kilometre. Bow to stern it stretches to one-kilometre. But perhaps the most impressive number is 43. The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has never done things by halves and this year is no exception. Organised for the twentieth time by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, the big boat event of the season has upped its numbers from last year in a period that has seen most numbers dropping. It is not a record fleet, falling three short of the 46 set in 2006, but that is a pedantic detail. Some of the finest sailors in the world are gathered in Porto Cervo to do battle over the next six days on some of the finest yachts built.
Racing starts tomorrow and the man in charge is Peter Craig, “no question this is an impressive fleet, not just in numbers but range of boats and quality of crew. We’ve got five starting groups and, whilst experience shows we’ll have competitive racing across the board, the standout group is probably the Mini Maxis.” With eight high-art exponents in the Racing Division and eleven in the Racing/Cruising Division this segment of the Maxi fleet is in rude health. The Mini Maxi Racing roster could occupy this release by itself. Niklas Zennstrom’s Ràn (GBR) (2009 Rolex Fastnet overall winner); Roger Sturgeon’s Rosebud (USA) (2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart overall winner) and Andy Soriano’s Alegre (GBR) (line honours winner – 2008 Rolex Middle Sea Race; 2009 Giraglia Rolex Cup) will be up against Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente (USA), current leader of the 2009 IMA Mediterranean Circuit; Alfa Romeo 3 the latest steed of Neville Crichton who has won here twice before; Patrizio Bertelli’s Luna Rossa (ITA) with Torben Grael and Robert Scheidt on the crew list; former Admiral’s Cup winner Udo Schutz with Container (GER), and Sir Peter Ogden’s jet-black Jethou (GBR).
For Hap Fauth the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup has been a long time coming. This is his first time at the event and he and his crew have been in the Med since mid-April following a tough programme of racing in preparation. “I consider myself the senior rookie in this wonderful event. First impressions are that it is just spectacular, the island is beautiful and the sailing conditions seem ideal. We’ve been here practising for a few days and are just excited to get racing.” As a newcomer, we were interested in Fauth’s view on the ingredients required for success at an event of this stature. His answer was no great surprise, “consistency” he advised, but the tenor of his voice suggests this is an easy word to say and a harder objective to achieve. Seasoned and successful Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup competitor, Neville Crichton echoes Fauth’s contribution to the recipe, but adds “preparation”, something he feels Alfa Romeo is lacking coming into this regatta, despite showing herself to be competitive at the Copa del Rey. Crichton, though, is an experienced campaigner and lacks nothing in determination to succeed. So prepared or not, Alfa will be no pushover this week.
Filippo Faruffini is another owner who has tasted success at this event, having won his class in 2006 with the sheep in wolf’s clothing – Roma-Aniene (ITA), a cruising yacht disguised as a racer. Competing in the Racing/Cruising Division comprising yachts between 80 and 100 feet, Faruffini laughingly remarks that his contribution to the cooking pot would be “a new boat, new sails and a good crew!” He quickly adds more seriously that in his view finding the right mix of ingredients is vital, “it is the way you put together the sails, crew, skipper, boat; they all count.” Faruffini is also one of the many master-chefs gathered here that sees another element critical to the taste, ” you must be lucky too,” he adds. With the likes of Sagamore (ITA), one of the racing maxis of the late 1990s, the Swan 90 DSK Pioneer Investments (ITA) and Karl Kwok’s eighty-foot Beau Geste (HKG) on his start-line, Faruffini will have little opportunity to keep his fingers crossed. Luck will be in the lap of the gods.
Someone who perhaps knows more than most just how much luck plays a key part is Lindsay Owen Jones, owner of Magic Carpet 2 and a four-time winner at this regatta. Owen Jones could probably have won more times, but has seen blown-out sails and even losing the top section of his mast put paid to his hopes in the past. Magic Carpet 2 is competing in the seven-boat Wally Division and will be up against some familiar foes in Thomas Bscher’s Open Season (GER), Claus Peter Offen’s latest Y3K (GER), Andre Auberton’s Dark Shadow (GBR) and another former winner, Jean-Charles Decaud’s J One (FRA). According to Owen Jones making an event like this a primary objective is also significant factor, “you’ve got to be lucky to win races here. But I think you’ve got to make this a priority. The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is always that for us and so beforehand we are constantly gearing up for it. Afterwards is time for relaxation.”
The start that may prove most difficult to measure all ingredients to the correct quantities looks to be the Cruising/Spirit of Tradition. Nine boats, none under 100-feet and the longest, Hasso Plattner’s Visione (GER), a staggering 149-feet will make a truly visual impact on the line. There will be little room for error on the fleet’s second largest yacht, Albert Buell’s ultra-modern Saudade (MLT) or the more classic-lined Velsheda (GBR), Hetairos (CAY) and Maria Cattiva (MLT).
Speculation ends tonight. Tomorrow the event begins in earnest. With five days of racing scheduled, no one will want to come to the boil too early, but those that have put together the best recipe for success will need to starting proving it.
The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda will officially greet the competitors tonight with a welcome cocktail at the stunning clubhouse that overlooks Porto Cervo Marina. At the end of each racing day, Yacht Club Costa Smeralda along with title sponsor Rolex will provide a lush array of top class social events: Highlights include the YCCS Dinner on Tuesday, the Rolex Crew Party in the Piazza Azzurra on Thursday and the Rolex Dinner at the world renowned Cala di Volpe luxury resort on Friday. The week ends with Saturday’s final Prizegiving Ceremony and Closing Cocktail, where the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cups and Rolex timepieces will be awarded to the overall winner of each Division.
The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, organized by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in conjunction with the International Maxi Association (IMA), will run from 6 to 12 September. Racing commences tomorrow, Monday and with racing scheduled for each following day, save Thursday, the prize giving on Saturday will be the culmination of an intense week of big boat racing. From the most luxurious, through the most traditional, to the most advanced monohulls afloat today, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup is nothing if not an astonishing line up of sailing power.