COMPETITIVE FLEET SIGNS ON FOR GIRAGLIA ROLEX CUP
With just over one week until the close of entries for the venerable Giraglia Rolex Cup, the entries are streaming in for the 57th edition of this Franco-Italian classic. To date, 147 boats are entered with quite a few more expected by the close of registration on 4 June.
Giraglia Rolex Cup comprises three days of inshore racing, from 14 – 16 June, followed by a 243-mile offshore race, which starts on Wednesday, 17 June. The route of this classic distance course takes the fleet from Saint-Tropez to Genoa, via La Giraglia, the iconic rock isle off the northern end of Corsica. Racing will be organized by the Yacht Club Italiano (YCI), the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez and the Yacht Club de France.
What is particularly appealing about the Giraglia Rolex Cup is the diverse fleet attracted. Some boats choose to just sail the inshore races, others come just to compete in the legendary Giraglia race, but most of the fleet elects to do both.
On tap this year in Saint-Tropez will be the best and the brightest of the Mini Maxis – certainly some of the newest, at any rate. This has become the fleet of choice for many former Maxi owners. The size band of 60 – 79 feet, leaves plenty of leeway to have boats designed and built that excel in round-the-buoys, and offshore/distance racing.
Two prime examples are the STP 65’s Luna Rossa (ITA) and Container (GER), both sailing since late last year. The newly launched 72-foot Ran 2 (GBR), and the 60-foot Jethou (GBR) are also slated to make their mark. The common factor in all four yachts – apart from sleek lines, speed and professionalism of the crews - is design firm Judel-Vrolijk, which has had a hand in all.
Judging by the competition at earlier spring regattas, where Luna Rossa and Ran shared honours with one overall victory each, there will be an exciting rivalry to play out during the Giraglia Rolex Cup, as this new crop of boats sorts themselves out.
Launched in December 2008, Luna Rossa has had just over a month of sailing to date, and the boat seems to be going well. The team should be in good stead with the three-time Olympic medallist Brazilian Robert Scheidt onboard as helmsman.
Scheidt is a two-time (2001, 2004) ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year, for his success in the Laser class. More recently, he has turned his talents to the Star class where he won a Silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Summer Games. Also onboard will be Andy Horton as tactician, Nacho Postigo as navigator, and Paul Westlake as mainsail trimmer. The Giraglia will be a good test for both boat and crew in a distance race, in preparation for the team’s participation in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, Rolex Middle Sea Race and the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Long-time racing sailor Udo Schutz, owner/skipper of Container launched his new STP 65 in September 2008 and spent the winter training in Palma and Valencia. With Karol Jablonski calling tactics, Markus Wieser helming, Hartwell Jordan trimming main, and Matti Paschen trimming headsails, the team have their eyes set on using the inshore races as a warm-up and then excelling on the distance race.
Schutz is pleased with performance to date, “The new boat is going very well. After minor modifications, the boat speed is very satisfying in all conditions. We were able to definitely prove that during the PalmaVela where we could control our very strong competitor, Luna Rossa.”
The Swedish owner/skipper Niklas Zennstrom of Ran has the newest boat in the Mini Maxi fleet. Launched in Palma in late April, the boat and crew had only a three-week lead-up to their first regattas of the season. The Giraglia Rolex Cup will involve Ran's first offshore race – as with many of their Mini Maxi competitors, they have a full calendar of offshore races this year and with the Giraglia first, it will be a learning exercise as well.
As boat captain Tim Powell explained, “The boat is going very well and is matching and exceeding expectations. The time and effort that we put into the design and build process has been well founded. We have a clear path at the moment as to how to move the boat forward, primarily fine-tuning sails and mast setup. We are still learning the boat, so we know we have a lot more potential to gain.”
For the Giraglia, Ran will have many of their regular crew including Richard Bouzaid, Andy Hemmings and Steve Hayles, although a change of tactician for this race sees them bring Grant Simmer onboard for the week. Ran's programme for the remainder year is busy, and includes Cowes Week, Rolex Fastnet, Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, Voiles de St Tropez, Rolex Middle Sea Race, and the Rolex Sydney Hobart.
Lower down the fleet, the Swan 42s and Swan 45s, both popular one-design classes, will be on hand. The Swan 45 class president, Vittorio Codecasa, will compete on Jeroboam - Ca’Nova, one of at least seven of this competitive class.
While the majority of the fleet hails from France and Italy, there is significant representation from in and around Europe including Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Netherlands, the UK, and Russia.
For Saint-Tropez, the race start signals the beginning of an eagerly anticipated summer season. The local Tropéziens, as well as a cadre of international sailors and visitors come in numbers to take part in or simply admire the preparation and excitement of the Giraglia Rolex Cup.