A record fleet of 240 international yachts contested the 2015 Giraglia Rolex Cup, an edition ultimately defined by victories for the fleet’s two largest yachts.
Igor Simčič’s 100-ft Maxi Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) sealed line honours while the Giraglia Rolex Cup trophy awarded to the overall race winner was claimed by Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’s Wally Cento Magic Carpet Cubed (GBR).
Following line honours victory in 2013, Owen-Jones can add handicap success in the Mediterranean’s oldest offshore race to a proud list of sailing achievements. The Giraglia Rolex Cup has run each year since 1953, partnered by Rolex since 1998.
Second yet first
Crossing the finish line in Genoa at 18:32 CEST on Thursday evening, Magic Carpet Cubed arrived some 65 minutes behind Esimit Europa 2. On arrival, Owen-Jones’s thoughts focused on having narrowly lost out on line honours – the crew’s first objective.
“We knew before we started we had a faster boat than us this year (Esimit Europa 2), and therefore wanted a tactic which would separate us from them so we could get away and have a lucky shift from the wind or something like that,” revealed Owen-Jones. “They tried to cover us all of the way which I think they did quite successfully up until the Giraglia rock, then less successfully on the way back in (to Genoa).”
That impressive second leg from the Giragia rock may have not been enough for Owen-Jones’s crew to overcome Esimit on the water but the time recovered gave her a 50-minute advantage on handicap. However, with a host of highly-competitive Maxi 72s in hot pursuit, it appeared Magic Carpet’s lead would only be a temporary one.
Effectively match racing into Genoa, four of the five Maxi 72s found themselves within two-nm of each other with the city lights in sight. It was there that patience ran thin, as the notorious arrival into Genoa claimed some notable scalps. Roberto Tomasini Grinover’s Robertissima III (GBR) was left most frustrated, parking, and witnessing her rivals ghost past in the fading light. In this race within a race it was the oldest of the Maxi 72s, George Sakellaris’s Shockwave (USA) who saw off Caol Ila R (USA) and the brand new MOMO (IVB), to finish third. Bragging rights for Shockwave but the benign conditions had thwarted any hope of handicap victory. A scenario which repeated for the some 230-strong fleet still at sea, despite the gallant efforts of some, including Adrien Follin’s Melges 32 Give Me Five (FRA), ultimately the closest to dethroning Magic Carpet.
Owen-Jones has an interesting history at the Giraglia Rolex Cup; line honours winner two years ago while in 2005, with his original Magic Carpet, he came agonisingly close to success only to lose out to North Sails Sportswear having led until 300 metres from the finish line. “I’ve been to quite a few Giraglias,” he noted, “one which took 72 hours when we were one of four boats that finished. As long as it’s not that bad it’s quite good! Arriving in Genoa is difficult. Often you get a good breeze coming in and think this time you are going to make the finish line in one go but you never do. There’s always a lull, a conflict of winds as you come into the port of Genoa and you usually end up changing your sail arrangement three times and asking crew to pack, unpack, repack.”
“This is a lovely, fun race to do, the crew all love it, you are all together for a long period. It’s full of unknowns, there’s always a part of luck in racing,” added a delighted Owen-Jones. ‘After so many years trying, we had almost given up one day winning this trophy!’
On Thursday, Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) confirmed her dominance of line honours at the Giraglia Rolex Cup finishing as the fastest boat for the fifth time in six years in an elapsed time of 29 hours, 11 minutes and 58 seconds, nearly 15 hours outside of her own race record. Esimit led from start to finish. “It means we still have a very fast boat and that everything went well,” said Simčič. “We have confirmation that in the Mediterranean that this boat is unbeatable even with the arrival of newer boats. We won in strong wind in 2012, and in light wind this time. We have a very good boat and a crew which gives everything and this is the result.”
In the Ascendancy
Surpassing the previous record of 220 entrants set in 2010, the Mediterranean’s oldest offshore race continues to enjoy a burgeoning reputation. “During the final prizegiving in Montecarlo last year, I referred to the Giraglia as like being the old lady of sailing. The race has a unique atmosphere and has seen everything over its 63-year history, from great champions and great personalities from around the world. Nothing can surprise the old lady anymore!,” explained Carlo Croce, President of both the Yacht Club Italiano and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).
Nearly 280 yachts competed in the week’s three events; comprising the Sanremo-Saint Tropez race, three days of inshore competition in Saint-Tropez and the main event, the 243-nm offshore race from Saint-Tropez to Genoa.
Shortly ahead of today’s final prizegiving, 193 yachts of the 240 entrants had completed the race. The light winds which characterised the second day of the race made it challenging for the fleet still at sea. Among the arrivals was a sailor who made Giraglia Rolex Cup history. On Azuree (ITA) Pierpaolo Ballerini became the first solo sailor to complete the race, finishing after just over 50 hours at sea.
The final prizegiving, held at race organisers Yacht Club Italiano’s (YCI) base in Genoa, saw Magic Carpet Cubed and Esimit Europa 2 receive Rolex timepieces for their exploits on the water and the race winner the coveted Giraglia Rolex Cup trophy.
Giraglia Rolex Cup offshore race (243-nm)
1. Magic Carpet Cubed (GBR), Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones
2. Give Me Five (FRA), Adrien Follin
3. Esimit Europa 2 (SLO), Igor Simčič
Line honours winner: Esimit Europa 2 (29 hours, 11 minutes and 58 seconds)
Giraglia Rolex Cup Inshore Series (Saint-Tropez)
IRC 0: Caol Ila R (USA), Alexander Schaerer
IRC A: B2 (ITA), Michele Galli
IRC B: Dare Dare (FRA), Christophe Bru
ORC A: Bewild (GBR), Renzo Grotteschi
ORC B: Overdose Bravo (FRA), Luc Baradat
Giraglia Rolex Cup Sanremo-Saint-Tropez (60-nm)
Overall IRC handicap winner: Jet Lag (FRA), Richard Burton