Even the famous pontoons of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo have rarely paid witness to such a flurry of activity and vibrant sense of anticipation. Tomorrow, Tuesday 13 September, racing at the 2016 Rolex Swan Cup commences and a record-breaking fleet of 125 yachts will offer a spectacular week of sailing on Sardinia’s renowned nautical playground, the Costa Smeralda.
This is a momentous year for the Rolex Swan Cup, an event established in 1980 and defined by one of yachting’s most enduring and successful partnerships, that between Nautor’s Swan, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) and title sponsor Rolex. Fifty years ago in the town of Pietarsaari, Finland, the very first Swan yacht in the form of the 36-ft Tarantella was constructed, spearheading the creation of one of sailing’s most successful and distinctive marques.
In celebrating this historic occasion, the Swan world has responded with its customary enthusiasm. The record number of entrants registered for this year’s event comfortably surpasses the 91 yachts which took part in the previous Porto Cervo gathering in 2014 and the current event record of 116, set a decade ago.
“We are delighted to welcome this record fleet for the 19th edition of the Rolex Swan Cup. This is a special event with a unique atmosphere and it is wonderful to see these beautiful Swans from all around the world lined up in the marina,” explains Riccardo Bonadeo, Commodore of the YCCS. “We are looking forward to a week of exciting racing across all of the competing categories as well as some distinctive events to mark Nautor’s Swan’s anniversary.”
The impressive number of entrants gives an indication of the standing of the event, renowned for its prevailing sense of camaraderie, sportsmanship, flawless race management and host of popular social events. The diversity of the fleet, divided into six different classes, is testament to Nautor’s reputation as a builder of yachts of enduring quality and appeal.
“The Rolex Swan Cup is a synonym for passion, racing, fun and dedication. It is an opportunity for us to share with our owners and our historical partners, Rolex and the YCCS, our unique and unconditional love for the sea and for our Swans. And this year, it is most specially the moment in which to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company,” reveals Nautor’s Swan Chairman Leonardo Ferragamo. “Walking on the docks and looking at the fleet, you can feel the special atmosphere that is being created in preparation for a week of racing.I am truly excited to know that I will have the honour and the privilege to race in the marvellous waters of Sardinia, together with friends, owners and professional sportsmen from all over the world.”
Admired for their size, power, sleek lines and elegance, the Swan Maxi class comprises 16 entrants with interest particularly heightened around the presence of three Swan 115s – Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s Highland Fling 15, Leonardo Ferragamo’s Solleone and the most recent build Shamanna, launched earlier this year. Created to cruise in style and race at breathtaking speed, this new flagship of the SwanLine, designed by the legendary Germán Frers Snr, come together for the first time in Porto Cervo.
The latest thinking in Swan design and evolution is not limited to the imperious 115s. The presence of three ClubSwan 50s – Cuordileone, Genapi and Ladykiller – is drawing equal curiosity and excitement. Inspired by the creative mind of designer Juan Kouyoumdjian, the ClubSwan50 was conceived with the intention of celebrating the marque’s 50th anniversary and providing an extremely fast racing boat which unites the captivating appeal and natural elegance of Swan. Evolution and innovation in equal measure.
Elsewhere in the fleet, one design competition in the Swan 45 and the ClubSwan 42 classes habitually goes down to the week’s very last race, where well-honed teamwork and tactical guile come to the fore. The 16-strong Swan 45 fleet features four-time world champion Earlybird from Germany and another former champion in Samantaga. Defending ClubSwan 42 champion Natalia has been a class winner during her last two Rolex Swan Cup appearances.
Contrasting the cutting-edge and envelope pushing new launches are the 36-strong Sparkman and Stephens designs, classic yachts produced between 1966 and the early 1980s. The class comprises Tarantella, Swan’s historic first build, together with Josian, winner of the inaugural Rolex Middle Sea Race in 1968, and a host of designs which dominated yacht racing in a bygone era. Among the historic models, the Swan 65 provided the winner of the first Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973-74 and seven of its kind have gathered in Porto Cervo.
These durable, timeless yachts are all united by their proud history, their feats of human endeavour and a lineage of passionate owners who have invested their time and love in adding their own chapter to this most impressive of nautical legacies.
For Pekka Koskenkylä, the Finnish founder of Nautor’s Swan and the man who commissioned Tarantella, witnessing the enduring durability of these early designs naturally evokes an emotion of pride. “Over the next 50 years I’m sure Tarantella and most of the Swans that are afloat now will still be there. This is not a wooden or a steel boat or made of aluminium. It doesn’t rot, it’s just fibre glass, a wonderful material that is built strong enough so it doesn’t flex and lasts practically forever.”
The Rolex Swan Cup is a meeting of tradition and innovation, heritage and progress. Notions which unite all of the event’s longstanding partners.
Racing commences on Tuesday 13 September with the first warning signal scheduled for 11:30 CEST.