Contested by a diverse international fleet of 110 yachts from 17 countries encompassing over fifty years of yacht design and heritage, the 20th edition of the Rolex Swan Cup concluded earlier today following a compelling week’s sailing.
Whether in demanding one-design championships where the slightest hesitation or tactical indecision was ruthlessly punished, or more diverse classes showcasing a rich panorama of Nautor’s Swan history, consistent performances born from a quest for excellence in preparation, teamwork and tactics united the week’s six class victors.
Conceived in 1980 and defined by its historic partnership between Rolex, Nautor’s Swan and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, the biennial Rolex Swan Cup is admired for the highest standards it exudes on and off the water. The 20th edition magnificently portrayed the event’s diverse characteristics from innovation to tradition and close competition to fair play. As Nautor’s Swan Group President Leonardo Ferragamo reflected: “It was a Rolex Swan Cup which was even better than the previous editions and one I hope exceeded the expectations of all participants.”
Competition at the 2018 edition featured five intense days of racing often in punishing heat and predominantly light winds. At the close of the week OneGroup and Porron IX were confirmed as world champions, Mela as European champion. Solte claimed the Grand Prix class; Plis-Play the Swan Maxi and in the Sparkman & Stephens classic division victory belonged to Six Jaguar.
From the outset, the inaugural ClubSwan 50 World Championship signalled its intent – close competition between twelve one design yachts. A contest in the purest form: who sails best, wins. The no discard rule added an extra measure of pressure. Crews were required to compete at an extremely demanding level, performing consistently across a relentless racing programme.
Proof of the impressive level of competition: in ten, predominantly short, intense, windward/leeward races, seven different yachts finished first. In their quest to become the first Class world champion, the owner-helmsmen of the ClubSwan 50s put their faith in some of the world’s most renowned tacticians – the likes of Ken Read on Cuordileone, Bouwe Bekking on Niramo and Xabi Fernandez on Stay Calm to cite three. By the final day, three yachts found themselves in contention for the title: OneGroup, Mathilde and Cuordileone. Then by the final race of the series they were all tied on points.
“It felt like nothing went right in the first race today,” reflected OneGroup tactician Cameron Dunn on an eighth place which wiped out her overall advantage. “In the second race (and final race of the Worlds) we then got a terrible start. The other two yachts (Mathilde and Cuordileone) went out hard one way and on our side it came good. We managed to control the race but Cuordileone came back at us all the time. A brilliant gybe at the end helped us win by a boat length.” The smallest of margins separating OneGroup and Cuordileone after ten races.
“The amount of adrenaline and tension was impressive. It is some of the best competition I have experienced in many years,” explained Leonardo Ferragamo, owner of runners-up Cuordileone, adding sportingly: “Congratulations to OneGroup, they were well prepared, well trained and deserve this world championship.” For OneGroup owner Stefan Heidenreich, a former champion windsurfer, victory comes in one of his first regattas as owner.
The ClubSwan 50 Worlds is set to become even bigger with the fleet expanding and those already competing improving at every regatta. “The racing in this fleet is phenomenal. It is as good as it gets with one design sailing,” closed Dunn. Despite the final outcome, Ken Read also enjoyed the week, remarking: “Close racing is great racing.”
Spanish yacht Porron IX arrived in Porto Cervo as defending world champion. German rival Elena Nova as Class winner at the last Rolex Swan Cup in 2016. The rivalry proved to be the defining one in the Swan 45 World Championship. Across ten races, the two crews claimed eight victories. A pattern began to emerge, Porron IX the better performer in the lighter conditions, Elena Nova in the stronger breezes.
On the final day Porron IX, enjoying the return of lighter winds, was able to extend her slender advantage to retain her world crown. “I am proud of the progress we have made.
Two years ago here we were ninth,” explained owner Luis Senis Segarra. “Last year we were the surprise world champions in Spain and now we have won in Porto Cervo. The Rolex Swan Cup is the top event and it is incredible to win here.”
Fourteen yachts contested the ClubSwan 42 European Championships. Romanian yacht Natalia had won the competition on the last three occasions it has been held in Porto Cervo. This time Natalia Brailoiu’s crew had to contend with an average start to the week before winning four of the last five races. A stunning comeback was thwarted by the consistent performance of Andrea Rossi’s Italian yacht Mela who only finished out of the top four places on one occasion.
“The Swan 42 class is very competitive because there are very good sailors, a lot of regattas, and the boats get faster after each one,” explained Nello Pavoni, Mela sail trimmer and boat captain. “We have worked very hard on getting faster and improving.”
SPARKMAN & STEPHENS
Representing tradition, the Sparkman & Stephens division was also the largest attending class welcoming 26 yachts. Marking the Class out this year was the appearance of ten Swan 65s, a model renowned for its legendary ocean racing feats in the 1970s. “The 2018 Rolex Swan Cup witnessed the biggest ever gathering of 65s, a unique boat and an icon in our line,” explained Nautor’s Swan Vice-President Enrico Chieffi.
Owners across this Class have a unique bond with their yachts, maintaining them demands a considerable commitment. “The Swan 65 owners are proud of their boats and as a piece of art you can’t resist looking at them,” continued Chieffi. “We are here to race hard,” admitted John Sims-Hilditch, co-owner of Venator, the fourth Swan 65 hull ever built, “but with a little bit of tenderness for the boats as they are magnificent and we love them as people.”
Fittingly the S&S division was won by a Swan 65 in the shape of Tony Ball’s Six Jaguar, triumphant in two of the five races. “Being involved in the Rolex Swan Cup for a second time with this boat is fantastic and especially in this Class,” remarked Ball. “Victory came down to seconds for us. It is a terrific event with a great social scene and iconic boats.”
The Swan Maxi Class welcomed the most diverse range of designs from 60-100-ft including one of Nautor’s most recent launches – the Swan 78 Haromi – and the largest competing yacht in Varsovie.
With two bullets from the opening races, Vicente Garcia Torres’ Swan 80 Plis-Play quickly emerged as the yacht to beat. Despite resilient competition from Stephen Cucchiaro’s Swan 601 Flow, it was a lead the Spanish yacht was able to maintain taking a total of three out of five coastal races. “We are really happy to have won,” explained Plis-Play navigator Enrique Martínez-Asua. “The event is brilliant, there is no place like this to sail with the beautiful islands and challenging wind conditions.”
A duel between Swan 53s Crilia and Solte dominated the Grand Prix class with neither yacht dropping from the podium in five races. Three bullets handed Solte the class crown. “It is our first time here, all week we were very consistent and we are very happy with the results,” remarked helmsman Hasip Gencer.
The six class winners were recognised for their performances and excellence on the water with trophies and Rolex timepieces at the final prizegiving held on Piazza Azzurra at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.
This year sees the introduction of a new trophy from the newly formed association of Swan Classics by Frers. It was claimed by the Swan 651 Lunz Am Meer owned by Marietta Strasoldo. The award in memory of Vittorio Codecasa, YCCS member and past president of the Swan 45 Class, went to Leonardo Ferragamo as the top-placed YCCS member.
The 21st edition of the Rolex Swan Cup will be held in September 2020.
Full results available at www.yccsfiles.com/results/rsc18/swrc18.htm
by Giles Pearman