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Rolex Giraglia 2019: The rewards for enduring commitment

by Giles Pearman 15 Jun 2019 20:53 BST 9-11 June 2019
Day 2 – Rolex Giraglia 2019 © ROLEX / Studio Borlenghi

The illustrious reputation of the Rolex Giraglia has been sculpted by the passion and persistent pursuit of excellence of those who take part together with the dedication and purposeful collaboration of the events established partners. The 2019 edition, the 67th uninterrupted annual running since 1953, provided a resounding demonstration of why the event has endured. Rolex, a supporter of yachting since the 1950s, has been a close and committed partner of the event since 1998.

Memorable moments

A total of 297 international yachts, and nearly 3,000 sailors, took part across the weeklong competition. Sporting highlights included the three days of inshore racing off Saint-Tropez and the 241 nautical mile offshore race to Monaco. Very few sailing events command such large participation nor comprise such a diverse programme, uniting intense competition, majestic locations and convivial social events. Rolexs longstanding relationship with the sport includes enduring partnerships with individuals and organizations who set the highest standards. The organizers of the Rolex Giraglia the Yacht Club Italiano and the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez together with hosts of the 2019 finish, the Yacht Club de Monaco, fit emphatically within this criterion.

Rolex Giraglia 2019 15 June One to remember

The offshore component at the Rolex Giraglia is the single most important element. Its history stretching back to the origins of the event. This years will be remembered for a number of significant moments on and off the water. For a second time the offshore race finished in Monaco, with crews hosted at the Yacht Club de Monacos resplendent clubhouse. George Davids American maxi Rambler, on her first appearance, claimed line honours, a little over an hour outside of the race record. Overall victory on corrected time, the most coveted prize, was won for a first time by Alex Schaerers Maxi 72 Caol Ila R. For both these teams, success was propelled by relentless drive in their preparation and throughout the race.

Chasing the record

The race record at the Rolex Giraglia is notoriously hard to break. Conditions in the Mediterranean in June are capricious. The current benchmark was set in 2012 by Esimit Europa 2 in a pulsating time of 14 hours, 56 minutes. Until this year, no yacht had come within nine hours of this time. The forecast ahead of the race provided the leading contenders with an opportunity to dream; in particular, Rambler and Sir Lindsay Owen-Joness Magic Carpet Cubed, two contrasting expressions of a maxi yacht.

For David and his crew on the all-conquering, 26.8m (88-foot), pure racer, this was an opportunity to add the Rolex Giraglia to line honours successes at the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race. David and his crew arrived with one objective. Finish first.

Owen-Jones and his 30.5m (100-ft) Wallycento Magic Carpet Cubed, a yacht designed to race and cruise with a longer waterline, a sophisticated and complex interior and much heavier displacement, had one distinct advantage: greater event experience. Magic Carpet Cubed had won line honours in 2016, a year after claiming overall victory. This year we are very much the underdog and happy to be that for once, admitted Owen-Jones before the race.

While David was hoping for robust Mistral conditions, which would suit his yacht, the winter had been spent making modifications that had reduced Ramblers displacement by one and a half tonnes with the objective of making her more competitive in lighter air. You can always make something in life better, reflected David on the latest innovations. There is an appeal in continuing evolution and in improvement and refinement. It is a good philosophy with which to approach ocean racing. It is the same philosophy applied by Rolex to the art of watch-making.

The race start off Saint-Tropez, played out under blue skies and good breeze, was one of the most spectacular in recent years. The 243-strong fleet converging after the staggered start with the larger, professionally-crewed yachts catching and passing smaller Corinthian entrants at the entrance to the Gulf of Saint-Tropez.

Rambler soon exercised control and her lead on the water was rarely threatened. Davids rivals main wish was that a fast downwind leg to the Giraglia rock would be followed by greater complexity. Our hope was that on our way to Monaco there would be a lot of uncertainty, that the wind would drop and it would become very tactical, admitted Owen-Jones. However, it was a slog back, not dead upwind. We do well beating, which would have equalised the chances. Fetching is what they do best. Magic Carpet Cubed eventually finished second, some 35 minutes behind Rambler.

Conditions seemingly in her favour, Rambler focused on the race record. An objective that appeared in her grasp until the wind abated on the approach to the finish. People say this is usually a slow race. That wasnt the case this year, explained David. We had a wonderful ride until ten miles from the finish when the breeze shut down. We thought the record was close. But thats sailboat racing.

Persistence rewarded

Third to finish on the water, Caol Ila R is always a highly-competitive Rolex Giraglia entrant. She has come close to victory before, placing third overall in the last two editions of the offshore race. Finishing just 59 minutes behind the race leader she became the yacht to beat on corrected time. As the wind became increasingly fickle for the smaller boats, no competitor was able to sustain a successful challenge.

Following Momos achievement in 2018, this is the second year running a Maxi 72 has won the race. A fulfilment of a longstanding ambition for Alex Schaerer. The race brings back memories from when I competed in my youth, when I wasnt in contention to win and watched and admired the racing boats. Now, to win with such a beautiful boat of my own is a great feeling. I am very proud of my crew.

Unquestionable appeal

Drawn by the events ever-increasing reputation, a number of competitors, both professional and Corinthian, were participating for the first time. All took home memories that reflected well upon the character of the old lady of the Mediterranean as the race is sometimes known. Thibault de Possesse, a French naval captain, skippered Le Lupin: We wanted to do the race because it is a really good sporting challenge, one of the best races in the Mediterranean. The organisation has been great and we will be back again!

The Brazilian sailor, Torben Grael, sailing on Vanessa and who has won most of sailings top prizes, was quick to identify the strength and accuracy of the events reputation. It is my first time here, he remarked. With it being a Rolex event, we knew it would be special, well organised and the offshore race would be challenging.

This was the first time for us, and it was a very good experience, confirmed Belgian sailor Cedric Werbrouck of Coup de Tete 6. The race was very tactical, interesting and there was a lot of fair play. Rounding the Giraglia rock at sunrise was a highlight. We felt the emotion of being at sea and were reminded about the close relationship with nature.

For the crews competing at the 2019 Rolex Giraglia, this was one of the hardest and fastest editions in recent memory. Maintaining optimum boat performance, concentration and focus made the race intense whatever the size or speed of the yachts. The dedication and ambition shown by all crews ensures the event will continue to inspire future generations of sailors.

At the final prizegiving held at the Yacht Club de Monaco, the feats of both the winners and all those who simply completed the race were recognised. Many, if not most, will be back next year, drawn once again by the events enduring appeal.

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