65th Giraglia Rolex Cup, France/Italy; June 9-17 2017.
FRECCIA ROSSA, a Russian-crewed TP52 owned by Vadim Yakimenko, secured overall victory at the 65th Giraglia Rolex Cup, earning a Rolex timepiece at the Yacht Club Italiano in Genoa.
<b>PHOTOS:</b> ROLEX / KURT ARRIGO
Nearly 250 yachts participated in the week’s sailing including 209 in the main 241nm race from Saint-Tropez, France to Genoa, Italy, where Dieter Schon’s Maxi 72 Momo from Germany took line honours.
After claiming both the Rolex Challenge Trophy and a Rolex Submariner timepiece, Freccia Rossa, translating as ‘red arrow’, became the second TP52 in recent years to win the race, following Franck Nöel’s Near Miss in 2012.
After crossing the line in Genoa in fifth place, Freccia Rossa soared to the summit of the corrected time leaderboard. As the lack of breeze on the passage from the Giraglia rock to the finish line continued to thwart the ambitions of those yachts still in contention, Freccia Rossa’s status as race leader became race winner.
Yakimenko explained: “The Giraglia Rolex Cup is a great event and to win here is a fantastic feeling. There are always lots of boats and crews from all over the world. It’s full of positive emotion and also challenging. We have sailed together for a very long time, as a mix of professionals and amateurs. I am very proud of my crew. To sail together is always a great pleasure.”
In the absence of a 100ft Maxi on the start line in Saint-Tropez, the quest to win line honours at the 2017 Giraglia Rolex Cup was set up for the three competing Maxi 72s.
Alex Schärer’s Caol Ila R, as the fastest performer during the threeday inshore series in Saint-Tropez, was the form yacht; Sir Peter Ogden’s Jethou, a perennial race competitor, had amassed significant Giraglia mileage; while Dieter Schön’s Momo arrived in single-minded fashion having exclusively focused her preparations and set-up specifically for the offshore race.
<b>Top: Vadim Yakimenko receiving his Rolex</b>
<b>Bottom: Freccia Rossa</b>
Making gains in the prevailing light conditions and avoiding parking in the various potential wind traps became the focus for the international fleet. This latter peril proved the downfall of Jethou, which was left motionless on the approach to the Giraglia rock and dropped out of contention.
This left her rival Maxi 72s to engage in a head-to-head from the rock to Genoa, exchanging the lead on a few occasions before Momo assumed control of the race with some 30nm to go.
Momo eventually crossed the finish line in an elapsed time of 32h 52m 4s, a mere eight minutes ahead of Caol Ila R.
Chris McAsey, crew member of Momo, explained: “It was only really won when we crossed the line. We thought coming into Genoa we would park up. Luck went our way.”
Like McAsey, navigation specialist Francesco Mongelli was part of the crew onboard Giacomo during her Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race success.
Mongelli pinpointed two crucial elements as key to success – crew work and preparation.
“We made some important decisions before the race related to the weather forecast, the sails and crew onboard,” he said. “You never know with a Mediterranean forecast whether it will be accurate but our decisions proved to be right. We never lost faith even in the moments when we were losing ground.
“It was a long race, very interesting. The winds were very light. We had a great fight with Caol Ila R. You need to be lucky at the end to cross the finish line first.”
Jalina was a popular yacht as she returned to the race, finishing in 63h 15m, over 60 years after winning the first two editions of the race in the 1950s. In 2007, she had been left abandoned in Portoferraio on the Isola d’Elba when Luciano Frattini bought her and brought her back to life.
“When we found Jalina it was a critical moment for the boat,” Frattini explained. “Experts say if she had been left in the same state for another year she would have been unrecoverable. We spent years restoring the boat to her original 1946 design, using original sketches and old photos, because over time she changed a lot.
“The Giraglia Rolex Cup evolves. There was a time for Jalina, but now this is the time for the magnificent boats who won today. However, in the heart of everything, people like to turn back and admire. We came here to provide them with this opportunity. Somehow this race is Jalina’s natural environment.”
The annual race was organised by Yacht Club Italiano and the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez with long-term partner Rolex.
YCI President Nicolò Reggio explained: “The Giraglia Rolex Cup is a communal experience. It’s about being together, a desire to participate and share a unique atmosphere. To have done the event is to be part of the history of sailing.”
<b>Clockwise from top: Caol Ila R; Momo; Jethou.</b>