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Big Fun At Rolex Giraglia

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  • Big Fun At Rolex Giraglia

    Italian youth crew prevails among
    Rolex Giraglia’s IRC 0 maxis

    In a fantastic result for the Rolex Giraglia’s hosts and organiser, the Yacht Club Italiano (YCI), their ‘club boat’, Adriano Calvini’s Felci 61 Itacentodue, claimed the race’s IRC 0 maxi boat class after crossing the Genoa finish line mid-evening yesterday.

    Coming out on top against some extremely well sailed maxi yachts was especially satisfying since Itacentodue’s crew largely comprised 17-25 year old talent from the YCI’s B&G supported offshore sailing academy. However during the race wisdom being imparted to them by their tactician America’s Cup and Olympic legend Tommaso Chieffi and Ambrogio Beccaria, series class winner of the 2019 Mini Transat, the famous transatlantic race’s first ever Italian victor.

    Rolex Giraglia was a race of intense highs and lows for Itacentodue. Chieffi summarised: “We made a couple of very costly mistakes early on when we went too close into the shore, especially off Monte Carlo which cost us three or four miles. But Ambrogio Beccaria our navigator then did an excellent job catching the good shifts and finding good pressure. We were an hour behind our fleet and we popped out an hour and a half in front.”

    This leapfrogging occurred on the upwind leg towards the Giraglia Rock and was partly thanks to their timing – the boats ahead of them were becalmed while Itacentodue was able to find more consistent pressure north of the rhumb line. At the Rock the wind pipped up to 27 knots providing an enjoyable final leg to Genoa.

    Chieffi said he enjoyed racing with the young crew. It reminded him of his first Rolex Giraglia in 1982 when, aged 20, he drove Raul Gardini’s maxi Il Moro di Venezia to victory.
    For International Maxi Association President Benoît de Froidmont, the race was one of slight déjà-vu, his Wallyño spending most of the Rolex Giraglia locked in a perpetual match race with long term adversary Jean-Pierre Barjon’s Swan 601 Lorina 1895. Ultimately de Froidmont’s silver Wally 60 reached Genoa at 22:25 CEST yesterday to claim second place in IRC 0.

    For Wallyño, the race started slowly. A block broke just before the start causing them to cross the start line bare headed. They also suffered when they got stuck in almost no wind for three hours en route to the Giraglia Rock which de Froidmont noted that Itacentodue had managed to avoid. “Off Cannes she was 10 miles behind us. We didn’t see her in the night but she went straight and later was 10 miles ahead of us!”

    Wallyño’s saving grace was keeping the breeze as she sailed into Genoa as many other boats ahead were becalmed. “The competition was fantastic with Lorina. We stayed together for all of the race - it was great fun,” said de Froidmont, their result righting their 2019 Rolex Giraglia race when their race had been destroyed by a interminable park up off the finish line.

    There was some consolation for the Lorina 1895 crew which claimed the third step on the IRC 0 podium while there was a very good result for Luigi Sala's Mills Vismara 62 Yoru which finished fourth in one of their first offshore races.

    Having a sticky race was Márton Józsa’s Hungarian crew on Wild Joe. “We were trying to avoid the forecast windless areas, but we didn’t really manage it,” Józsa admitted. “We stopped for one hour completely in no wind. After the rock, it was a very good run for us and we could use our DSS foil.” With this the Reichel-Pugh 60 hit a top speed of 27 knots in 28 knots of wind. All was going well until Wild Joe was becalmed again for 1.5 hours.

    Another maxi boat match race was taking place between old friends and foes: Carlo Alberini on his newly acquired Davidson 69 Pendragon VI and Alessandro del Bono on his newly refitted Capricorno, a Reichel-Pugh designed 78ft ILC maxi and Sydney Hobart winner, originally campaigned by Hasso Plattner. Both owners have had long histories campaigning one design keelboats.

    Ultimately Capricorno, winner of the YCI’s Regate di Primavera - Splendido Mare Cup earlier this year, ended up fifth overall to Pendragon VI’s tenth. Del Bono said that the boat proved very fast upwind in 15+ knots but they had suffered on the way to the Giraglia rock. “It was very tough during the night when we were close to the Giraglia. The wind was going from 90° to 140° and back every half an hour. Finally it settled at 130° and we had 25 knots. We were so happy, surfing downwind at 18-19 knots.”

    While the boat belongs to Del Bono’s father, well known Admiral’s Cup winner Rinaldo, she was in storage for more than a decade and only recently did Alessandro recommission her in order to sail it with his own 18 year old son, also named Rinaldo. Racing on board were many of the crew from the successful Capricorno Admiral’s Cup campaigns. “The average age on our boat is around 55 which must be another record!” observed Alessandro. Among them were many stars of the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race such as Flavio Flavini, Stefano Rizzi and Matteo Plazzi.

    Even if he wasn’t pleased with the end result, Pendragon VI’s Carlo Alberini did enjoy the race, his first ever Rolex Giraglia, despite his otherwise prolific sailing background. “It was a very interesting race with a lot of calms and then strong wind after Giraglia, a Scirocco with 22-23 knots,” Alberini recounted. “We had a little problem with our reefing system after we rounded. We reduced the mainsail beforehand but when we tried to put it back up we had a problem and there were rocks were close by! We had a good match race with Capricorno – we are old friends.”

    Many of the maxi fleet, including Pendragon VI now move on to August’s Palermo-Montecarlo, the fifth and concluding event of the International Maxi Association’s 2020-21 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge.

    Full Results


    Since setting off from Sanremo, Italy at midday yesterday, a tough contest for maxi yacht line honours has been playing out in the Rolex Giraglia, the fourth event of the International Maxi Association's Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge.

    Overnight, as crews clawed their way towards the Giraglia rock, the entire fleet was subject to a massive meteorological game of snakes and ladders with the wind fading to the west of northern Corsica.

    After a slow start, when they were third to the weather mark behind Magic Carpet Cubed and Leopard, the 100ft Arca SGR finally had pulled ahead at the inshore mark off Ventimiglia. As the fastest maxi in the fleet (based on her IRC rating of 1.847), she then led for the remainder of the race despite Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones’ Wallycento Magic Carpet Cubed constantly nipping at her heels.

    The passage across to the Giraglia Rock was difficult with a shift from the northeast to east southeast initially failing to materialise. Instead the wind dropped allowing Magic Carpet Cubed to eat into the Trieste-based maxi’s lead. Finally the expected shift arrived 25 miles short of the Rock which they eventually rounded at 0700 this morning, 15 minutes ahead of Magic Carpet Cubed. Bearing away around the Giraglia, Arca SGR saw the wind veer further to the southeast and building to 20-25 knots enabling the former 2003 Rolex Sydney Hobart line honours winner to reach speeds of 20-22 knots.

    Arca SGR rounds the Giraglia rock off north Corsica. Photo: ROLEX / Studio Borlenghi

    “It was really fast downwind after Giraglia,” said Arca SGR’s skipper Furio Benussi. “We went 22-23 knots at times, which was really nice. Upwind Magic Carpet is really competitive with us.” Extending her lead to eight or nine miles, Arca SGR's high speeds dwindled around 20 miles short of the Genoa finish line, when she put in a final hitch west to cover Magic Carpet Cubed. After the usual slow final miles to reach the Genoa finish line, Arca SGR arrived at 14:08:10 CEST, followed by Magic Carpet Cubed at 14:23:55.

    “I am very happy because this boat and this crew are amazing,” said Benussi, once Arca SGR was moored off the Yacht Club Italiano's Genoa clubhouse. “Everyone was really strong. For us it was important to be here in first place with this boat. Winning line honours is perfect for us.” This victory comes on the back of Benussi's maxi claiming line honours in the recent 151 Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar.

    Finishing second on the water, but substantially ahead of Arca SGR under IRC corrected time, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones was pleased with the result of his “family cruiser”. This was the dark blue Wallycento’s first event in 20 months although he has used Magic Carpet Cubed for holidays during this period. “We were so close to beating a pure racer - one of the fastest 100 footers in the world,” he said. “That was very nearly a big thing. They sailed very well, so our hats off to them. We don’t have any big regrets. Their boat is just a little bit quicker than ours. So it was a good day and we were all just so happy to get back on the water.”

    A regular competitor, Owen-Jones compares the Rolex Giraglia race to an itch he has to scratch even though the race is often light. Of this year's race he said: “It was full of really big shifts that you couldn’t possibly forecast. While over the whole area it was easterly, we suddenly at midnight got a west wind so some of the back markers caught us up a bit. Even when it is very light, there is usually a little wind at the top of the rig so you can build on that. I don’t think we ever dropped below about 5 knots of boat speed.”

    Magic Carpet Cubed’s renowned Dutch navigator Marcel van Triest said that the light patch 30 miles short of the Giraglia was in fact a mini system. “It got calm and we worked to the north – it wasn’t a wind hole, it had a ‘full swirl’. It saw them [Arca SGR] go up and for a long time they were doing 12 knots when we were going 5 knots and they were in a northwesterly.” However all was forgiven after rounding the Rock as the wind picked up to 20+ knots enabling the blue 100 footer to hit similar speeds.

    Leopard was third home at 15:32:17 CEST having dropped back in the middle of the small depression.

    “We had quite a nice race,” said tactician, double Olympic medallist Mitch Booth. “We were very impressed with how the boat went and the team did a great job. We got stuck in the middle of one hole – this big void in the middle of everything. The wind seemed to be coming from every direction at one point… But the rest of the race went very well for us. We thoroughly enjoyed it.”

    Booth felt they had sailed the first downwind leg along the Italian and French rivieras well until they got to the turning mark off the Rade d’Agay. “We were right in touch with them both still and we almost had a crash with Magic Carpet going into that mark... There were a bit of fireworks then... Overnight we thought we sailed well and we came back to be very close to them, but then they escaped the light air better than us.”

    Generally Booth said they were satisfied with their result considering that Magic Carpet Cubed is “the master of this race” and the Italians [Arca SGR] “are the light air specialists. We can’t expect to match those guys in these conditions. But we were very happy with the boat. For Joost [Schuijff, Leopard’s new owner] this was his first real offshore race. He really enjoyed it - we couldn’t get him off the wheel!”

    Further maxi arrivals are expected this evening while tomorrow a winner of the maxi class under IRC is expected to emerge.

    The race can be followed on the SGS tracker at

    Event' website:

    (Race report by James Boyd / International Maxi Association)
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