Photo: Stefano Gattini/Rolex

Swans prepare for Porto Cervo

Two weeks to go until the Rolex Swan Cup

Monday August 30th 2010, Author: Giles Pearman, Location: Italy

With just over two weeks to go an impressive fleet of Swans is poised to sail into Porto Cervo, Sardinia for the 2010 Rolex Swan Cup. The 16th edition of this biennial clan gathering, unrivalled in the sailing world, includes the Swan 45 Rolex World Championship.

At close of the official entry period, over 90 yachts had entered from 18 countries, which include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States.

The smallest yacht in the fleet will be the Italian Swan 371, Rebelot, owned by Anaa Oesella Franchi; the largest are two Swan 112s, Mystery (GBR) and Highland Breeze (SPA). In between are a host of other examples of the Swan breed of which, impressively, twelve are 24-metres or over in length. The most recently launched entrant is the Swan 80, Berenice (ITA). In addition, there will be five Swan 42s and nine Swan 45s competing in their own classes.

The regatta is open to all Nautor’s Swan yachts. It is expected that the fleet will be divided into five classes, which include Maxis (18.29m and above); Grand Prix boats (18.28m and below); Classics, designed by Sparkman and Stephens; Swan 45 One Design; and Club Swan 42.

One of the newest models competing is the Swan 60, Emma (GER), launched in August 2009 and owned by Johann Killinger. The German sailor, whose background is more rooted in dinghy sailing, has made the leap to his new 60-footer quite handily. At the recent Copa del Rey regatta, Emma finished in sixth place overall in the highly-competitive IRC A class, just ahead of the Swan 601, @Robas, owned by Gerard Logel who is currently leading the Swan Maxi Class Circuit.

Killinger, who competed in the 2008 Rolex Swan Cup as crew on a Swan 601, is looking forward to a return to Porto Cervo, and said: “It’s a wonderful area to sail. Instead of going up and down (a race course), you go around lighthouses and islands and there is more variety of conditions. It’s perfect…the water, the climate, and the people.”

Back to defend their titles, are some class winners from the 2008 event, including Hendrik Brandis on the Swan 45 Earlybird (GER), and Enrico Scerni’s Swan 42 Kora 4 (ITA).

Brandis has co-owned Earlybird with Christian Nagel since the boat’s launch in 2003. Nagel was helmsman for the 2008 Rolex Swan Cup class win and Swan 45 Gold Cup overall win. This time, it is Brandis’ turn at the wheel.

On board Earlybird, calling tactics and hoping to repeat their 2008 success, will be Sten Mohr, the world-class match racer from Denmark, along with mainsheet trimmer Rasmus Kostner, jib trimmer Arnd Howar from North Sails Denmark, and downwind trimmer Arne Wioken.

The Swan 45 fleet has been locked in tight competition all season, especially Earlybird and Peter de Ridder’s No Limits (NED), which currently lie in second and first place respectively on the European Circuit, while on the International Circuit it is No Limits trailing Earlybird.

The Dutch boat is obvious competition, but with a World Championship at stake it is little surprise that the fleet is stacked with a number of formidable contenders. Brandis says: “I think No Limits is a very quick boat; another one who we consider to be highly competitive is Blue Nights (FIN) with (four-time Olympic medallist) Jochen Schümann on as tactician, and Charisma (NED) with America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Ray Davies as tactician. Charisma’s owner/helmsman Nico Poons is able to spend much more time on the water than we can. Another boat to watch is Ulika, Italian Andreas Masi’s boat.”

Tea Ekengren’s Blue Nights is touted as one to watch and for good reason. Ekengren sailed in her first Rolex Swan Cup in 2006, having bought the Swan 45 Blue Nights earlier that year and had a successful run, including winning the Finnish Championship. She and her team competed in the 2007 Swan 45 circuit, and by 2008 she had assembled an international (Finnish/American/Dutch) crew with help from main trimmer and team leader Wally Cross, and they started improving their results. This year with Jochen Schümann onboard as tactician, they are a force to be reckoned with. Ekengren said, “I am really looking forward to this year’s Rolex Swan 45 Worlds – I know it will be a fantastic event.”

The Classics will race under the unique Nautor's Swan Rating system, based on the IRC handicap system, but which credits boats for adherence to the original design. The oldest Swan that will be competing in this class and the event as a whole is Paolo Michele Bruno’s Swan 55 Gandalf. The boat was launched in 1972 as Tauranga and has enjoyed close to 40 years of cruising and racing, literally around the world.

Designed by Sparkman & Stephens, the Swan 55 was a popular model among offshore sailors. 16 of these well-found, sea-kindly boats were built from 1970 – 1974, including Tauranga, which competed in the first Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973-74. Following that, and renamed Gandalf, the boat was campaigned steadily by British owner Don Wood from 1990 to 2001. The boat competed in the 2001 and 2003 Rolex Fastnet Races, and won her (IRC) class at the America’s Cup Jubilee in Cowes in 2001.

After a major refit in Turkey, the boat was cruised in the Mediterranean from 2003 and 2008, when Bruno bought the boat. These days Gandalf is more apt to be used for cruising with family and friends, though Bruno did enlist his friends and their children to compete in Marciana at races run by the Classic Swan Association.

While Bruno enjoys the spirit and camaraderie of sailing a classic, he clearly has the racing bug as well, and said: “I'm personally looking forward to some strong winds and some fair racing in Porto Cervo, we've put together a competitive group of friends and hope to do well at the event. Gandalf has always been a competitive boat and we do not want to let her down!”

Racing at the Rolex Swan Cup begins on Tuesday, 14 September and runs until Sunday, 19 September for most classes, with the Swan 45s finishing a day earlier on 18 September.

At the close of competition, an array of trophies will be presented. Rolex timepieces will be awarded to each of the five class winners, who will also jointly be awarded the Swan Cup. The Swan 45 World Champion will receive the Swan 45 Gold Cup and the best performing owner-driver across all classes will take home the Highland Fling Trophy.

The full programme of shoreside activity will begin on Monday, 13 September with a Welcome Cocktail party at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda clubhouse. The following race days will include after racing refreshments on the Piazza Azzurra, as well as glamorous social events throughout the week, including the Owners' Dinner hosted by Rolex on Friday and Rolex Crew Party on Saturday.

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