Preparing for the Rolex Swan Cup
As the maxi yachts departed Porto Cervo, arriving Swans quickly filled the marina to capacity for the 16th edition of the Rolex Swan Cup, with racing beginning tomorrow, Monday 14 September through Sunday 19 September. 92 Swans arrived from near and far – including Finland and Australia – to compete in the week of racing, which also includes the Rolex Swan 45 World Championship.
The now biennial Rolex Swan Cup, first run in 1984, has always attracted a diverse crowd of Swan owners and crew. The event is unique in the breadth of Swan models from Anaa Franchi’s Swan 371 Rebelot (ITA), to the Swan 112 Highland Breeze (NED) of Ben Kaiff. In between are some of the most classic boats such as the Sparkman & Stephens-designed boats that were a hallmark from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, and some of the just-launched designs such as the Swan 60 Emma (GER) and the Swan 80 Berenice (ITA).
The fleet will be divided into five classes: Maxis, LOA 18.29m and above; Grand Prix, LOA 18.28 and below; Classics, designed by Sparkman & Stephens, Swan 45 OD, and Club Swan 42. The Maxis, Grand Prix, Classics, and Swan 42s will race on coastal courses in the waters off Porto Cervo and around nearby La Maddalena, the exquisite island chain off the Costa Smeralda coast which offers tacticians stunning scenery and tricky topography as they wend their way around rocky spires and islets. The Swan 45 class is scheduled to contest 11 windward-leeward races (five needed for the series). All classes will have an Islands Long Race on Thursday, which will send the fleet off for a distance race of approximately six to nine hours.
Mixed among the fleet are grand-prix sailors including America’s Cup contender and world champion, Paul Cayard on Leonardo Ferragamo’s Cuor di Leone; four-time Olympic medalist and America's Cup sailor, Jochen Schuemann on Tea Ekengren’s Swan 45 Blue Nights, and Volvo Ocean Race veteran, Bouwe Bekking on the Swan 112 Highland Breeze.
Berenice, the freshly-hatched Swan 80, belongs to Marco Rodolfi, a long-time Italian sailor who has previously owned a Swan 62 on which he competed in both the 2006 and 2008 Rolex Swan Cups.
Rodolfi was also an active competitor in the Farr 40 class from 2003 onwards. He’s since sold that boat and bought the Swan 80, taking delivery of the first of this newly designed 80-footer from the Nautor’s Swan factory in Finland. After a relaxing ten days cruising with family in Scandinavia, Rodolfi and crew bee-lined for the Mediterranean, with some stops in Kiel and Lisbon enroute. Putting nearly 3,500 nautical miles under the new keel was an emphatic shakedown, and Rodolfi said: “We know (from the delivery) that the boat is very fast downwind – passing through the straits of Gibraltar we reached 18 knots with the genoa, and it was very exciting.” On arrival in Porto Cervo they crew were busy straight away getting the boat into race mode, making some minor new-boat repairs and tweaks and looking forward to seeing what the boat would do around a race course.
Rodolfi decided on the Swan 80 as his interests changed, he said: “The Swan 80 is not really a (conventional) racing boat, but I hope to sail in offshore races, like the Rolex Middle Sea Race. We’ll participate in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) across to the Caribbean this fall, and maybe Antigua Sailing Week. Racing a boat such as this it’s a busy program and not so easy, as we need a lot of people, 20-22 crew.” The genial skipper seems not to have difficulty finding them, given the friends he’s gathered to race on his past boats.
The Swan 45 fleet of nine boats includes entries from Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, and Poland. Both defending 2009 World Champion Nico Poons on Charisma (NED) and 2008 World Champion Earlybird (GER), with Hendrik Brandis are here.
Jochen Schuemann is the tactician for Tea Ekengren on Blue Nights. Schuemann met Ekengren on the racing circuit last year and they decided to sail together; but with few regattas with all the Swan 45s racing together as a fleet, it’s down to this World Championship. On the dock shortly before heading out to train, Schuemann said: “We’ve sailed together very little, for one or two days of practice and now we are straight into the World Championship. But the team sailed in similar configuration over the last few years and Tea is not new to the class, so I hope we will perform well and have good fun here.”
Not surprisingly Nautor’s Swan CEO, Leonardo Ferragamo is in Porto Cervo representing the Finnish boatbuilding company he took over in 1998, but he is also a keen competitor as well, racing on his Club Swan 42 Cuor di Leone. Ferragamo was pleased with the high turnout, attributing it to, “…the spirit of this regatta. It has grown year after year. These boats that are similar to one another and can compete very fairly against one another. Also, Swans can be used for both racing and cruising with no compromise in either, and so they are very special. Plus, you add Porto Cervo with this lovely weather, and it’s no surprise that you get close to 100 boats from sixteen countries.”
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.