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Rolex Giraglia: 70 years of sailing heritage

by Quinag 30 May 2023 23:08 PDT
Rolex Giraglia 2022 © Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi

Support for pre-eminent yacht clubs and first-class events have always been the cornerstone of Rolex's long-standing relationship with yachting.

The Rolex Giraglia and its co-founder, the Yacht Club Italiano (YCI), are prime examples of the association, both having been partnered by Rolex since 1998.

Celebrating its 70th anniversary and edition this year, the Rolex Giraglia is one of the most historic events in the sport. Founded in 1953 to help unite the French and Italian sailing communities following the Second World War, over the decades it has become a reference point in Mediterranean sailing.

The YCI, established in 1879 and based in the port of Genoa, is a renowned institution in the sailing world. The club's high esteem stems from organizing regattas of national and international importance, and its part in founding the Federazione Italiana Vela (Italian Sailing Federation).

The Rolex Giraglia has grown in stature and complexity to encompass three components, all organized with the support of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, and with the picturesque port of Saint-Tropez the central hub.

This celebrated location has become a significant destination for top-class sailing events, with two other major competitions, both partnered by Rolex, held here: the annual Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, uniting modern and classic monohull yachts; and SailGP's France Sail Grand Prix, featuring lightning-quick F50 foiling catamarans.

This year's Rolex Giraglia commences on Friday, 9 June. Opening the programme is an arrival race from Sanremo, Italy, especially popular among Italian crews. Three days of racing in the Bay of Saint-Tropez follow. This competitive inshore series provides the perfect opportunity for crews to hone their teamwork and tactics ahead of the week's main event scheduled for Wednesday, 14 June: the 241-nautical mile (446 kilometres) offshore race to Genoa, Italy, via La Giraglia, a scenic rocky islet off northern Corsica.

Rolex Testimonee and multiple Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt is a past competitor and believes the event's diverse programme and renowned spirit of camaraderie are significant factors in its continuing appeal:

"Sailors love competing at the Rolex Giraglia because it offers the intensity of windward/leeward racing as well as the endurance and navigational demands of the offshore race. Plus, there is the positive atmosphere, with professional and Corinthian sailors from around the world competing against each other on the water and enjoying each other's company once ashore."

Today, the Rolex Giraglia regularly attracts a fleet of more than 200 yachts from 20-plus countries. This year's landmark edition will provide an opportunity to celebrate the event's heritage, together with its continued progress and evolution, as Gerolamo Bianchi, President of the YCI, explains:

"The Rolex Giraglia is one of the most important manifestations of sailing spirit in the Mediterranean, where crews come together to not only compete but to share their passion for the sport. The sizeable and impressive fleet gathering this year to help celebrate the history and tradition of this event will provide this milestone moment a unique lustre."

The offshore race is considered the prime attraction and draws a broad range of entries, from powerful Maxi yachts all more than 60 feet (18.29 metres) in length and capable of completing the course in well under 24 hours, to the majority of the fleet, which will normally be at sea for 24 to 60 hours. It is 11 years since the current race record was set by the 100-ft (30.48m) Maxi Esimit Europa 2, the first yacht to complete the course in under 15 hours. The fastest boats will be hoping for suitable conditions to challenge this blistering pace, while many of the remainder will simply be looking forward to testing themselves against the vagaries of the weather and the sea.

As Scheidt says, despite the relatively short length of the offshore race, it still poses some notable challenges: "Compared with longer offshore races, the Rolex Giraglia is highly condensed. Flawless navigation is essential because there is very little opportunity to recover lost ground. Using one's skill and experience to determine the best racing line from one point to the next is crucial."

Participating in the Rolex Giraglia is a rewarding experience for sailors of all ages, backgrounds and experiences. To do so is to be part of an important tradition in sailing. The event brings together a number of alluring qualities - a unique history, legendary exploits, a famous racecourse and the support of organizers and partners with a mutually profound sense of respect for the heritage and future of the sport.

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