The 62nd Giraglia Rolex Cup has had a special feel about it ever since the Yacht Club Italiano announced that the offshore race would exceptionally finish in Monte-Carlo, this year, as part of the celebrations surrounding the inauguration of the Yacht Club de Monaco's new clubhouse.
The added allure of Monegasque principality has been reflected in the entries. Of the 242 yachts signed up to the 2014 Giraglia Rolex Cup (13 - 21 June), some 214 are expected to participate in the 241-nm race from Saint-Tropez to Monte-Carlo via the Giraglia rock.
The Giraglia Rolex Cup was first held in 1953 as part of the Yacht Club Italiano and Yacht Club de France's contribution to rebuilding friendship between their respective countries in the aftermath of the Second World War. It immediately became a firm favourite in the Mediterranean yachting calendar. Rolex first partnered the event in 1997, and the event has grown in size, complexity and stature all the while retaining its Italiano-Franco flavour and popularity.
The 2014 event starts at midnight on 13 June with a 59-nm race from Sanremo to Saint-Tropez. Immediately following will be three days of inshore racing in and around the Gulf of Saint-Tropez from 15 - 17 June. Then, on Wednesday, 18 June, the main event, the offshore race, sets off to Monte-Carlo, via the now iconic landmark of the Giraglia rock located just off the northern tip of Corsica.
The Slovenian Maxi flyer Esimit Europa 2, owned by Igor Simcic and skippered by Jochen Schumann, is expected to set the pace. In 2012 the all-blue, canting-keeled rocketship set a course record between Saint-Tropez and Sanremo of 14 hours 56 minutes and 16 seconds; less that half the time taken by the line honours winners in 1953 (a photo-finish between Ea and Amity in 30h 26' 15''). Esimit Europa will be pursued by three other Maxi's including Leanardo Ferragamo's Swan 90 Solleone skippered for the race by French single-handed sailor Marc Thiercelin.
A strong contingent of seventeen Mini Maxis, including four state-of-the-art out-and-out racers will form a harrying pack. Given the right conditions, the British crews of Jethou, Alegre and Ràn will be hoping to emulate Shockwave's victory in 2010, as will the Italian team on Robertissima III, who will be equally conscious that an Italian yacht has not won since the 13.7m Tartaruga in 2008.
In the middle of the fleet, where competition will be typically fierce in spite of the largely Corinthian leanings of the crews, last year's winner Alizée, owned by Laurent Camprubi, has returned understandably hoping to repeat a glorious performance and be the first yacht in many years to achieve back-to-back victories. Camprubi will have his work cut out. First the conditions have to favour a yacht of around 13-metres, and then Camprubi has to get his tactics and strategy absolutely right. And, all the while, his crew needs to eek every last performance edge from their craft throughout the course, day or night, rain or shine, wind or no wind. It is a tough task and not to be under-estimated.
The international fleet looks set to fall just short of the previous record fleet of 220 yachts set in 2010. All the same it is a kaleidoscope of nationalities, drawn mainly from Europe, with Italy best represented followed by France, United Kingdom, and, impressively, Russia. More exotic flagged yachts come from the British Virgin Islands, USA and even New Zealand.
The 2014 Giraglia Rolex Cup begins on Friday, 13 June with the main offshore race scheduled to start on Wednesday, 18 June. The final prize giving will be held at the Yacht Club de Monaco on Saturday, 21 June at noon CEST.
For more detailed information about the 2014 Giraglia Rolex Cup including race documents please visit the Yacht Club Italiano website.