11.30am marked the start of the 50th edition of the Giraglia Rolex Cup, the classic Mediterranean regatta organised by the Yacht Club Italiano in collaboration with the Yacht Club de France and the Societè Nautique de St. Tropez.
The dead calm at 10am had led to fears that the first coastal race would be delayed, but by 11am the wind veered east-south-east and, although light, was blowing at a constant 8 knots and the jury decided to start the race at 11.30am.
There was an impressive fleet of yachts on the starting line for the 18-miles race. Those who chose to hug the coast pushed ahead, but at the first buoy there was already a long queue of boats that was unbroken all the way back to the gulf where the wind was almost non-existent and the positions were completely turned around. The many-time champion Vasco Vascotto, tactician aboard Bugia Bianca, opted for a wide route that took him past five other boats.
First to cross the line was the super-fast Idea owned by Raffaele Raiola with Paolo Semeraro at the helm and Roberto Spata as tactician. Idea had managed to overtake My Song owned by Pigi Loro Piana (with Lorenzo Bressani as helmsman).
The overall winner in compensated time was the Dutch boat Sottovoce belonging to Arien Van Vemde.
In second place in compensated time was Idea (Raffaele Raiola) and in third place My Song (Pigi Loro Piana).
Many of the world's top yachtsmen are in St. Tropez for the Giraglia Rolex Cup, including Thierry Peponnet aboard Virtuelle (owned by Carlo Perrone), Mauro Pelaschier and Enrico Passoni aboard Edimetra (owned by Artemide Ernesto Gismondi) and Lorenzo Bressani aboard My Song (owned by the king of cashmere Pigi Loro Piana). Not forgetting Paolo Semeraro and Roberto Spata aboard Idea (owned by Neapolitan businessman Raffaele Raiola), the Italian match race champion Nicola Celon aboard Calzedonia, together with Sandro Veronesi (owner of the eponymous company) and Enrico Chieffi aboard La Forza del Destino, the brand new prototype Swan 45 recently launched.
Last night in St. Tropez there was a formal welcome held for the participants with cocktails at La Ponche, located on the jetty in the old port.
Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 June will see another two coastal races off St. Tropez. On Thursday 20 June the long regatta (243 miles) from St. Tropez-scoglio della Giraglia-Genoa will get under way and the arrival in Genoa is expected between next Saturday and Sunday.
The prize ceremony will take place on Sunday 23 June during a gala evening in which 1.000 invited guests will take part.
The Giraglia Rolex Cup - founded in 1952 by Beppe Croce, the fabled chairman of the Yacht Club Italiano and Renè Levainville, chairman of the Yacht Club de France - is part of the Mediterranean Trophy together with the Regate Pirelli (which takes place in Santa Margherita Ligure from 10-12 May) and the Settimana dei Tre Golfi-Trofeo Telecom-Coppa TIM (which takes place in Capri and Naples from 28 May to 2 June).