Hedrik BRANDIS and and Christian NAGEL's Earlybird of Germany took the Swan 45 World Championship title and the other victors were crowned in Porto Cervo following he final day of the Rolex Swan Cup, which dawned with an overcast sky and a moderate southwesterly of 15 knots.
With the forecast warning that the wind would build during the day, the start time had been brought forward to 10:30. The weather played ball for three of the divisions to complete one race apiece and for the Swan 45s to complete two. At the end of a difficult week with wind at both ends of the scale, the Rolex Swan Cup overall division winners were: Roel PIEPER's Swan 80 Favonius (BVI) in Swan Maxi, Hendrik BRANDIS and Christian NAGEL's Earlybird (GER) in Swan 45, Enrico SCERNI's Kora (ITA) in Club Swan 42 and John BAINBRIDGE's Swan 48 Zen (GBR) in the Classics.
The Swan Maxis were first away on a 25nm course that took them on short windward leg, followed by a fetch into 'Bomb Alley' at Capo Ferro and onto Secca di Tre Monti. From here the fleet bore away under spinnaker north towards Monaci, where they dropped their kites, gybed, and reached down to Mortoriotto. Then it was back up wind to the finish off Porto Cervo. The Classics raced a shorter, 17nm course that followed the same path as the Swan Maxis until Monaci, where they gybed before a final fetch back to Pevero and the finish. The Swan 45s raced two windward/leewards, whilst the Swan 42s elected to race just once with winds before the start of their second race being recorded at 29 knots across the deck.
In the Swan Maxis it was all Favonius once more. The biggest yacht in the regatta, the Swan 112 Highland Breeze, was first into the channel, but the superior manoeuvring skills of PIEPER's Dutch crew showed as they smoothly popped their spinnaker at the turn and took a direct line close to the southern shoreline of Caprera all the way to Monaci arriving first. Waterline length was always going to pay dividends on the way to Mortoriotto and Highland Breeze soon regained the lead on the water and led Favonius home by 43 seconds to correct out into first too. But Favonius had her eye on a much bigger prize. She has been in splendid form all week and had put in another exemplary performance to finish second on handicap ahead of Rainer WILHELM's Swan 82 Astro. Favonius has been threatening to win in Porto Cervo ever since her launch. She has more than lived up to her potential this week.
PIEPER was understandably delighted with the result and even a sore throat could not disguise the pleasure he drew from this win. "This is the first time we've won here, but the team has been working for this for many years. We've had many, many thirds in Porto Cervo and in the USA. In previous years we've sailed a series of perfect races, but so often have had two others in front of us sailing perfectly too,"
he commented. PIEPER believes Porto Cervo to be one of the best racing venues there is. He has come close to the ultimate prize on a number of occasions, so what made the difference this week? PIEPER is clear on this, putting the success down to being extremely motivated, plenty of practice and flawless crew work. Posting a scoreline that gave the rest of the 30-plus boat division no room to breathe was pretty telling. Even the last race was something about which to be proud, "This was the final day and we had the most beautiful start you can imagine at the Committee Boat; again it was the perfect race. The whole week has almost been the perfect score. Favonius has been a fantastic boat and the crew also."
PIEPER has cause to draw double the pleasure. In a winner takes all contest with Sir Peter OGDEN's Swan 601 Spirit of Jethou for the Swan Maxi Circuit 2008 and a steel Rolex Submariner Chronometer, Favonius' result here tied her on points with Spirit and gave victory on countback by virtue of winning the final event of the season.
The Swan 45s were also competing for double honours this week - both the Rolex Swan Cup and the Swan 45 Gold Cup, the class World Championship. Earlybird, with Sten MOHR in the tactician's role, went into the last day with a commanding lead, but the knowledge that a discard was about to come into play that might give advantage to the chasing pack if she failed to deliver on the racecourse. This was never likely. Earlybird had not been out of the top five all week and just to prove the point posted a crushing fourth in the first race that snuffed out all remaining hope for her rivals. In second place overnight, Atlantica Racing was already fourteen points behind and needed at least to do better than Earlybird to keep the rubber open. This was not to be. Atlantica chose the crucial race of the week to post her worst score of the week, a 19th. Worse was to follow for owner Carlo PERRONE as Grant GORDON and Klaus DIEDERICH's Fever moved into second overall by winning the race. With Earlybird holding a six-point lead over the now second-placed Fever, and her worst score a fifth, the German crew could sit out the final race in the series safe in the knowledge they had done more than enough.
Christian NAGEL was ecstatic, "I feel great, absolutely great, you can't feel better! I think everyone was a bit nervous this morning, but when we went out everything was fine because we felt good with the weather. We like strong winds, so once out there everything was fine."
Earlybird has threatened a result like this from early in the season. At Rolex Capri Sailing Week in May, she was sailing well but blotted her copybook with an inconsistent scoreline. This week, no such problems. NAGEL admitted they had had to work hard to reach this level and had been improving steadily over the last two years, "We try to prepare as best as possible. Normally, we are practicing in the race area two to three days before the event starts. It's our second season with this boat and we have made some changes to the crew, constantly trying to figure out where things could be optimized. Each event is treated as a new challenge. In this event we were able to amalgamate successfully the start sequences, boat speed and tactics."
The Club Swan 42 has also seemed a one-boat affair since the beginning. The seven-boat fleet was expected to be tight, but Enrico SCERNI and Kora clearly had other ideas. Posting a scoreline of four bullets - including one on Sunday - and two seconds was extraordinary performance. SCERNI has good reason to be happy with his week, "We have a very good team that were able to prepare the boat well, and sail her well. We race together a lot and have a lot of experience. Most important though is the climate onboard and the people you have onboard. We have everything."
Kora had already shown signs of her all-round potential earlier in the season, winning the 2008 Giraglia Rolex Cup (combined inshore races and offshore) and clearly SCERNI enjoys the challenge of small boat racing.
In the Classic Division, too, the week has been about one boat the Swan 48 Zen (GBR). John BAINBRIDGE's crew raced four times and in a variety of conditions. They did brilliantly in the conditions that suited them and minimized their losses in the conditions that did not. Like Zen, the Swan 53 Crilia that finished second overall collected two bullets. Zen took hers in the light, Crilia in the heavy. The difference between the two was in the losses. Zen's suffered only eleven points from the two big wind races, whilst Crilia's were twenty-one from the two light wind ones.
BAINBRIDGE has raced at Porto Cervo before, but this was his first Rolex Swan Cup, and understandably he is elated by the result, "It was a good effort, good sailing and we enjoyed the regatta. The best wind speed for us is from 8 to 12 knots, so the first two days were right in our area. You have to try to go as fast as you can in the breezier days when the boat is not quite so competitive. On Thursday when it was quite windy it was more difficult, but we still averaged a good spot. We managed to keep up on the breezier days."
The Rolex Swan Cup 2008 has been a regatta of many colours. The brightest being the performance of all four division winners, justly rewarded at the prizegiving this evening with a share of the Rolex Swan Cup and a steel and gold Rolex Submariner Chronometer.
And, whilst the week just gone will be remembered for its challenging racing and camaraderie ashore, it is marked by the sad news that Olin STEPHENS, one of the founding fathers of the Swan yachts pedigree, has passed away this weekend at the age of 100. Olin and his brother Rod were responsible for all the early Swan designs including the now legendary Swan 65, a number of which have been racing here this week, a fine and fitting tribute to the lasting legacy of a truly great designer with whom Nautor is proud to have been associated.
For more information about the Rolex Swan Cup 2008 including entry lists and results visit www.yccsswancup.com