Dominique Heyraud and the 37-foot Foxy Lady (FRA) are back to defend the unexpected title secured last year. At the realisation of having beaten bigger and faster rivals to the main prize, Heyraud expressed delight and surprise in equal measure, "We thought we could be well placed, but never thought we could win. It's absolutely a great feeling... it is a very prestigious race that counts a lot in the Mediterranean."
Igor Simcic's 100-foot Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) is also on the prowl, led once again by Olympic medallist Jochen Schümann with a pan-European crew keen to match Alfa Romeo 2's (Esimit Europa 2's former guise) record of three line honours victories in a row. According to Simcic, "over the winter we made significant technical improvements to the electronic and hydraulic systems, and, initial training outings have shown both the yacht and crew to be very well-prepared."
The last time the offshore element of the Giraglia Rolex Cup finished in Sanremo in 2010 it was a big-boat race with the Mini Maxi Shockwave taking the overall win. Along with Esimit Europa 2, several other maxis have entered the 2012 contest, including Sir Peter Ogden's Jethou (GBR), Gerard Logel's @robas (FRA) and Ägyd Pengg's E1 (AUT).
With recent years favouring either the biggest or smallest contenders, the middle of the fleet will surely be hoping that conditions this year split the difference between large and small. Franck Noël and his well-campaigned 52-foot Near Miss (SUI) is one such entry. Noël has prior form. In 2010, he almost upset the apple cart with his then forty-footer, eventually finishing in a top ten dominated by maxis.
There are always newcomers on the start list, but few will match the pedigree of the 40-foot Artie (MLT), owned by Lee Satariano and co-skippered by Christian Ripard. In their previous competitive offshore outing the combination were the first Maltese in ten years to win the hugely demanding 606-nm Rolex Middle Sea Race. This is Satariano's first venture away from home waters, something he is looking forward to, "it will be a great challenge, but we're all up for it. The most important characteristic we possess is a motivated crew. After that consistency is a major factor, as is good preparation."
Whatever their hopes and aspirations, all crews will be looking forward with great anticipation to this Mediterranean institution sponsored by Rolex since 1997. With European protagonists forming the bulk of the fleet and the UEFA Euro 2012 Championship kicking off on 8 June, the pre-race atmosphere in Saint-Tropez may be a little more tangible and tense than usual.
2012 Giraglia Rolex Cup programme
Friday 8 June: Prologue race from Sanremo to Saint-Tropez
Saturday 9 June: Registration and inspection
Sunday 10 June: Inshore Race(s)
Monday 11 June: Inshore Race(s)
Rolex Crew Party at La Citadelle
Tuesday 12 June: Inshore Race(s)
Inshore Races prizegiving, Saint-Tropez
Wednesday 13 June: Offshore race start - 241-nm Saint-Tropez - La Fourmigue - La Giraglia - Sanremo
Thursday 14 to Friday 15 June: Arrival of participants, Sanremo
Friday 15 June: Final prizegiving, Yacht Club Sanremo
The Giraglia Rolex Cup is organised by the Yacht Club Italiano, in conjunction with the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez and the Yacht Club de France, prestigious organisations with well-established ties to Rolex.
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Further information on the Giraglia Rolex Cup may be found at www.giragliarolexcup.com