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2022 Rolex Giraglia - Preview: Upholding sailing's finest traditions

by Quinag 1 Jun 2022 02:54 PDT 10-18 June 2022
Rolex Giraglia fleet © Carlo Borlenghi

For nearly seventy years, the Rolex Giraglia has ignited passion in the sport of sailing. Growing from humble and noble intentions, it has developed considerable international standing and heritage.

Rolex, event partners since 1998, has always appreciated the respect for continuity and tradition shown by the participants and organizers.

The 69th edition will be held from 10-18 June and, following the disruption of the past two years, witnesses a return to a more traditional programme. The event is organized by two longstanding Rolex partners, co-founders the Yacht Club Italiano (YCI) supported by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, both of whom are fully committed to nurturing the spirit and appeal of this historic competition.

Decorated sailor and Olympian Robert Scheidt, a Rolex Testimonee and past competitor, identifies the way both professional and Corinthian crews blend and the overriding convivial atmosphere as significant factors in the success:

"The Rolex Giraglia is one of the oldest and most respected events in the Mediterranean, where professionals and Corinthians share the start line. This happens in very few other sports and the Rolex Giraglia embodies this rare opportunity. The organizers are extremely hospitable to overseas crews and the whole event is underpinned by the commitment and passion of all competitors."

Founded in 1953, to help unite the French and Italian sailing communities post World War 2, the Rolex Giraglia has retained a distinct Franco-Italian spirit, while attracting an international fleet with typically over 200 yachts from more than 25 countries.

Following an arrival race from Sanremo, Italy, the Rolex Giraglia's popular three-day inshore series centres around Saint-Tropez on the French riviera. The picturesque port is a location rich in sailing culture and is ready to play its usual pivotal role for the first time since 2019. Coincidentally, the town hosts two other major events within the Rolex yachting portfolio. The annual Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, unites modern and classic monohull yachts, while the France Sail Grand Prix features the lightning quick F50 foiling catamarans.

The headline act at the Rolex Giraglia is the 241-nautical mile (446km) offshore race from Saint-Tropez to Genoa, Italy, via the Giraglia rock, which is located approximately 1-nm (2km) off the northern tip of Corsica. In keeping with a number of great races, the Giraglia is a symbolic turning mark.

For Robert Scheidt reaching the Giraglia always provides a sense of satisfaction: "Like the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Rolex Fastnet and Rolex Middle Sea Races, the Rolex Giraglia has an iconic landmark, the Giraglia rock. Rounding it in daylight or at night is always a significant and special moment."

The offshore race starts on Wednesday, 15 June. Once out of the Golfe de Saint-Tropez, there are essentially three segments. The first is to La Fourmigue turning mark off Le Lavandou, followed by the two long legs to the Giraglia rock and then on to the finish off the YCI's home port of Genoa. It is often the final leg that proves critical to the overall results. The frontrunners typically complete the course in 24 hours, while the majority of the fleet can take another day.

This relatively condensed race affords little respite for crews and intensifies tactical decision-making. The most significant prize is overall victory on handicap and throughout the Rolex Giraglia's proud history Corinthian teams have emerged victorious, often beating more illustrious contenders. In 2021, the French-crewed 43-foot (13.1m) Imagine, co-owned by Gilles Argellies and Jean-Claude André, won the race. Theirs is a story typical of many Rolex Giraglia competitors, years of collective dedication, perseverance and learning coming to fruition.

Maxi yachts have always contested line honours, producing a series of enthralling confrontations to be first to finish. The race record has remained unchanged for a decade since the 100-ft (30.48m) Maxi Esimit Europa 2 set a time of 14 hours, 56 minutes and 16 seconds in 2012, when the race finished in Sanremo.

Despite the close-fought competition on the water, the Rolex Giraglia has remained a standard bearer for the traditional values of sailing and sporting ethics. Qualities which have defined Rolex's longstanding association with the sport.

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