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Line honours for Magic Carpet Cubed as Itacentodue defends Rolex Giraglia maxi title

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 19 Jun 16:57 PDT
Magic Carpet Cubed ghosts towards the Genoa finish line with ARCA SGR © Studio Borlenghi / ROLEX

Fifth event of seven in the International Maxi Association's 2021-22 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge, this year's Rolex Giraglia returned to its traditional Saint-Tropez-Giraglia-Genoa course. However with ultra-light winds forecast, its organisers, the Yacht Club Italiano, in collaboration with Yacht Club Sanremo and Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, wisely scrapped the opening turning mark of La Fourmigue. Thus when the 20 maxis within the overall fleet of 141 set sail at 1200 CEST on Wednesday on this, it was on a course of 200 miles rather than 240.

Furio Benussi's 100ft grand prix maxi ARCA SGR was the boat to beat for line honours - highest rated under IRC and defending her title from 2021. Indeed she led on the water for the majority of the race, however nipping at her heels were the large Wallys - Charif Souki's Wallycento Tango, Jean-Luc Petithuguenin's 107 Spirit of Malouen and Andrea Recordati's 93 Bullitt but the most serious challenge came from Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones' Wallycento Magic Carpet Cubed. One of the most capped teams in this race's history, Magic Carpet Cubed had claimed line honours in 2013 and outright victory under IRC corrected time two years later.

Harnessing the navigational genius of Dutchman Marcel van Triest, this year Magic Carpet Cubed pipped ARCA SGR to the post. This was set up 50 miles from the finish when she took a major hit, changing sides of the course to the east, but this enabled her to reach into the finish in better pressure as ARCA SGR attempted to run toward the line. Thus Owen-Jones' "cruising boat" beat her grand prix racer rival by 26 minutes, and substantially more under IRC corrected time, albeit taking 34 hours 7 minutes to complete the course, compared to 26 hours 24 minutes on the longer 240 mile route last year.

Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones was delighted: "We were surprised to beat the scratch boat. We made some good navigational choices: Marcel [van Triest] is such a good guy, who has been with us for many years and we are very confident with his choices. That was very important because we came in on a much better angle than our competition who had to come down in dying air..."

48 minutes after ARCA SGR, Tango was third home, followed by Bullitt and Spirit of Malouen.

Once again the overall IRC maxi prize favoured the 60 footers, in fact the exact same 60 footer that won in 2021: Adriano Calvini's Felci 61 Itacentodue, effectively the club boat of the Genoa-based Yacht Club Italiano.

Itacentodue was 13th boat to finish into her homeport, crossing the line at 05:41:24 on Friday, winning the maxi class and coming second in the entire IRC fleet behind Giovanni di Vincenzo's Ker 46 Lisa R.

While last year Itacentodue's offshore sailing academy crew sailed with accomplished pros America's Cup and Olympic legend Tommaso Chieffi and 2019 Mini Transat winner Ambrogio Beccaria, this year there were no pros in her crew. However on board was the owner's 28-year-old grandson Giovanni Chiappano, supported by Mario Rabo on strategy, Manuel Polo navigating and Roberto Martinez as main helmsman.

"We knew it was going to be long," explained Chiappano. "We like a bit more wind and also prefer downwind, so everything was against us, but our strategy paid off: We went 'straight' the whole time mainly because we thought the wind would be best that way and if there was no wind it would be best to go the shortest way."

They came to a halt off Portofino before the Tramontana filled in and then made greatest progress on their way into the finish. "We changed sails maybe 30 times from the Code 0 to the gennaker and back. It was tough, but the crew was great."

Second maxi overall under IRC (and sixth overall) was Benoît de Froidmont's Wally 60 Wallyño, which finished at 07:01:47 on Friday. "That was long!" said de Froidmont, who is also International Maxi Association President. "At the end, we were a mile away from Itacentodue, but then they finished more than an hour ahead of us. But that is 'typical' of the Giraglia. We did more gybes over the last two hours than the whole rest of the race."

Canting keel yachts aren't supposed to like light conditions, so it came as some surprise that the third maxi under IRC was Guido Paolo Gamucci's canting keel Mylius 60 Cippa Lippa X. Aside from expending much effort constantly trimming the boat and the canting keel, tactician Paolo Cian said that approaching the finish they had found better rotation of the wind to the east (as Magic Carpet Cubed had a few hours earlier). "In the end there were two fleets converging, one with kites and others (like us) with the Code 0."

Bringing up the rear in the maxi class was the 109ft Herreshoff-designed gaff schooner. While not best suited to this year's light wind race, the crew of the 109ft long Mariette of 1915 very much enjoyed it. As Vendée Globe skipper Miranda Merron reported from on board: "The advantage of no wind for much of the day was the wildlife fest - whales, dolphins, turtles, sunfish, mahi-mahi, tuna, bonito..."

At Saturday's prize-giving at the Yacht Club Italiano, Wallyño received the trophy for the Best placed IMA Member in the Giraglia Offshore Race.


For more information on the Rolex Giraglia click here.

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