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Black Jack clinches Rolex Giraglia offshore race line honours

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 15 Jun 2023 11:22 PDT 9-17 June 2023
Peter Harburg's Black Jack knows the way in Rolex Giraglia: she holds the current and previous race record as Esimit Europa II and before that as Alfa Romeo II © Rolex / Studio Borlenghi

The Rolex Giraglia offshore race is renowned for providing a tricky night time finish for the leaders where crews are able to contemplate the lights of Genoa for several hours as they claw their way across the line. Not so this year, where most of the maxi fleet arrived this afternoon, the front runners reaching the Italian port both in daylight and having experienced the best breeze of the race on their approach.

Organised by the Yacht Club Italiano in collaboration with the Yacht Club Sanremo and Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, Rolex Giraglia's offshore race is the fifth of seven events in the International Maxi Association's 2022-23 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge that started with last autumn's Rolex Middle Sea Race and will conclude with August's Palermo-Montecarlo. This year the race celebrated its 70th edition with 27 maxis competing among the offshore race's 155 starters.

As expected the battle for the line honours was between the 100 footers Peter Harburg's Black Jack and Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones' Wallycento Magic Carpet Cubed - both past line honours winners of this event.

Ultimately Magic Carpet Cubed made the best start and led for the majority of the early race before falling into a hole off the Giraglia rock, remaining stuck there as the competition joined their parking lot. Having edged past them by this stage, Black Jack was first away but with the navigational cunning of Magic Carpet Cubed's Marcel van Triest and the familiarity of this race for Owen-Jones and his team, they kept it close. Black Jack crossed the line at 11:33:16 local time, nine minutes 12 seconds ahead on the water, but Magic Carpet Cubed winning by almost two hours under IRC corrected time. Her elapsed time of 23h 30m 16s was well outside the sub-15 hour race record.

"It was a challenging race," admitted Harburg. "We were extending and got to Giraglia just before midnight with a lead of nearly five miles. I went off watch but we parked and when I got up at 0400-0500 to go on watch there were a dozen boats around us - all the 72s had caught us up! We might as well have dropped the anchor! We are thrilled to be first in..."

His team's Brazilian strategist, Joca Signorini commented: "It was a very tough, but wonderful, race against Magic Carpet Cubed - we were within two miles the whole race. At Giraglia we managed to get a little puff and escaped - we had the best lead of our race after that, but early in the morning it was again tough with all the changes in the wind and it was really only in the last 10 miles that we pulled away again. They are very competitive, especially upwind." Coming into the finish they had done their best to cover Magic Carpet Cubed.

While last year Magic Carpet Cubed had managed to pip her faster opponent (on that occasion the 100ft ACRA SGR) to the post, the conditions didn't allow so many options this year.

"It almost went incredibly because there was a big rating gap between the two boats. We never really seriously thought we could beat them," said Owen-Jones. "But we came out of the Bay really well after the start and were ahead there. That was down to a couple of tactical choices and we went a little deeper than they did and they tacked away and we didn't and that worked for us." Black Jack overtook them on the fetch to the Giraglia Rock, but due to good positioning they remained in contact. But at the Rock disaster struck: "Unfortunately, we couldn't see in the dark where the wind was on the water. We managed to find the spot where there was exactly zero wind. Everyone came in and they managed to muddle through quicker than we did."

The crew worked their magic for the final stage towards Genoa sticking to the lay line and enjoying the stronger breeze to the west. "We did make up some time - just not quite enough," admitted Owen-Jones. He summarised: "We try to come back and do this race better and better. We have become a 'role model' for people racing their own boats and that is one of the things I am happiest about."

Olympic medallist and Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker provided further insight into the horror at the Rock: "We lost some 10 miles to the boats behind, which was quite painful. Our boat is 50 tonnes and takes some time to get going once you stop it. We sailed really well coming back from the Rock. We came into Black Jack and went further west and there the transition was better and we put a lot of distance on the guys behind. It was a good race - we kept it close enough to be interesting all the way to the finish."

Intriguingly on Magic Carpet Cubed they never changed jibs for the entire race, although they did occasionally hoist the staysail. "We never had the wind behind the beam. We took one spinnaker because we needed something to sleep on!"

Of the bigger maxis the 82ft Django Unchained currently prevails under IRC corrected time from Carlo Puri Negri's Farr/Felci 70 Atalanta II.

"It was a very good race," said Django Unchained's tactician Tommaso Chieffi, who was pleased with this first leg to the Rock. "We were slightly cracked off. Cannonball sailed a little slower and faster and eventually managed to pass her and ARCA. We sailed a fast course anticipating the wind lifting later on, so we were on a fast angle and we were third in real time coming into the Rock. We stopped there and at one point we were tenth but then we can come out second or third behind Black Jack." In the early hours they were becalmed but then saw 17 knots from 0800-1000 this morning before the wind dropped to 14 to cross the line.

At the time of writing Dario Ferrari's 75ft Cannonball was leading the maxi fleet under IRC corrected time with some maxis still to finish, including IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wallyño.

For more information about the Rolex Giraglia visit www.rolexgiraglia.com.

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