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Cannonball wins Rolex Giraglia offshore race by 17 seconds

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 16 Jun 2023 08:50 PDT 9-17 June 2023
Dario Ferrari's immaculately sailed 75ft Cannonball was unbeaten in the inshores and offshore race of Rolex Giraglia © Rolex / Studio Borlenghi

In the maxi division of this year's 70th Rolex Giraglia offshore race, the former Maxi 72s once again prevailed. Almost all the maxis reached Genoa before nightfall yesterday. First in the maxi class (IRC Zero), and at one point looking strong for the overall IRC prize was Dario Ferrari's 75ft Cannonball; unbeaten among the maxis across the whole event.

But as more finished late yesterday the TP52 Red Bandit took the lead in IRC Overall followed by 2022's overall winner, the Ker 46 Lisa R, with Cannonball eventually claiming the bottom step on the podium. Four former Maxi 72s - Vesper, North Star and Jethou took the top spots in IRC Zero and impressively all ended up within the top eight in IRC Overall.

With Vasco Vascotto calling tactics on Cannonball, team strategist and project manager Michele Ivaldi described their race: "We had a very good start. We were leading for a long time. We were very happy coming into the Giraglia because we were fourth or fifth overall with the other 72s way back. Then there was a massive parking lot. We got back to Magic Carpet and Black Jack, but then all the other 72s arrived. It was chaos! There was no wind. A few boats were only a length from the Rock with no steerage. We all sat there 15 minutes to an hour.

"Getting away from the Rock, we aimed for Genoa but going low, anticipating the northerly. By dawn North Star and Vesper were close to us - as we owe them time we had to do our best. Everyone did a fantastic job squeezing them. We found more pressure and more lift and in the last 25 miles put a lot of distance between us and Vesper."

According to Ivaldi, owner Dario Ferrari was delighted: "He really wanted to win the Giraglia, because last time on Cannonball they were leading until the end and Francesco de Angelis and myself were on Momo and beat them. He wanted to fix that!"

Remarkably Cannonball finished just 17 seconds ahead of Jim Swartz's Vesper under IRC. "That is fantastic," continued Ivaldi. "I think the 72s are the best class for this kind of racing under IRC."

While Cannonball is substantially modified from her original Maxi 72 state, lengthened to 75ft and water ballasted, Vesper remains in class. This was owner Jim Swartz's second Rolex Giraglia: "I enjoy the atmosphere and the competitors. I am not a super fan of light races as the park-ups are always a roll of the dice. Teams like Cannonball have this down to a tee so to come close to them is a huge achievement... 17 seconds is amazing if you think about the 100 decisions you made along the way. That makes this racing so fascinating."

For Vesper tactician Gavin Brady, this was only his second Rolex Giraglia too. He admitted he didn't feel comfortable with the course, so for research he had watched previous Rolex Spirit of Yachting videos. This had paid towards the finish: "Cannonball had us on time so there was no point in following them. Six out of eight times you want to come in on the right side... So we made a last ditch effort and got a split from them and made a nice big gain."

For the offshore Vesper went light: "We only sailed with 15 and only one jib and spinnaker. If something had broken we would have been in trouble. Peter Blake would have turned in his grave!"

Even more extreme was Peter Dubens' North Star, which is fitted with powered winches, enabling them to race with eight and minimum sails. They took the most extreme route at the Rock. Navigator Miles Seddon advised the helmsman at the time: "You need to go around this Rock, not over the top of it!" However this extreme move did permit the British team to round second on the water behind Black Jack.

Of the smaller maxis, IMA President Benoît de Froidmont's Wally 60 Wallyño won, finishing ninth in IRC Overall.

"As usual, it was a fantastic race," said de Froidmont. "From the start to the end you never know what will happen. As usual there were big surprises at the Rock and the finish, making it extremely complicated. Tactics were very important and my tactician did a great job. We stopped at the Rock, but not for very long. Then we lost one and a half hours short of the finish which would have changed the results."

Wallyño's tactician Cédric Pouligny said of their Rock rounding: "Itacentadue was 40m away and left, while we remained parked. On the way to Genoa we recovered. We started on starboard and as soon as we were headed, we tacked. We expected some left so we were below the fleet and we gained more than 10 miles on our opponents." However then they stopped. "If we'd have arrived any later we would have spent half of the night parked, so I am pretty happy."

Cannonball won the Rolex Giraglia's maxi class overall prize, combining results from the Sanremo to Saint-Tropez offshore, the Saint-Tropez inshores and finally the offshore back to Genoa, ahead of North Star and Vesper, despite having to carry DNC points for not participating in the first scoring leg form Sanremo. Adriano Calvini's FY61 Itacentodue (the Rolex Giraglia offshore race's winner in 2021 and 2022) claimed the overall prize in the smaller maxi class ahead of Wallyño and Dario Castiglia's Baltic 65 RE/MAX One2. North Star won the prize for the best placed IMA member in Maxi Class IRC 0. All will be presented at the prize-giving at the Yacht Club Italiano in Genoa tomorrow at midday.

In his capacity as IMA President, de Froidmont commented of the Rolex Giraglia: "The maxi fleet here is amazing. It is growing both in number and quality. The level of the fleet is very strong now."

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. The offshore race featured 27 maxis among 155 starters.

The IMA Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge continues with its final two events the Aegean 600 concluding with August's Palermo Montecarlo.

Full results available here.

For more information about the Rolex Giraglia visit

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