Giraglia — the main offshore regatta of the Mediterranean
A few days ago, the regatta was to begin, which has been held annually for 68 years. Unfortunately, this year this regatta was canceled for the first time due to coronavirus. Now we are all waiting for the year 2021, but for now, I want to share with you my impressions of the famous Giraglia Rolex Cup. To begin with, this Mediterranean regatta has more than half a century of history — it was first held in 1953. It consists of several races and takes place at the beginning of June each year, and the entire fleet is approximately 300 boats.
If you have never participated in the offshore races, then the Giraglia Rolex Cup, I think, is the most suitable event, and here's why:
Firstly, the length of the longest race is about 250 nautical miles, which is a maximum of two days at sea.
Secondly, there is a variety of routes and high-class organization that no other European regatta has. The races are held in the waters of both Italy and France, and two yacht clubs — Italian and French — organize the regatta.
And thirdly, of course, is the aesthetic and gastronomic component — the opening, parties, and the final award ceremony of the regatta! In general, ROLEX regattas are always of a high level! And the Giraglia Cup is one of the tops!
So, about the races
After the opening of the regatta, receiving final instructions, regatta polo and badges, and a traditional buffet with champagne and oysters, the yachts go to the first start.
The first race of the regatta happens at night. The start is given at midnight. Two fleets start on different routes. One fleet goes along the route San Remo — Saint Tropez; the second goes from Marseille to Saint-Tropez.
Just imagine, it is already dark, you sail out into the sea with the sounds and lights of the fireworks and screams of the local citizens who come to watch this performance. To be honest, every time, this moment is breathtaking!
The first race usually ends no later than the afternoon of the next day. After the finish, you can relax, check the equipment and walk around a lovely town of Saint Tropez.
The second stage of the Giraglia Rolex Cup regatta consists of a series of coastal races that take place for three days. The fleet of about 300 yachts is divided into several parts, and they sail different distances. But the fact that all races are held in the same water area makes it possible to observe how all sizes of boats compete, from 30 to 100 feet! All yachts have cameras on them, and you can easily get disqualified if you make an error. But it's especially interesting to watch the start of the fleet different from the one you participate in.
After three days of competing, the organizers conduct an intermediate party. A huge stage is being built on the beach where various «veterans» of the regatta congratulate the winners, and high-quality performers sing and dance. There are many food and drink stalls around the stage — the French know a lot about this; everything is delicious and beautiful. Well, at the end of the party there are firecrackers. I must admit, I have never seen such a magnificent fire show.
All the sailors have fun to the music, fellowship, share their impressions of the race. The atmosphere of the party is saturated with women's perfumes, friendliness, confusion, and positiveness.
A multinational party is good and fun, of course, but the next morning there is the start of the longest and most prestigious race of the regatta! You need to go around the Giraglia rock, which is north of Corsica, and finish in Genoa (a couple of times the finish was arranged in Monaco) — this is where the real offshore begins!
The grandeur and significance of the start are emphasized by the presence of the French Navy cruiser and two or three helicopters in the sky. Operators broadcast live on TV channels and take pictures (you can buy the photos after the finish). Everything is very thought through in such a way to show the entire fleet of 300 yachts as vividly as possible. Since larger yachts always go faster than small ones, at some point, you are almost in the thick of the events, regardless of the size of your boat.
Teamwork organization in an offshore regatta
The most essential thing in a long race is to distribute the team's strengths and priorities correctly; that is, correctly distribute the shifts, think about the food, not take too much on board, and try to figure out the tactics. I always create the shifts in such a way so that in each shift, there are beginners and experienced sailors — this makes it possible to distribute the load evenly. I do shifts for three hours during the day and two hours at night. Sometimes, there were shifts for four and three hours, but only in the very experienced crews. The main thing is not just to reach the finish line, but to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible. And if the sailor is tired or stops paying attention, he is not so active in working with sails and, as a result, the yacht is behind. Therefore, the main thing that I was taught and which I «preach» sounds simple — «after your shift, go rest and do not distract the others.»
It sometimes happens that the sailors have to work in emergency situations. Even though it is usually warm in June and the climate there is mild, sometimes the Mistral comes, and storms occur. And then the main thing in the race is to save the equipment, rigging, sails and reach the finish line. It happened in 2017, and in 2019 powerful wind began almost an hour after the start. As a result, about a quarter of the fleet withdrew due to breakdowns and torn sails and left the race. So, there is enough drive in the Giraglia Rolex Cup, sometimes even too much!
And another experience of offshore racing is the ability to be in the race and work without even seeing the sails of your rivals. Often, after several hours of the race, the fleet «spreads» so that you cannot see almost anyone. And in the end, you can finish faster than others, but lose after recounting. Or, on the contrary, to come not with the best time, on a «weak» boat, but thanks to the handicap, be much higher than the opponents in the final table.
After the finish
After the finish, you can relax. On the territory of the yacht club, there is a food court, where all the participants in the regatta can eat pasta, ravioli, pizza, other snacks and have beer for free. There is, of course, the final party for all crews and guests in the evening, where they show a video about the regatta lasting about 15 minutes. And in the afternoon of the next day, the winners are awarded.
Now, a few words about the Rolex watch. The fact is that wristwatches are awarded only to the captains of winner teams of different divisions. And this is more an image factor than a sports one. There is a story that, in one of the teams, the crew «screwed» the award watch to the hull of the yacht, and now it goes to the races with it.
But I must say that all Rolex regattas are stylish and of a high level of organization. There are several nominations and prizes, including in the double-hand division (only two people in the team). This is probably why every self-respecting yachtsman wants to participate in them. I personally see from year to year some yachts and skippers who do not miss these races.
As far as the records: the fastest 250 miles of the Giraglia race took about 15 hours (I hope I'm not mistaken, you can see the results in the archive on the website, if you are interested).
And finally, a couple of tips. When you are planning to participate in the Giraglia regatta, look for a team in advance. For example, on our yacht, all the places were taken six months before the regatta.
While in Saint Tropez, be sure to go to the museum on the mountain. There is a very cool exposition and fantastic views of the city and the water area. Do not miss a masquerade parade there. And in the morning, go to the fish market, where you can taste the freshest oysters right from the counter.
Though the Giraglia Rolex Cup is cancelled, there are still other regattas this year that you can participate in.