The charming Caribbean yacht charter destination – Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands offered a sumptuous setting for the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean, which concluded on Friday, 15 March, after four days of intriguing, sporting competition. More than twenty Nautor’s Swan yachts representing almost ten countries and territories provided a dynamic spectacle in idyllic waters and varying wind conditions.
Tight competition in Class A at the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean 2013 - Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
The week’s triumphant crews and recipients of the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean Trophy and Rolex timepieces were: sailing yacht Stark Raving Mad (USA) in Class A (reserved for yachts measuring upwards of 18.29m/60-ft) and Arethusa yacht (USA) in Class B (yachts measuring less than 18.29m).
The well-received event signalled a continuation of the long-standing relationship between Nautor’s Swan, Rolex and event organizers Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), which commenced in 1984 with the first edition of the now biennial Rolex Swan Cup in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. The YCCS launched its Virgin Gorda base in 2012.
The subtle likeness between one sailing paradise and another – Virgin Gorda and Porto Cervo – was not lost on some of the competitors. “It is similar to sailing in the Maddalena in Sardinia,” explained Tony Rey, tactician on Swan 601 yacht Stark Raving Mad (USA). “It is an absolutely spectacular place, a stunning place to sail. The wind is always shifting providing many challenges.”
Superyachts Selene and Varsovie passing stoney bay during Day 2 - Photot by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
Experienced America’s Cup sailor Mike Toppa, calling tactics on Swan 90 superyacht Freya (USA), confirmed: “A lot of the rock formations resemble Porto Cervo which is kind of neat. The Race Committee and organizers are the same between the Rolex Swan Cup and here. It is familiar and in that way very nice.”
Phil Lotz and his crew on Swan 42 yacht Arethusa (USA) used the competition as part of their build up for September’s New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex. Lotz is in agreement that Virgin Gorda provides a scenic and testing environment: “We always enjoy coming here and sailing around the islands. Generally conditions are pretty good. We tend to come down every other year. It’s fun.”
Stark Raving glad
In Class A, Stark Raving Mad arrived with a score to settle. At the 2012 Rolex Swan Cup, a broken spinnaker in the final race curtailed her hopes of Class victory. James Madden’s crew were in bullish mood. “We’re out for blood and hoping to win this one,” warned Rey. On the first day, and in a building breeze of 14 knots, Stark Raving Mad again had to settle for second place. Wendy Schmidt’s Swan 80 superyacht Selene (CAY) claimed the first bullet of the week, attacking a 25-nm clockwise course around the island with gusto having led from the first mark.
Start of racing for Classes A&B, Day 4 - Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
A pattern was set. Luxury yacht Selene began impressively on Day 2. Following a spectacular downwind spinnaker start she won an exciting reverse run of the Day 1 route. “We had pretty high expectations coming in to the week relative to the boats we are sailing against. When the breeze is in the 10-15 knot range we should be pretty competitive,” explained Selene superyacht’s tactician Robert Macmillan.
“Our plan is to execute great starts and try to get to the first shift and first transition zone ahead of the competition. During the first two races the boat speed has been really good and the crew work exceptional. We’ve made a lot of sail changes and the team has been doing the best job possible.”
The lighter winds prevailing during the final two days proved more troublesome for Selene’s heavier disposition. On Day 3, Stark Raving Mad made the smoother start and led for most of the way. Selene recovered to finish first over the line but not by a large enough margin on corrected time. Madden’s crew secured a first bullet setting up a dramatic final day.
In 7 knots of breeze, Stark Raving Mad started the final 11-nm race with intent and quickly mounted an insurmountable lead. Final race victory and Selene’s second place ensured Madden’s crew were Class victors. “During the final two days the winds were lighter which overall is of great benefit to us,” said Madden. “The crew did a really good job making no errors, consistently trimming the sails well and moving the boat at speed.”
Madden was delighted to build on last year’s runners up finish at the Rolex Swan Cup. “It is fantastic. Seconds (places) are nice, first is a little bit better. Selene sailed really well and is a beautiful boat. It was very close racing.”
Swan Fleet berthed at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Virgin Gorda - Photo by Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
Arethusa mounts comeback
The competition drew boats and crews from around the world. The predominantly South African contingent onboard Swan 53 yacht Music (GBR), competing in Class B, a case in point. On arrival, owner James Blakemore commented: “We have cruised here before so when this event was proposed to us it was a no brainer really. Swan, Rolex and the YCCS have done an excellent job and we look forward to a wonderful week.” Music – set for an active racing season with appearances planned in the Mediterranean at Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez and the Rolex Middle Sea Race – commenced the competition in style.
Blakemore’s crew claimed the week’s first bullet in Class prevailing ahead of Swan 56 yacht White Rhino (USA). On Day 2, she repeated her success showing gritty resilience after a far from perfect start which saw her trailing in fifth place. Arethusa, second on Day 2, grew in confidence claiming Day 3’s bullet to set up a tantalizing head-to-head with Music on the final day.
As in Class A, an impressive comeback was sealed. Arethusa dominated the competition in the decisive contest. Music, following another disappointing start, finished some 26 minutes behind the leaders, settling for fourth place on corrected time. Victory ensured Arethusa won Class B by a single point.
“Conditions were perfect for us on the final race,” enthused Lotz. “We got a good start at our favoured end of the line. The first beat was clean which was important in a fleet with so many big boats. We wanted to sail as cleanly as possible.” Arethusa, like Stark Raving Mad, displayed persistence and harmonious teamwork, seizing the favourable shift in wind conditions as the week progressed. “Winning is a great achievement and we really enjoy being here,” closed Lotz. Arethusa’s intention is to defend her crown in two years time.
Sportsmanship and teamwork were hallmarks both on and off the water. The Swan world was united through both competition and the series of elegant and popular social gatherings that permeated the week. A spirit typified by the camaraderie displayed in the additional five-strong cruising Class which engaged in their own competition, representing the values of gentlemen sailing so typical of the Swan world.
Proceedings culminated with the official prizegiving at the YCCS clubhouse overlooking North Sound where the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean Trophy and Rolex timepieces were presented to Class winners Stark Raving Mad and Arethusa.
Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean 2013 Final Prizegiving - Photo by Rolex Carlo Borlenghi
The 18th edition of the Rolex Swan Cup in Porto Cervo will take place in September 2014.
2013 Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean Results
Place, Boat, Owner, Races 1-2-3-4-5, Total Points
1. Stark Raving Mad (USA), James C. Madden, 2- 2- 1-1, 6 points
2. Selene (CAY), Wendy Schmidt, 1- 1- 2- 2, 6
3. Fenix (GBR), NS60-008 Ltd, 3- 3- 3- 3, 12
Place, Boat, Owner, Races 1-2-3-4-5, Total Points
1. Arethusa (USA), Philip Lotz, 3- 2 -1- 1, 7 points
2. Music (GBR), James Blakemore, 1- 1- 2- 4, 8
3. Island Water World (USA), Nautor Swan Benelux, 6- 4- 3- 2, 15