Today was a fantastic day for racing on the Costa Smeralda – a ...


September 11, 2014

Written by Eva Belanyiova

Today was a fantastic day for racing on the Costa Smeralda – a breathtaking Sardinia yacht charter destination in the Mediterranean, with the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda race committee confident in the forecast of strong winds from the west, announcing to the 93 yachts that they would be racing on an Island Long Race. The race has taken them through the legendary Bomb Alley and between the spectacular islands of Caprera and La Maddaelena.

2014 Rolex Swan Cup - Day Three - Photo by Rolex: Carlo Borlenghi

2014 Rolex Swan Cup - Day Three - Photo by Rolex: Carlo Borlenghi

With the breeze gusting up to 25 knots, this would be the kind of challenge that the Nautor’s Swan fleet has been looking forward to all week. Mike Toppa is one of the friendly, laid-back but veteran professionals sailing with relative newcomer to the racing scene, Don Macpherson, owner of Swan 90 Music yacht. “This morning we agreed that we would be conservative with our decisions, and wait for other people to make the mistakes,” said Toppa, a veteran of the America’s Cup. “Sailing around the islands we were careful with our sail choices, and that worked out for us. Other boats were pushing for that extra bit of speed, but we stuck to our big jib and saw a lot of broken Code 0s and spinnakers today.”

Freya’s cautious approach paid off with victory in the 51-mile race for the Maxi division. “I’ve been round these islands in that kind of breeze many times before, so I’ve seen how rough it can get. We figured it was better to take it a bit easy, and it’s nice that it’s paid off.”

The owner has a lot of friends and family on board, so safety was the priority, the victory a nice bonus for sailing yacht Freya. “We had a lot of people on board who have never sailed before,” said Toppa, “so it was important to bear that in mind. But what a day! Today was a classic Porto Cervo day, I mean it really doesn’t get any better than this. I think everyone on board really understood why we like sailing so much. I mean, if you don’t get it after a day like today, you never will!”

Sailing Yacht FREYA - Rolex Swan Cup - Photo by Rolex : Carlo Borlenghi

Sailing Yacht FREYA - Rolex Swan Cup - Photo by Rolex : Carlo Borlenghi

In the Swan 60 division, Bronenosec survived many setbacks yet still showed the form to win the race. Vladimir Liubomirov’s team had to turn back to restart after crossing the start line too early, and managed to pull through the fleet into a good lead at the half-way stage. But then the mainsail broke, forcing them to hoist the relatively miniscule try-sail in its place. “We broke our Code 0 when we were trying to keep the speed on the boat, so it has been an expensive day even if it was successful across the finish line.”

James Blakemore’s Swan 53 Music sailed in impeccable race to hold off the Olympic and America’s Cup talent on board Yukihiro Ishida’s newly-restored Swan 56 Yasha, competing in her first regatta since the 2002 Rolex Swan Cup, and which now tops the division standings after two races. Project manager Kazuhiko Sofuku has spent much of 2014 renovating the boat and gathering together an all-star crew to give the owner, Yukihiro Ishida, the best chance of success at the Rolex Swan Cup.

“The boat has not sailed for 12 years,” explained Sofuku, “but the owner decided he really wanted to race at this event, so I have been working on the project since April. I rang up a lot of my friends from the professional sailing world and we have a great team from nine different nations all racing on board. It has been hard work getting to this point, but great fun too.” Among the stellar crew are Hamish Pepper, the Star World Champion and America’s Cup sailor who is calling tactics, and double Olympic gold medallist Jesper Bank calling strategy.

While the sailors on board Yasha are used to winning at the highest level, the Rolex Swan Cup is not just about that. It’s about the spirit of gentlemanly competition, as Jesper Bank pointed out by referring to his fellow great Dane, the four-time Olympic Champion and living legend, Paul Elvstrom. “The great master had the right idea, that you must retain the respect of your competitors, and we are certainly not looking to win at all costs. If we can win this week by sailing well, that’s great, but you won’t see me in the protest room. This week is about fun and friendly competition.”

In the Sparkman & Stephens division, Giuseppe Puttini’s Swan 65 ketch, Shirlaf, made the most of her fast reaching speed to score a resounding victory, finishing more than 11 minutes ahead of second placed Cisne. However it’s Cisne’s two 2nd places that puts David Collins and Tony Thorpe’s Swan 43 at the top of the leaderboard as they approach the half-way point of the regatta. Winner of Tuesday’s race was Vincenzo Onorato, competing aboard his newly-restored 1974-vintage Swan 39, Mascalzone Latino. “I had been looking for a S&S Swan of this type for some time,” said the America’s Cup campaigner and multiple world champion, “and I saw this boat in Newport, Rhode Island. She was not in a good way, but I asked if she was for sale and bought her. The past two years nearly everything has been replaced except for the hull. She has been a big project, but she is worth it. She is special, wonderful to sail.”

While the handicap racers had to wait to find out who had won under IRC today, everyone in the Swan 45 fleet knew that it was Earlybird that dominated proceedings on the race course, putting Hendrik Brandis at the top of the leaderboard after three races of the Swan 45 World Championship, a title that this impeccably-sailed German boat has won three times before. Sailing with Earlybird for the first time is Germany’s most decorated sailor, the three-time Olympic Champion Jochen Schumann. “Now I have to try to help them win another world title,” he said.

In the Swan 42 One Design fleet, Ed Leask dared to steer Magical Mystery Tour closer to the start line than any of his competitors, and his courage was rewarded with a good lead into Bomb Alley, a lead that he held all the way to the finish of a thrilling race.


Place, Boat Name, Boat Owner, Races; Total Points

CLASS A1 (Swan 60)
1. WOHPE (MON), Roberto Lauro, 1-2; 3
2. BRONENOSEC (RUS), Vladimir Liubomirov, 3-1; 4
3. AROBAS (FRA), Gerard Logel, 2-5; 7

CLASS A2 (Swan Maxi)
1. SELENE (CAY), Selene Management Ltd, 2-2; 4
2. BERENICE BIS (ITA), Marco Rodolfi, 1-3.5; 4.5
3. PLIS PLAY (ESP), Escuela Mediterranea de Vela, 3-3.5; 6.5

CLASS B (Swan Grand Prix)
1. YASHA (JPN), Yukihiro Ishida, 2-2; 4
2. MUSIC (GBR), James Blakemore, 4-1; 5
3. BEST BUDDIES (GER), Kay-Johannes Wrede, 1-4; 5

CLASS C (Classic S&S)
1. CISNE (NED), Yukihiro Ishida, 2-2; 4
2. SHIRLAF (ITA), Giuseppe Puttini, 4-1; 5
3. MASCALZONE LATINO (ITA), Vincenzo Onorato, 1-7; 8

CLASS 45 (Swan 45 OD)
1. EARLYBIRD (GER), Hendrik Brandis, 1-2-1; 4
2. ELENA NOVA (GER), Christian Plump, 2-1-2; 5
3. VONDELING (GBR), Anthony Ward, 5-3-3; 11

CLASS 42 (Swan 42 OD)
1. CUORDILEONE (ITA), Leonardo Ferragamo, 1-1-4; 6
2. NATALIA (ROU), KDF Energy SR, 3-2-2; 7
3. MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (GBR), Edward Leask, 6-4-1; 11

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