The Russian ClubSwan 50, Skorpios, skippered by Andrey Konogorov was yesterday evening declared the overall winner of the ORC Division in the offshore race at the 66th edition of the Rolex Giraglia. Skorpios completed the 241nm course from Saint-Tropez to Genoa, via the Giraglia Rock, in an elapsed time of 33 hours 17 minutes 50 seconds. Her time corrected out to beat the second-placed yacht by four hours. The ClubSwan 42, Daring Sisters, raced by Tomas Dolezal and representing the Czech Republic, finished third overall.
Seasoned Mediterranean campaigner, Nacho Postigo, was racing aboard Skorpios as navigator. “It is great to have a ClubSwan 50 at the top of the ORC Division in the Giraglia,” remarked a delighted, but tired Postigo. “As is normally the case with yacht racing, it all came down to proper preparation.”
“The biggest decision for our first open or handicap race was which one of the two handicap systems the race uses – ORC or IRC – would best suit the ClubSwan 50. We determined that ORC appeared to be fairer at comparing the ClubSwan 50 with her teak decks, interior and other cruising fittings with pure racing machines with zero concession to comfort, such as a TP52,” explained Postigo. “Once this decision was made, we followed carefully the evolution of the weather in the days leading up to the start before making the next important decision: to race with a reduced crew of nine instead of 11. This would keep the boat as light as possible and able to cope with the many wind transitions we expected.”
Preparation is only part of the equation. Execution is equally important if the pre-race work is to be converted into a positive result. Postigo continues: “When we started the race, we found ourselves racing very close with the fast, pure racing machines – while we were still enjoying the cold water-bottles coming out of our fridge! The race was really close all the way to the Cavalaire mark, near to Saint-Tropez. Once we headed offshore we were faced with the next important decision: whether to separate from our closest rivals in order to follow what we thought was the best strategy to beat the other boats in our category.”
The Skorpios afterguard decided to stay south of the rhumb line and exploit the superior performance of the ClubSwan 50 when reaching at angles suiting its Code Zero and A1 kite. Postigo picks up the story: “This strategy proved correct. As we approached the Giraglia Rock, we were leading the ORC fleet by a good margin and our sistership ClubSwan 50 Mathilde by some 5 miles.”
It was not all plain sailing though. The breeze was constantly shifting and anticipating the transitions was critical. “Just at the rock, we were a bit unlucky,” explained Postigo. “The wind transitioned from the north-easterly we had enjoyed all night to a local land breeze from the south generated by Corsica. A 65-footer we had been racing against the whole night enjoyed an easy transition a few metres from us while we stopped for a long time.” Skorpios had to endure watching their hard-earned advantage virtually disappear.
“Eventually, we were able to escape and managed to gybe around the rock in the early hours of the second day still leading the ORC Division both in elapsed and on corrected time,” said a relieved Postigo. However, it was still not over. The final 83-mile leg to Genoa was subject to a difficult forecast: variable winds of less than 10 knots blowing directly from the destination. “Welcome to the Mediterranean!” laughed Postigo. “The team sailed the boat exceptionally well in these tricky conditions. That and our lightweight configuration probably helped us to stretch more and more our advantage over our rivals. We reached the always difficult, final approach to Genova with a good lead of around 8 miles over Mathilde and around one hour and a half on corrected time over the next best-positioned ORC boat.” As it was, Skorpios was able to ghost the last glossy few miles of the course without any serious interruptions, crossing the line at 22.00 on Thursday evening after 33 hours of intense work and tactical decision-making. Mathilde was the second ClubSwan 50 to finish the race 1hour and 39 minutes behind Skorpios.
“It was great to sail such a boat as the ClubSwan 50 offshore,” said a delighted Postigo. “The boat was fast in every condition, extremely safe and easy to control thanks to her twin rudders – even when sailing at high heel angles pushing the Code Zero or the kites to their limits. She was perfectly dry and comfortable both on deck and inside…I hope other manufacturers follow the brave decision Swan has made and future cruiser-racers look more like this one: light, fast and fun!”
Skorpios has received the Nucci Novi Trophy for winning the ORC Division during the official prize giving of the 66th Rolex Giraglia at the Yacht Club Italiano in Genoa.