Eleventh hour winners

Tense final day at the Rolex Swan Cup

Sunday September 14th 2014, Author: Andy Rice, Location: Italy

Light-to-medium airs on the Costa Smeralda made for a tense and exciting showdown to the Rolex Swan Cup. Five of the six divisions in the 93-boat fleet were in doubt until the very end. The only runaway winner was the Romanian Swan 42 OD, Natalia, which won the 12-boat division by a good margin from the fast-improving Magical Mystery Tour helmed by Ed Leask. Two bullets from the British boat made inroads into the Romanian stranglehold on the scoreboard, but a final-race victory for Natalia Brailoiu confirmed the only female skipper as the class act in the Swan 42s.

“I’ve been sailing with this crew for a long time, about four years, and this is the key to our success,” said Brailoiu. “I have complete faith in my crew and they help me a lot. I am very proud to be able to compete at this level as a woman and I really enjoy what I do. We are very happy to be here in Porto Cervo, the fleet is great and the spirit of the class is fantastic.”

The outcome of the Swan 45 World Championships remained in the balance until the very end. Two German teams have been duelling all week, with virtually identical scores. Across today’s three races, the tide of battle ebbed and flowed between Elena Nova and Earlybird. It would have meant the world to Elena Nova’s skipper, Christian Plump, to take the regatta but Henrik Brandis did just enough to secure a fourth world title for Earlybird.

"I think this was the most tense series we've ever had,” said Brandis, drenched in champagne. “It was so close, really exciting, a lot of fun. And truly one-design because the boats are so equal. I felt that the previous years we might have an edge, but this is gone. The difference this year was boathandling, tactics, a bit of luck, and winning every start.” Ownership of Earlybird is shared between two partners, but when Christian Nagel couldn’t make it, Brandis stepped in with 10 days’ notice, and was delighted to be back in Porto Cervo. “It's just fantastic, probably the best sailing area I know. The coastal race is so beautiful, tacking up the channel, just amazing.”

If the margin of a single point was close in the Swan 45s, it was even tighter in the Maxi division, where Nikata managed to displace Berenice Bis from the top of the scoreboard by just half a point. “Ecstatic!” was boat captain Tom Brewer’s immediate response to winning, after the Swan 82S bounced back from a shaky start to the week by taking the final two races. Today Nikata flew its Code 0 sail off the start when no other boat did, and this was a key decision that led to their victory. “I think we started coming together, clicking as a team. A lot of it was down to good starts in the last two races. I know Berenice really wanted it because they've been here a few times and haven't quite made it. I feel for them, I really do, but I'm ecstatic that we got it.”

Another come-from-behind victory was in the Classics, where the oldest and smallest boat in the regatta finished on top in the 24-boat Sparkman and Stephens division. The 1968-vintage Swan 36 Finola was the fourth Swan ever to be built, although you’d never know it by her immaculate appearance. Today she beat her biggest rival, the Swan 65 ketch Shirlaf, by a single point. Owner Chris Frost said he felt ‘a million dollars’. Asked his secret, he pointed to Finola. “That old girl. A great sailing boat. Olin Stephens said it was the best Swan he'd ever drawn; she's like a dolphin.” Next, Finola is off to the Rolex Middle Sea Race to see if she can continue her giant-killing ways.

While the S&S fleet is full of restoration projects, it was another newly restored boat that won the Grand Prix fleet. The last time the Swan 56 Yasha had sailed was in the 2002 Rolex Swan Cup. Twelve years later the owner, Yukihiro Ishida, decided it was time to dust down his boat for another campaign. Japanese professional sailor Kazuhiko Sofuku put the boat and the international crew together and they did just enough to beat James Blakemore’s South African team on the Swan 53 Music. “We didn’t have a great start, and Music kept the pressure on us all day,” said Sofuku. “But it is great to win, and to sail such a great bunch of guys.”

The predominantly light winds in Porto Cervo gave the Swan 601s a chance to shine against their newer cousins, the Swan 60s. Roberto Lauro’s Wohpe won the final race and the series ahead of the other Swan 601 Arobas, with Russian entry Bronenosec the best of the Swan 60s in 3rd overall. “I have to thank my crew,” said Lauro. “I strongly believe that the world of Swan stands for a lifestyle where strong core values are shared among the owners. Sailboat racing is all about teamwork and the team did an outstanding job. Today we are here to celebrate this victory as a team.”

This afternoon the prizegiving took place at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda. All six of the week’s class winners were awarded Rolex Submariner timepieces and Rolex Swan Cup trophies. The Swan family will return to Porto Cervo for the next Rolex Swan Cup in September 2016.


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

CLASS A1 (Swan 60)
1. WOHPE (MON), Roberto Lauro, 1-2-1-3-2-1; 7
2. AROBAS (FRA), Gerard Logel, 2-5-2-4-1-2; 11
3. BRONENOSEC (RUS), Vladimir Liubomirov, 3-1-3-2-4-3; 12

CLASS A2 (Swan Maxi)
1. NIKATA (GBR), NS 82 103S Ltd, 5-5-1-1; 12
2. BERENICE BIS (ITA), Marco Rodolfi, 1-3.5-4-4; 12.5
3. SELENE (CAY), Selene Management Ltd, 2-2-7-2; 13

CLASS B (Swan Grand Prix)
1. YASHA (JPN), Yukihiro Ishida, 2-2-1-2; 7
2. MUSIC (GBR), James Blakemore, 4-1-2-1; 8
3. BEST BUDDIES (GER), Kay-Johannes Wrede, 1-4-3-3; 11

CLASS C (Classic S&S)
1. FINOLA (GBR), Chris Frost, 5-3-1-1; 10
2. SHIRLAF (ITA), Giuseppe Puttini, 4-1-2-4; 11
3. MASCALZONE LATINO (ITA) Vincenzo Onorato, 1-7-4-2; 14

CLASS 45 (Swan 45 OD)
1. EARLYBIRD (GER), Hendrik Brandis, 1-2-1-3-2-1-3-2-2; 14
2. ELENA NOVA (GER), Christian Plump, 2-1-2-1-1-4-2-3-3; 15
3. NO LIMITS (NED), RW Bol, 3-5-4-4-5-2-4-1-6; 28

CLASS 42 (Swan 42 OD)
1. NATALIA (ROU), KDF Energy SR, 3-2-2-2-1-2-4-2-1; 15
2. MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (GBR), Edward Leask, 6-4-1-4-7-3-1-1-3; 23
3. CUORDILEONE (ITA), Leonardo Ferragamo, 1-1-4-7-8-8-3-3-2; 29

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