Spending time under the warm Italian sun as it reflects off azure waters, all the while indulging your competitive spirit aboard an extravagant racing machine, is key to experiencing “La bella vita” or “the beautiful life” Costa Smeralda-style. This June, one of the most breathtaking places in the world – the waters off Sardinia's northeastern coast – witnessed a gathering of some of the grandest yachts on the planet for two events at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS): the Dubois Cup and the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta 2009. In a place where show-stopping sights are de rigueur, even the savviest of sportsman could not help but be wowed by the sight of these yachts, which ranged upward of 80' and came wearing the latest in high-tech gadgetry as an empress would wear her jewels. Racing in and around the craggy islands of the La Maddalena archipelago gave the participants plenty to discuss each evening as they enjoyed an array of exquisite social events, from beach parties at the Hotel Romazzino to the gala dinners hosted at the YCCS clubhouse where the fascinating marine art collection of its founder and president H.H. the Aga Khan is on display. “La bella vita” indeed.
An exclusive rally of racing superyachts designed by Dubois Naval Architects, the Dubois Cup 2009 was held from June 6-8. The crowds of onlookers drawn to the YCCS docks at the Porto Cervo Marina were treated to six examples (of which only four competed) ranging from 36-52 metres long and with masts of up to 63 metres high in a showcase of the refined elegance, which distinguishes Dubois-designed yachts. After two days of racing the 39-metre fast cruising sloop Ganesha (MAL) claimed victory on handicap.
For the second edition of the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta (June 9-13), a fourth day of racing had been added in order to meet the interest generated by the inaugural event in 2008. The pursuit-style format of the event utilizes each yacht's IRC handicap to determine her order of start, with the first starter followed by the rest of the 19-strong fleet one-by-one at two minute intervals. The format ensures safety on the starting line and allows the fleet to race together around the course, as the faster boats that start last catch the pure cruising yachts that start first.
A special award for the best overall Wally yacht may have added incentive on picture-perfect day one for three of the five competing Wally yachts, as they were the swiftest around the 30-mile course. In 18 knots of breeze, Albert Buell's 45-metre Saudade (GER) completed the course in under two and a half hours, followed just 30 seconds later by Y3K (GER), marine transport executive Claus-Peter Offen. The 28.8-metre Magic Carpet2 (GBR), owned by L'Oréal chairman Lindsay Owen-Jones, was third on elapsed time, but it was the 25.4-metre My Song (ITA), owned by Pier Luigi Loro Piana, co-chief executive of Loro Piana, that took victory on handicap.
“This race today was exciting and very close,” said Buell. “Unlike other places, you can sail much closer together among the [La Maddalena] islands, as there is much less swell.”
On day two a brisk Mistral wind with gusts up to 31 knots kept owners and crews busy over the 35-mile course. And in a very fitting turn of events on “Fitzroy Yachts Race Day,” first to finish was Moonbird, one of the two Fitzroy-built superyachts competing. That result moved Moonbird to the top of the overall results as well, just one point ahead of My Song, which finished third. Marco Vogele's 32-metre Gliss (SUI) came second on handicap to secure third place overall.
Wally Yachts had yet another great day, again taking the top places on elapsed time. “That was a serious workout but it was fantastic!” said Andrea Recordati who was tired but satisfied at the end of the day. It was his 30.5-metre Wally 101 Indio, launched less than one month ago, that finished third on elapsed time behind Y3K (which completed the course in just over two hours and 40 minutes) followed by Magic Carpet2. “The weather was perfect for sailing and the course was excellent for the conditions.”
Germany's Heiner Weiss, a pilot and race car driver, gave a guest's perspective from Thomas Bscher's 28.6-metre Open Season. “I am a pure sailing amateur and this was my first racing on board a yacht. It was a wonderful experience, this combination of nature and high technology. And then there is this tension onboard when the boats come so close to each other. There is a lot of concentration, and small mistakes can have heavy consequences.”
To recharge their batteries at the end of the day, the yacht owners, their families and guests reconnected at the exclusive Hotel Romazzino for the infamous Beach Party. Arriving both by land and sea, some 400 guests sipped champagne on the lawn overlooking Romazzino Bay where they enjoyed the relief of a cool breeze and breathtaking views before enjoying a sumptuous Sardinian dinner. The atmosphere was electric as guests excitedly discussed the day's action on the water and then danced the night away.
Race three was delayed for two hours as the YCCS Race Committee waited for the 30-knot Mistral wind to calm on day three of the regatta. By the first starting signal, the prevailing northwesterly wind had fallen to 16 knots and the fleet was sent on a 29-mile course through the islands. My Song took victory for the second time in three races and moved to the top of the scoreboard as Gliss advanced in the overall standings to second place via her second-place finish. Moonbird, the overall standings leader after the first two races, dropped back to third as only four points separated the top three yachts.
To end another perfect day, another gala evening was hosted for owners and their guests, this time at the YCCS Clubhouse. From its terrace overlooking the entrance to Porto Cervo Harbor the guests had a sublime view of the superyachts at the docks, which lit up the night as the sun went down.
The fourth and final race of the regatta saw a dramatic wind shift during the starting sequence, which meant that the first yachts started in 12 knots on an upwind beat while the last yachts to start were flying their spinnakers in eight knots. The race victory went to Open Season, ahead of Gliss and Magic Carpet2. But it was Gliss with her 4-2-2-2 score line that took first place in the overall standings, seven points ahead of My Song, to claim the The Loro Piana Prize Overall -The Silver Jubilee Cup by Boat International Media during the prize giving on the Yacht Club's Piazza Azzurra. In the top-five of the fleet for most of the event, mobile phone retailer Charles Dunstone's 35.7-metre Hamilton II was third overall, just one point behind My Song.
Marco Vogele was delighted with his experience: “The location is the best, the organization is the best and we enjoyed this regatta so much. Rocks, stakes and sticks are used as natural marks, and it's perfect for everybody.”
Following the success of its first year of collaboration with the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and Boat International Media, Italian luxury brand Loro Piana intends to continue sponsorship of The Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in 2010. Dates for the event have been set for June 8-12. Loro Piana, with corporate headquarters in Italy, is a leading international textile conglomerate producing luxury goods and fabrics created in its own mills from the best raw materials in the world. The company distributes its products through a global network of Loro Piana boutiques (126 worldwide) and specialty retailers.
Fitzroy Yachts was a Gold sponsor of the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta 2009. Alloy Yachts, Future Fibres and Lufthansa Private Jet were Silver Sponsors; and IBS Yachts, Louis XIII by Remy Martin, Royal Huisman, San Lorenzo, Scorpion and Wight Vodka were contributing sponsors.
For further information, please visit www.loropianasuperyachtregatta.com or www.yccs.it. Photo by Kurt Arrigo/YCCS