THE GRANDES DAMES OF THE SEA BID FAREWELL TO THE TUSCAN ROUND OF THE PANERAI CLASSIC YACHT CIRCUIT AND PREPARE TO MAKE THEIR WAY TO THE ISLE OF WIGHT IN THE SOLENT FOR THE TRADITIONAL PANERAI BRITISH CLASSIC WEEK (16-23 JULY)
JUNE 2016 – After three very intense days of racing, the yachts Skylark of 1937, Naïf (1973) and Raindrop (2014) were presented on June 19 with Panerai luxury sports watches as the respective winners of the Vintage, Classic and Spirit of Tradition categories of the 16th Argentario Sailing Week at Porto Santo Stefano, in Toscana.
Once again the lovely gulf between Talamone and Porto Santo Stefano lived up to its reputation as a formidable racing venue thanks to glittering turquoise waters deep enough to allow the yachts compete very close to the coast. After light breezes on day one, the 40-strong fleet from 8 nations did battle in winds of up to 15 knots in bright sunshine – absolutely perfect conditions guaranteed to deliver spectacular, closely-fought racing over the mixed courses of between 10 and 20 miles.
Skylark of 1937 won all three of the races in her category. In the past, 16.15-metre Marconi yawl also competed in and won numerous events in the Pacific, even beating Humphrey Bogart’s former-schooner, Santana. She completed a round the world voyage in 1972 after which she was based on the American East Coast until her owner moved her to the Mediterranean in 2011 to race in the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge. Skylark of 1937 also won the Coppa Olin Stephens named after the American pen behind her design. The legendary Stephens, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 100, was made an honorary citizen of Porto Santo Stefano where he came to compete and supervise the restoration of his boats.
Naïf made a promising start to possible overall 2016 victory in the Classic category, which she won back in 2012. Her owner Ivan Gardini has already stated his intention to participate in the upcoming stages with his crew of 10 sailing enthusiasts from Rome, Naples and Ravenna. They clocked up two firsts and one second position at the Argentario Sailing Week. Gardini also had the satisfaction of winning the Challenge of Challenge, a line honours-only race held between two boats from the same category. This time out Naïf held sway over the Marconi sloop Sagittarius (1971), who beat her in the Challenge in 2015.
The compact gaff sloop Raindrop, a 2014 Wianno Senior helmed by Yula Sambuy, triumphed in the Spirit of Tradition category. The 7.6-metre one design was actually built here in Tuscany and competed against her twin sisters Pyxis, Wianno and Fruscìo di Victura at Porto Santo Stefano.
The Marconi yawl Enterprise, built in New York in 1940, received a special prize for sporting spirit presented by the Municipality of Monte Argentario. In the course of the third race, the Swedish boat was sailing well and in line for a good finishing position but slowed to check if the 22-metre Serenade, whose crew were retrieving a man overboard, required assistance
Once again this year, the Argentario Sailing Week attracted a slew of top competitive sailors to Santo Stefano, not least the evergreen Mauro Pelaschier, who helmed Leonore (1925) to victory in her category. Sailing aboard the 1905 beauty Linnet, one of the very few New York Yacht Club 30s still afloat, was her owner and Luna Rossa boss Patrizio Bertelli, who finished first in all three of the races in his group. He was flanked by the great Max Sirena, who has sailed in several America’s Cups. Former Italian rugby international Andrea Lo Cicero also crewed aboard Chinook (1916) for the third consecutive season.
The Argentario fleet was divided up according to SPM (Second Per Mile) number which indicates by how many seconds per mile a boat’s real time needs to be adjusted to obtain a handicap time for the standings. The winning yachts in the individual categories were: Leonore (Vintage -160), Skylark of 1937 (Vintage -200), Linnet (Vintage +200), Naïf (Classic -160), Madifra 2 (Classic +160), Raindrop (Spirit of Tradition).
The conclusion of the Argentario Sailing Week, which is organised with technical support from Yacht Club Santo Stefano, brings the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge Mediterranean Circuit to its halfway point for the season. Its third round is the Vele d’Epoca di Imperia (7-11 September) here in Italy. However, before then, the Grandes Dames of the Sea will gather at the Isle of Wight in the legendary Solent for the 2016 Panerai British Classic Week.