With the Maxi fleet on its way home after their week-long regatta, the Piazza Azzurra and the Marina of Porto Cervo are now jam-packed with crews from the record breaking fleet of 116 Swans all completing registration and inspection procedures. Representing 17 nations and ranging in length from 36 to 112 feet the Costa Smeralda is set to witness another incredible display of sailing power. Amongst the crews are some of the most famous names in sailing from the America’s Cup and Olympics – including Russell Coutts and Paul Cayard.

The 14th edition of the biennial Rolex Swan Cup, organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda with the collaboration of Nautor’s Swan and Rolex as title sponsor, officially commences with tonight’s Skippers’ Briefing and Welcome Cocktail.

This year, the Rolex Swan Cup takes place from the 11th to the 17th of September. The programme includes five days of racing and throughout the week, the YCCS Race Committee will select a variety of race courses around the north-eastern coast of Sardinia and through the Archipelago de La Maddalena just to the north of Porto Cervo. Narrow straits, rocky outcrops, shifting winds and tight competition set against some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable, will test the crews’ nerve, skill and speed to the utmost.

The fleet participating at the Rolex Swan Cup will be split into four classes: Grand Prix, Classic, Swan 45 and Swan 601. The Grand Prix and Classic yachts will race under a special handicap system designed specifically for the Swan fleet, called NSR (Nautor Swan Rating). One of the peculiarities of the NSR is its ability to give a rating allowance to yachts whose crews genuinely live and sleep on board their yacht for the duration of the regatta. This allowance is aimed at encouraging “family entries” that carry extra weight and personal belongings while racing. The Swan 45 and Swan 601 are One-Design classes and will race without handicap, first home being the winner.

Thirty yachts are entered in the Swan 45 One-Design Class – a record gathering for the class that will guarantee some close-fought competition. Reigning Swan 45 World Champion Massimo Ferragamo from the USA, hopes to sail his Bellicosa to another victory, relying on an all-American crew with the exception of himself. He is well aware, though, that this will be a very demanding assignment: “It will be a fantastic regatta, with 30 boats on the starting line. It will be great fun, none of us has ever sailed with so many Swan 45s before. In the last Rolex Swan Cup, we competed against 20 boats and that already provided lots of excitement. So I have a feeling that with 10 extra boats we will have some rather thrilling starts and mark roundings. The fleet includes many veterans of this class and some new entries, producing an interesting and unpredictable mix.” Regarding his expectations, Ferragamo hopes to do well and is adamant that his crew will do its best, however he believes that “This regatta will be more challenging than Key West, as I believe that American boats do better in the US and European boats perform well in Europe – in any sport, competing on your home grounds is a key factor to success.” Bellicosa’s crew is the same one that competed at the Swan 45 Worlds held in Key West last January with the exception of two sailors. Although Ferragamo doesn’t have a favourite condition, he would not mind moderate to strong winds: “In Key West our team did really well with strong winds and, provided I don’t mess up by broaching the boat, we should do well in such conditions.”

Another entry to watch closely among the Swan 45 fleet, will be Stefano Polti’s Mintaka from Italy, winner, as part of Team Sardegna, of the Sardinia Rolex Cup/ISAF Offshore Team World Championship Trophy held in Porto Cervo last June.

The competition among the Swan 601 One-Design fleet is also expected to be fierce. Pre-race favourite Moneypenny, owned and helmed by American Jim Swartz, boasts a very talented and experienced crew which includes Round the World Race and America’s Cup veterans Kimo Worthington and Dee Smith and accomplished offshore and grand prix sailor Mark Rudiger. The team has already spent a few days training and Dee Smith feels he’s ready for the first gun to fire: “We arrived in Porto Cervo a few days ago and have been preparing for the regatta, spending several hours on the water each day. It is such a beautiful location, the team spirit is great and we are ready to race. The 601 Class will be competitive as there are some brilliant sailors onboard all of the yachts taking part – it could really be anybody’s race.”

Indeed, Leonardo Ferragamo’s Cuordileone will prove a tough competitor, with sailing legend Paul Cayard calling the tactics. Sir Peter Ogden’s Spirit of Jethou will also be on the starting line of the Swan 601 fleet, along with Torben Tornquist’s Artemis, which lists Russell Coutts amongst its crew.

Four new Swan 100s will be making their debut at the Swan Rolex Cup, including Fantasticaaa from Italy, which just competed in the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, and will therefore vie for the Combined Maxi-Swan Prize for the best performing Swan competing in both the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup. Other Swans eligible for this trophy include Flying Dragon (ITA).

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