The maxi fleet was the first away today on the Rolex Giraglia offshore. Photo: ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi

The maxi fleet was the first away today on the Rolex Giraglia offshore. Photo: ROLEX / Carlo Borlenghi

Magic Carpet Cubed leads Rolex Giraglia offshore away from Saint-Tropez


14/06/2023 - 15:48

The third and final part of this special 70th Rolex Giraglia – the offshore race around Giraglia rock to Genoa - successfully set sail from Saint-Tropez just after midday today, with 27 maxis among the 155 starters. This offshore race is the fifth of seven events in the International Maxi Association's 2022-23 Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge that started with last autumn's Rolex Middle Sea Race and will conclude with August's Palermo-Montecarlo.

After three days of light airs inshore racing on or around the Golfe de Saint-Tropez, the start of the offshore today was forecast to be ultra-light but in fact local cloud activity enabled the fleet to get away in an easterly or ENEerly wind that peaked at 10 knots.

Last night the race committee changed the course: instead of heading southwest to the usual turning mark at Île du Levant off Hyères, the new course sent the fleet further east to a laid mark off La Chretienne, east of Saint-Raphaël. From there the route resumes as usual, to the Giraglia rock off north Corsica and on to the Genoa finish. The new course is 215 miles compared to 241.

The big question is how this race will pan out. It seems set not be the 'glass-out' of 2022 nor will it be the rapid race of 2019, when the maxis were flying to the Giraglia but then parked short of the finish line, nor will it have the pace of 2012 when Igor Simčič's 100ft maxi Esimit Europa 2 set a record time of 14h 56m 16s, that stands to this day.

Interestingly this year, Esimit Europa 2 is back, but in new livery as Australian Peter Harburg's Black Jack. However the chances of challenging the record are remote to non-existence with the Black Jack team anticipating it taking them at least 23 hours to finish.

While Black Jack is the highest rated maxi competing under IRC, her biggest threat will certainly be Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones' Wallycento Magic Carpet Cubed – a past line honours and overall winner of Rolex Giraglia. In fact the former Chairman and CEO of L'Oréal has competed in this race more times than anyone in history, but few of his races could have been as dramatic as 2022 when, approaching Genoa, his 100 footer managed to skirt around a parked up ARCA SGR to steal line honours.

Aside from their unparalleled experience in this race, one of the secrets to Magic Carpet Cubed's success lies in their towering Dutch navigator and routing genius Marcel van Triest. According to van Triest Magic Carpet 3's ETA into Genoa is "lunchtime tomorrow". "After La Chretienne then it will be probably a fetch to Giraglia just...a very long port, with not that much wind, but fairly straight line. We will be chasing the pressure - it is getting lighter from behind. Then we go around Giraglia and it depends a little bit upon whether we are early or late: If we are early then it could be first of all light, but we could have a period in the mid-teens or more for a little while, middle of the night/early morning, but that will disappear with the heating. If we are late it will be lighter and again it will be upwind to Genoa."

Most intriguing for van Triest was the prospect of it being a race without sail changes. This was also identified by other teams with Jim Swartz's Vesper, for example, reducing their crew down to 15 and taking just one jib, a Code 0 and a gennaker for headsails.

Desperately hoping for more wind is the extraordinary Roberto Lacorte, skipper of the world's first foiling maxi and who only last weekend successfully competed in the LMP2 class at the 100th anniversary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Sadly his Flying Nikka needs at least nine knots to fly well, and more to fly upwind and his team reckon that they may encounter such conditions for just 20-30% of the race. "It is the same situation we had before in this season," said Lacorte. "So far we have only had very, very light winds which haven't been good for us. But we have to deal with the weather we are given. We hope to have all the wind we missed this season when we get to Porto Cervo - we have a big credit!"

For Pier Luigi Loro Piana, this will be the first time competing in Rolex Giraglia aboard his latest My Song, a ClubSwan 80. "We hope the weather will be better than forecast," he said prior to docking out of the Port de Saint-Tropez this morning. "I have done this race three times before, many years ago. One time we passed the Giraglia Rock in first place but we lost the race by 45 seconds - so I said 'no more Giraglia!' - but now I want to do it..."

Looking forward to this year's race he adds: "It is a little light and difficult to predict. The wind will be upwind, so not perfect for My Song, but we have to learn. It is important to have some wind and not get stuck, especially off Genoa with people passing you..."

At the time of writing Magic Carpet Cubed was the first maxi to round the La Chretienne turning mark.

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