The event is a pageant of sailing and runs over a full week each year in mid-June.
The event starts in Saint-Tropez, quintessentially French Mediterranean and indelibly associated with glamour since Brigitte Bardot made it her home in the 1960s. Three days of inshore racing allow crews to enjoy the culinary highlights of this engaging port, before embarking on the more serious challenge of a 243-nautical mile race to Genoa, via the Giraglia, a rocky outcrop off the northern tip of Corsica.
2011 is the 59th edition of the Giraglia Rolex Cup, an event that came to life in 1953 in a show of camaraderie between Italian and French sailors wishing to prove that the rigours of World War II were behind them.
The key dates are Friday, 17 June to Saturday, 25 June. Inshore racing takes place from Sunday, 19 to Tuesday, 21 June; the offshore race to Genoa starts on Wednesday, 22 June. On Saturday, 18 June an invitation only dinner will be held at the prestigious Château Saint-Tropez. The inshore series prize giving will take place on Tuesday, 21 June at the Place de l’hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), Saint-Tropez, whilst the final prize giving will be held on Saturday, 25 June in Genoa. The event is organised by the Yacht Club Italiano in conjunction with the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez and the Yacht Club de France.
Regularly attracting in excess of 200 yachts for the week of competition, the event is a kaleidoscope of nationalities. The French and Italians make up the bulk of entries, but yachts from the USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Nordic countries, Eastern Europe, Russia, and, even Asia and the Southern Hemisphere add richness to the occasion.
There are various notable moments for the participants. Certainly, though, the most memorable is the traditional crew party hosted by Rolex at La Citadelle, the 17th century fort that dominates the skyline on the landward side of Saint-Tropez. This year the Giraglia Rolex Cup Crew Party will be held on Sunday, 19 June.
Thereafter, for those on the offshore race, the rounding of the Giraglia marks the turning for the home. The rock itself is like many others, topped with a lighthouse to help navigators with their bearings. It lies barely 1 nautical mile off the coast of Corsica, and measures 600-metres in length. Yet, it has achieved mythic proportion in the minds of racing sailors, who view it in similar terms as the Fastnet Rock: somewhere small and uninhabitable, but crucial in the quest to complete the challenge of the race.
The finish in Genoa is obviously prominent in the minds of crews. Owing to its rich and glorious maritime history, the city of Genoa, home to the Yacht Club Italiano, serves as a fitting backdrop to the potentially dramatic closing stages of the Giraglia Rolex Cup.
During the 10th century Genoa was a wealthy and powerful Maritime Republic controlling a vast area that included Sardinia, Corsica and the Giraglia. Fittingly or the finish of an offshore adventure, Genoa has produced some of the world’s most famous explorers and navigators including Christopher Columbus, Antonio de Noli, Enrico Alberto d’Albertis, Enrico de Candia (Henry, Count of Malta) and Andrea Doria.