The city of Imperia, in Italy, becomes the focal point of the classing sailing world as more than eighty historic craft gather to take part in Le Vele d’Epoca di Imperia, the fourth stage of the Mediterranean circuit of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, a series of international regattas for classic and vintage vessels sponsored for the last eight years by Officine Panerai.
The 17th edition of Le Vele d’Epoca di Imperia looks set to be truly impressive in terms of numbers as well as quality: the dockside at Porto Maurizio will be thronged with yachts of between 8 and 70 metres, all built between the end of the 19th century and the start of this one. The fleet will be manned by more than 1,000 crew and will be racing in front of 200,000 visitors over the five scheduled days of competition.
The yachts are divided into four main categories: Vintage (built before 1950), Classic (built between 1950 and 1975), Spirit of Tradition (modern replicas of older designs) and Metric (International 15-, 12-, 8- and 6-metre Classes, etc.).
This comprehensive fleet represents every single period from the history of international yachting, in fact. The large schooners Elena and Atlantic, which stretch 55 and 69 metres respectively, gave a taste of the majesty of the great sailing yachts of the early 1900s, for instance. Atlantic, in particular, is a replica of the schooner aboard which legendary skipper Charlie Barr won the famous Kaiser’s Cup transatlantic race in 1905, covering the 3,000 miles of ocean between America and England in just over 12 days.
Imperia also brings an eagerly-awaited reunion of the only four International 15-metres still sailing: Prince Albert of Monaco’s Tuiga (1909), just back from competing at Antigua, Hispania (1909), once owned by King Alfonso XIII of Spain, The Lady Anne (1912) and Mariska (1908). Other vintage sailing giantesses entered for Le Vele d’Imperia include the 40-metre Cambria (1928), the 64-metre Adix, the 38-metre Altair, the 40-metre Orion (1910), the 36-metre Sunshine and the 43-metre Sylvia (1925).
The Italian Navy will also be lining out its entire fleet of historic yachts, many just returned from training exercises for the cadets from its Naval Academy. The fact that Artica II, Capricia, Caroly, Chaplin, Corsaro II, Stella Polare and the slightly younger Orsa Maggiore are all attending Imperia will make it a truly unique and rare event.
Fresh from her transatlantic adventure at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and her participation at Cowes and Mahon, the Officine Panerai’s own 1936 ketch Eilean will also be at Imperia. The two-master actually won the best vintage restoration prize at Imperia two years ago, after emerging from a renovation that involved 40,000—plus hours of work at the Del Carlo yard of Viareggio.
Also promising to prove very competitive indeed in her category will be Il Moro di Venezia I, the first authentic maxi built from laminated wood in Italy. Commissioned from Argentinean designer German Frers in 1976, the latter’s namesakes went on to write some of the most glorious chapters in Italian sailing history thanks to their performances in the America’s Cup.
The official programme will see the yachts arrive for registration on Wednesday, September 5th. One race per day will then be competed between Thursday 6th and Sunday 9th of September. A spectacular parade of all of the yachts will be held before the fourth race on Sunday morning while the prize-giving ceremony for the winning vessels takes place the same afternoon.
A plethora of events has been organised ashore too, and both owners and crews will be welcome to avail of the Panerai Lounge to relax and enjoy post-race discussions. Several different exhibitions and shows, themed around deep-sea diving, elegance at sea, traditional Ligurian trades and regional product tastings, are also planned. The biennial Le Vele d’Epoca di Imperia is organised by the Assonautica Provinciale di Imperia with the patronage of the C.I.M. (International Committee for the Mediterranean).
Founded in Florence in 1860 as a workshop, shop and school of watch-making, for many decades Officine Panerai supplied the Italian Navy in general, and its specialist diving corps in particular, with precision instruments. The designs developed by Panerai in that time, including the Luminor and Radiomir, were covered by the Military Secrets Act for many years and were launched on the international market only after the brand was acquired by the Richemont Group in 1997. Today Officine Panerai develops and crafts its movements and watches at its Neuchâtel manufacture. The latter are a seamless melding of Italian design flair and history with Swiss horological expertise. Panerai watches are sold across the world through an exclusive network of distributors and Panerai boutiques.
PANERAI CLASSIC YACHTS CHALLENGE
In honour of its historic links to the sea, Officine Panerai has promoted classic sailing culture for many years through its sponsorship of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, the leading international circuit for these vintage craft. In 2007, the company also acquired and restored the Bermudan ketch Eilean. Built in 1936 by the legendary Fife yard at Fairlie in Scotland, she is now the brand’s ambassador at vintage and classic boat rallies and regattas.