After its record-breaking opening round at Antibes on the Côte d’Azur attracted an unprecedented 80 boats, the 10th Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge now moves to Tuscany. Once again, enthusiasm for the foremost international classic and vintage sailing circuit shows no sign of diminishing. In fact, 50 yachts have already entered the 16th Argentario Sailing Week which takes place at Porto Santo Stefano between June 19th and 22nd. The fleet gathering in Tuscany will be divided into five categories: Classic, Vintage, Big Boats, Spirit of Tradition, Metre Classes and One Designs.
The event is being organised by the Yacht Club Santo Stefano and begins with a welcome cocktail party for all participants at its waterfront clubhouse on the Thursday evening of the weekend. The boats will tie up along the Molo della Pilarella wharf in front of the Race Village and the Panerai Lounge where owners and crews can get together after each race. On the Friday evening, competitors will enjoy a gala dinner at the Tenuta Agricola del Parco dell’Uccellina country estate, while on the Saturday evening, oysters and champagne will be served on the dockside. Last but not least, there will be a farewell cocktail party after the prize-giving ceremony on the Sunday evening.
Three races will be held on triangular and windward-leeward courses in a stretch of water between the Golfo di Talamone and the Giannella beaches. The wonderful turquoise sea there makes this one of the most entrancing areas of the Mediterranean for sailing.
In the Big Boats category, it looks like the 40-metre Cambria (1928) and the 31-metre Moonbeam IV (1914) will be battling it out until the very last mile as both have now won two Panerai trophies in their category. Whichever of the two takes part in several rounds over the season will, of course, increase her chances of winning the trophy for a third time, a feat achieved only for the very first time last year by Rowdy in the Vintage category and Emeraude in the Classic category.
Of course, all of the other participating yachts will be bringing years of seafaring history with them too. The 36-metre J-Class Shamrock V was an English challenger in the America’s Cup in the 1930s, for instance, while Argyll, Comet, Manitou, Skylark of 1937, Stormy Weather, Voscià and Vim were all penned by American design legend Olin Stephens who passed away in 2008 at the grand old age of 100. He personally attended and competed at the Argentario Sailing Week on several occasions when he was well past his 90th birthday. In fact, in 2004, he was awarded honorary citizenship of Porto Santo Stefano. The gaff ketch Javelin, which was launched in 1897, will be the oldest boat participating this year.
The Italian Navy also lines out four of its finest wooden officer training vessels. They are: Capricia (1963), Stella Polare (1965), Corsaro II (1961) and Chaplin (1974), the latter a gift from the Novi family of Genoa. The Bermudan sloop also went down in Panerai Trophy history after she won the Classic category in 2009.
A small fleet of Wianno Seniors will also be competing at the Argentario Sailing Week to celebrate the class’s centenary. The classic 7.6-metre one design was penned in the US in 1914 and was the boat on which President J.F. Kennedy cut his sailing teeth. There will be four at Porto Santo Stefano: Pyxis, Raindrop, Wind & Wine and Wianno, with two playing host to American crews captained by Timothy W. Fulham, president of the American class association. Aside from competing in the Spirit of Tradition category, the Wiannos will have their own separate standings.
All in all, the Argentario Sailing Week look set to be absolutely unmissable this year. It will also be entirely accessible to all classic boat enthusiasts as the fleet will be moored in a bustling area of the town frequented by locals and tourists alike. The surrounding promontories and the seafront at Porto Santo Stefano also provide excellent views of the racing as they create a wonderful natural amphitheatre.
The next four rounds of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge’s Mediterranean Circuit play out in Italy, Spain and France: Vele d’Epoca a Napoli (Naples, IT, 2-6 July), Copa del Rey (Minorca, ES, 26-30 August), Vele d’Epoca di Imperia (Imperia, IT, 10-14 September), Régates Royales (Cannes, FR, 23-27 September). Also on the calendar are the Panerai British Classic Week at Cowes (12-19 July) and the North American circuit regattas (Marblehead Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta, 8-10 August; Nantucket Opera House Cup, 13-17 August; Newport MOY Classic Yacht Regatta 29-31 August).
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. www.panerai.com
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.