Dynamic and diverse qualities guarantee the international appeal of the annual Giraglia Rolex Cup, one of the most treasured fixtures in the Mediterranean yachting calendar. The capricious nature of the historic offshore race, the chance to sail around a scenic and revered landmark, the blend of Italian and French characteristics, the glamorous and hospitable locations, and the overriding spirit of camaraderie and friendship all combine to create a unique event that draws competitors from all parts of the globe.

Created in 1953 and renowned for its noble spirit, the Giraglia Rolex Cup continues to attract a sizeable fleet. Popular among Mediterranean sailors from the outset, since the Rolex partnership began in 1998, the event’s reputation has burgeoned. Evidenced by the record 268 yachts and some 3,000 sailors who graced the memorable 2016 edition, and the similar numbers expected at this year’s 65th gathering.

UNPREDICTABLE CHALLENGE The competition’s main event – the 241-nm offshore race to Genoa, which starts on Wednesday 14 June – is relatively short in comparison to 600-nm mile races like the Rolex Fastnet and the Rolex Sydney Hobart, but it is still a demanding test of seamanship. The weather in this part of the Mediterranean in June can pose real strategic and tactical problems. Strong mistral winds are a frequent feature, as are periods of complete calm. Rapidly changing conditions require comprehensive and flexible planning. Crews set out with different objectives: some to finish first, some to win their class, while others participate simply to be part of the tradition. Uniting them all is a strong desire to finish and relish the experience.

For those motivated by line honours, the offshore race has always reserved surprises. The very first edition was decided by a photo finish between an Italian and French yacht – a fitting tribute to the Giraglia’s Franco-Italian roots. On several occasions, with the leading yacht on the cusp of glory, the wind would die allowing a rival yacht to sail ahead. Nothing can be taken for granted.

Well accustomed to the race’s unpredictable nature, a thrilled Sir Lindsay Owen Jones claimed line honours last year with his Wally Cento Magic Carpet Cubed, a year after having won the 2015 race on handicap. The race record is held by the 100-ft Maxi Esimit Europa 2. To surpass her 2012 time of 14 hours, 56 minutes and 16 seconds will require a momentous performance and ideal weather conditions.

Returning to defend her crown is Tip, the 36-ft French yacht who won on handicap in 2016, owned by Gilles Pages. The democratic rating system used to handicap offshore yacht racing, as well each Giraglia Rolex Cup’s unique set of conditions make consecutive wins an extraordinary feat for crews.

A FLEET OF QUALITY AND QUANTITY The 2017 fleet promises to be as impressive and varied as ever. The recentlylaunched Reichel/Pugh designed My Song, a 130-ft Supermaxi from Baltic Yachts, will be one of the race’s largest-ever entries. This all carbon creation is designed to combine performance and light displacement with an attractive and comfortable interior. The contrasting Maxi 72s – Caol Ila R, Jethou and Momo – will engage in a competitive duel at the front of the fleet. Further down the size ranking, the event welcomes the latest creation of another leading boat builder – the much-vaunted ClubSwan 50 from Nautor’s Swan. Equally of note, Jalina, overall winner of the first two editions of the Giraglia Rolex Cup in 1953 and 1954, will participate in the overnight race from Sanremo and be present in Saint-Tropez to help celebrate this 65th anniversary edition.

CELEBRATING THE SPORT OF SAILING Both the line honours and overall winner of the offshore race will receive Rolex timepieces, the respected symbol in yachting, at the final prizegiving, held at the Yacht Club Italiano in Genoa on Saturday, 17 June. A long-time Rolex partner and one of the leading forces in the sport of yachting, the Yacht Club Italiano was founded in 1879. Its principal clubhouse at the Duca degli Abruzzi Marina in Genoa was originally opened in 1929. Following bomb damage it was rebuilt in 1953 the same year as the inaugural Giraglia. A historic port city famed for legendary seafarers of the likes of Christopher Columbus, Genoa fittingly provides an eloquent backdrop for crews to reflect on their individual and collective race experiences.

A ‘festival of sailing’ that firmly projects the Corinthian values of camaraderie, fair play and respect, the 2017 Giraglia Rolex Cup begins with an overnight race starting at midnight on 9 June. Competitors start from either Marseille or Sanremo arriving in Saint-Tropez in the early hours of Saturday morning. Saint-Tropez then serves as the event’s centre-stage both on and off the water until the start of the offshore race. Crews engage in three days of inshore racing from 11-13 June and enjoy the opportunity to unwind at social events, most notably the Rolex Crew Party the night before the offshore race.

A NATURAL AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER Rolex has always sought to associate with activities that, like itself, are motivated by passion, excellence, precision and team spirit. Naturally, Rolex gravitated toward the elite world of sailing, forming an alliance that dates back to the late 1950s. Today, Rolex is Title Sponsor of some 15 major international events.

From leading offshore races, such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart, the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race and the Giraglia Rolex Cup, through to the highest-level one-design competition at the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, spectacular gatherings at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup, as well as its close relationships with the most prestigious yacht clubs around the world, including the Yacht Club Italiano, New York Yacht Club (US) and the Royal Yacht Squadron (Cowes, UK), Rolex is driven by a passion for excellence and a great appreciation for yachting that furthers the strong ties that bind these two singular worlds.