Beating the record time has been a constant feature of this race. Here a few milestone editions, the Palmares and the memorable 2012, which turned out to be the Perfect Year for Esimit Europa 2.
The Giraglia course unwinds over a large triangular area with the namesake islet at the lower corner. After the Saint-Tropez Start, a westbound offset to Port-Cros before the 120-nm leg to the Giraglia and the final 90-nm rush North to the Genoa Finish, totalling 241nm.
The current record of 14h56m16s dates back to 2012, held by Esimit Europa 2, a maxi yacht owned by Igor Simcic. The morning of 13th June is well remembered in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez for a breezy Mistral clearing the sky and making for wavy seas. On the Start Line, the wind blows thirty knots, increasing offshore and exceeding forty knots at the Giraglia: no doubt it will be a fast race, unseen for quite some time.
On the quayside, crews are hard at work to prepare the boats for the strong breeze that was to be; everybody is excited at the prospect of a lengthy run towards Corsica but not before a challenging upwind leg up to l’Ile du Levant: no more than a fraction of the entire course but steep waves may cause breakages which would compromise the rest of the race.
To make this Start even more special, the countdown is voiced through the VHF radio by the French actor Jacques Perrin – well-known in Italy for his role in Tornatore’s Nuovo Cinema Paradiso – over the deafening sound of the boats’ jibs in the breeze along the Start Line. Esimit Europa 2’s well-sorted crew, which includes helmsman Alberto Bolzan from Italy, are excited at the big chance to grab the record, and their world-class skipper Jochen Schumann quickly leaves the fleet behind in a foamy cloud. Just before the Start, though, a crew member needs to be taken off the boat due to a serious hand injury.
In a nutshell: a steady average speed between sixteen and eighteen knots, over thirty knots surfing near the Giraglia, and the record is demolished by no less than three hours and six minutes.
Another iconic boat was Benbow, one of the most beautiful boats still around, which raced all the Giraglia editions since she was built in 1973 until 1984, flying the YCI colours. Her outstanding record time of 27h24m30s will remain unbeaten until 1998.
Since 2012 the record remained unchallenged despite several breezy years and ever-faster boats being launched. Eleven years ago a 100-footer was a rare monster; today several yachts this size can give a serious go to the trophy.
In more recent times, George David’s Rambler 88, leading over Esimit Europa 2 upto a few miles from the Finish in the Principality of Monaco, was close to conquering the record until the wind, which had been blowing steady all along, unexpectedly let it down. Yet Rambler 88’s logged time of 16h00m35s was quite remarkable, having missed the record by a mere sixty-three minutes.
These are the record times for the offshore leg of the Rolex Giraglia:
2008 Alfa Romeo Neville Crichton 18h3m15s
2003 Alfa Romeo Neville Crichton 22h13m48s
1998 Riviera di Rimini Giorgio Benvenuti 24h21m47s
1984 Benbow Enrico Recchi 27h24m30s
1966 Stella Polare Marina Militare 29h0m0s