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Sailor’s Heaven at Swan Cup Caribbean

Published on March 1st, 2017

The Rolex Swan Cup has been attracting fleets of Nautor’s Swan boats to the iconic yachting haven of Porto Cervo, Sardinia since 1980. But in March, all eyes turn to Virgin Gorda for the British Virgin Islands version of the event. Now in its third edition, it is already a firm fixture on the Caribbean racing calendar.

Held every two years, this tropical sailing paradise will host 18 yachts from around the globe at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda annex for an event renowned for its unique combination of family atmosphere, thrilling racing and superb social events – a blend that organizers have honed to perfection in over 30 years of collaboration with Nautor’s Swan and title sponsor Rolex.

In short, sailor’s heaven.

The variegated fleet bears testament to the Finnish shipyard’s long history and to their commitment to both tradition and innovation. The models entered range from two of the latest Clubswan 50 one-design racer-cruiser models penned by Juan Kouyoumidjian to classic Sparkman and Stephens designs, and from two of the flagship Swan 115 superyachts to the dainty Best Buddies, a classic Swan 44 with a crew of friends and family that have travelled here from German especially for the event.

Each of the boats and crews here have their own story and their own special reason for participating, which is what sets the Rolex Swan Cup events in both Porto Cervo and Virgin Gorda apart from other regattas.

Without doubt one of the most fascinating backstories of this particular edition is the participation of the historic Swan 65 Sayula.


The surprise winner, in 1974, of the very first edition of the Whitbread Round the World Race – today known as the Volvo Ocean Race and still recognised as the most gruelling sailing challenge in existence – Sayula and her helmsman the late Ramon Carlín were the subject of an award-winning 2016 documentary.

Helmed now by Ramon’s son Enrique, who was on board for the extraordinary victory in 1974, the Mexican boat sailed a journey over 3,000 nautical miles specifically to attend the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean and boasts several generations of the Carlín family among the crew.

“We came from Mexico specially just for the event,” explained Enrique Carlín. “We went from Puerto Vallarta, all the way down to the Panama Canal and we got here in about 20 days. We came to bring Sayula back together with the Swan family, to support this special brand, it’s really a good brand, very strong. My two sons are on board and my grandchildren have already been at the helm of Sayula, so four generations of my family have helmed her.”

Equally excited to participate, but with a decidedly more competitive spirit is Hendrik Brandis, owner of Earlybird, the latest Clubswan 50 hull which was christened at the YCCS Marina in Virgin Gorda just days ago. Together with Leonardo Ferragamo’s Courdileone, these futuristic one-design yachts are sure to provide an electrifying spectacle in the easterly 20 knot breezes that are forecast for the coming days.

Brandis intends to enjoy becoming acquainted with his new yacht during its regatta debut: “We’ll be getting to know the boat and as always with sailing, having a lot of fun. I must say the first days of sailing here in Virgin Gorda were impressive. This is the next generation, it’s a planing boat and the downwind speed is just so much higher, it’s a different kind of sailing. It’s a great racer, it’s one-design and it can even be used with the family for day sailing.”

Racing is scheduled to get underway March 2 with a coastal course planned for the fleet which will be divided into two separate classes. Racing continue daily to March 5.

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