Life Under Sail: Rolex Cup Takes to the Waters of BVI

By Christina Tsangaris

For an event renowned for its unique combination of vibrant family atmosphere, thrilling racing and a superb social calendar: the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean once again gathers eighteen yachts from around the globe to the glittering shores of YCCS Marina Virgin Gorda.

The yachting epicentre of the British Virgin Islands is graced once again with its third edition sailing event, where Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and Rolex as title sponsor team to present a stunning spectacle on the racing calendar. 

Gathering an ever-more impressive fleets to the tropical sailing paradise of Virgin Gorda, the fleet bear testament to the Finnish shipyard's long history and commitment to both tradition and innovation. Its models entered range from two of the latest ‘Clubswan 50 models’ penned by Juan Kouyoumidjian to classic Sparkman and Stephens designs, dazzling the waters of the British Virgin Islands. 
Yet, each of the yachts and crews share their own story and special reason for participating, setting 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.  

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."
In addition to exciting action on the water, the Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean also brings a glittering social calendar. Owners and crews will attend an opening reception on the YCCS lawn this evening, while a cocktail competition will have crews battling once again on Thursday evening. The elegant Rolex Dinner for owners at the YCCS Clubhouse and a relaxed Caribbean Barbecue at Bitter End Yacht Club will also take place before the final prize giving on Sunday March 5th.

By Christina Tsangaris