One by one, some of the most important events in the boating calendar were cancelled as the coronavirus pandemic turned the sporting world on its head. First, Mallorca's Trofeo Princess Sofia regatta, where more than 250 international crews were already training, was axed in late March; next, the World Cup regatta, a final qualifying event for Olympic sailors from Africa, Asia and Europe that was slated for April 11-20 in Genoa, fell victim to the virus, followed swiftly by the America's Cup event planned for Cagliari in late April and countless other linchpins of the sailing sphere.
After the long pause, however, sailors enthusiastically returned to the water at the Swan Tuscany Challenge, held from September 9th to 12th under the blue skies of Italy's Marina di Scarlino. The event was exclusively reserved for yachts built at the famed Finnish shipyard Nautor's Swan, and was a late addition to the international boating calendar, conceived as an alternative regatta for sailors disappointed by the cancellation of the Rolex Swan Cup in Porto Cervo on Sardinia's Costa Smeralda. The inaugural Swan Tuscany Challenge, carried out under strict safety protocols, offered boaters and observers alike a preview of the hottest competition of the year—the Swan One Design Worlds regatta, scheduled in Scarlino for October 13th to 17th.
The Swan Tuscany Challenge featured three classes of yachts: four ClubSwan 36 yachts took part, along with two Swan 45 boats and 13 ClubSwan 50s. Dmitry Rybolovlev's team, helmed by Olympic gold medallist Fernando Echávarri and the reigning world champion in the ClubSwan 50 class after a resounding victory at last year's Nations Trophy competition in Mallorca, took third place on their boat Skorpidi in the competition's seven races, with 35 points.
Among the ClubSwan 50 yachts competing in the Scarlino regatta, Rybolovlev's team was nearly tied with second-place winner Onegroup (34 points), which benefitted from the expert leadership of three-time Olympic champion Jochen Schümann. The winner, with an impressive 25 points, was Hatari, owned by Marcus Brennecke and competing in its first-ever ClubSwan 50 regatta.
In the other categories, Swan 45 Motions narrowly edged out competitor K-Force, while the ClubSwan 36 design proved its agility with three out of the four boats in competition finishing tied for first place after seven races. The brand-new design, conceived by famous naval architect Juan Kouyoumdjian, won widespread acclaim, with the Swan Tuscany Challenge the first chance for a number of ClubSwan 36 owners to see how their vessels performed in a competitive environment.
Many of the participants enthused about how great it was to be back on the water after a long break and expressed how much they are looking forward to the next race. The first edition of the Swan Tuscany Challenge, which organisers amazingly managed to pull together in less than a day, has clearly whetted appetites for the Swan One Design Worlds competition which will play out next month in the same picturesque bay.
Images from Nautor's Swan | Studio Borlenghi