THE GENTLE EVOLUTION
The biennial Rolex Swan Cup provides a dynasty of elegant Swan yachts with the opportunity to engage in close racing in the challenging and scenic waters off Porto Cervo, Sardinia. Following directly on from the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, held at the same venue, this year’s 17th edition of the event involves over sixty crews from thirteen countries, providing four classes of Swan yachts with the perfect environment to conduct a breathtaking and graceful spectacle.
“The Rolex Swan Cup is one of the iconic regattas in the world. It is rewarding to see how it builds up and is consolidated event after event,” explains Leonardo Ferragamo, Chairman of Nautor’s Swan since 1998. “It represents the utmost co-operation between three great entities: Rolex (title sponsors since 1984), the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (event organizers) and, of course, Nautor’s Swan.”
“The event embodies several values, first of all the pleasure of owning a Swan,” continues Ferragamo, a long-time and passionate Swan owner and sailor. “A Swan owner is a person who really loves their boat, and is full of pride, dedicating time and energy to their yacht. Swan owners have passion and a noble approach which is characterized by the racing and the competitive spirit which shines through at the Rolex Swan Cup.”
Throughout its 46-year history, Nautor’s Swan has always been synonymous with elegance, style and reliability, a brand of yacht cherished by sailors around the world. Founded in 1966 in Pietarsaari, Finland, hundreds of years of Finnish boatbuilding history inspired the vision of founder Pekka Koskenkyla to build high-quality, high-performance sailing yachts. Ninety-five different models of Swans have been produced, measuring from the first design – some 11 metres (36-ft) through to an ambitious 39.9m(131-ft).
The very evolution of this brand – which recently witnessed the launch of its 2,000th boat, the Swan 90S, Freya – is embodied by the range of Swan yachts competing at the Rolex Swan Cup, testimony to a distinct philosophy, longevity and careful approach to evolution. “It is a process of continuation and coherence,” adds Ferragamo. “Developing, evolving, perfecting what we have done. Swan is an iconic product. It is a type of yacht you can recognize without looking for any labels.”
Germán Frers Sr has been the exclusive designer to Nautor’s Swan for over thirty years. Accompanied by his son Germán (Mani) Frers Jr, who has followed in his father’s footsteps as a respected designer, Frers Sr is also attending the Rolex Swan Cup, an opportunity he describes as: “A social, learning, and fun trip.” The Frers’ approach to design perfectly embodies the spirit of Nautor’s Swan. “A key characteristic of a Swan yacht is that it is a common-sense boat that doesn’t follow fashion rather is timeless, reflecting what people need at that moment in history,” explains Mani Frers. “You look back at the Swans of previous decades, they always adhered to this philosophy successfully.”
Frers Sr designed his first Swan in the early 1980s, and nearly 1,000 Swan yachts have been built to their designs since. “The association began after the Fastnet Race – now sponsored by Rolex – of 1979,” explains Frers Sr. “It was a rough race and there were two boats sailing in the Admiral’s Cup, Blizzard and Acadia, which I was skippering. We had previous conversations with Nautor’s Swan but that was the race that clicked the idea to create a Swan version of these boats, which turned out to be the Swan 51. From there on it just went on until we produced the Swan 46, which was one of the most successful boats of its time with more than a hundred built.”
The Rolex Swan Cup dually provides the opportunity to reflect on current trends, while preserving Swan’s traditions. Over recent times, the demand for larger Swans has risen, marked this week by the 18 yachts (in excess of 18.29 metres/60-feet) competing in the Swan Maxi class, from the increasingly popular Swan 60s including Bronenosec (RUS) and Emma (GER) through to the gigantic 112-ft Highland Breeze. “The Swan 60 was the first boat of an innovative process started four years ago,” explains Mani Frers. “The Swan 80 was the second step, the third is the Swan 105 and now the potential 114-ft is on the drawing board. This process involves both cutting edge-technology and the highest comfort for sailing.”
Leonardo Ferragamo himself is sailing the new Swan 60 for the first time at the Rolex Swan Cup, onboard Swing (USA), owned by Rafael Vinoly with 2012 Olympic Gold medallist Fredrik Lööf providing expert guidance. Ferragamo appreciates the new model: “The 60 is a real Swan, therefore has the ability to combine performance and a great reliability, quality and beauty.” “The sizes of Swans are growing, it used to be a medium size boat, now Nautor has been very good in building larger sizes and we are concentrating on that,” comments Frers Sr.
The Grand Prix classes (yachts measuring below 18.29 metres/60-feet) showcases another type of Swan, comprising the prolific Swan 46, a popular model that can be handled by relatively smaller crews. Meanwhile, the Rolex Swan 45 World Championship embraces the company’s first one-design boat.
Outside the Rolex Swan Cup, another popular Swan one-design is the Club Swan 42, developed in association with the New York Yacht Club (NYCC) to renew enthusiasm for a traditional sailing competition at the biennial New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup sponsored by Rolex. James Madden, owner of the Swan 601 Stark Raving Mad (USA), is well-acquainted with the event: “Last year I bought a Club Swan 42 and we campaigned it really heavily in Newport, Rhode Island and at the NYYC Invitational Cup. I love the boat, love the Swan, love the organization.” Madden is now testing his larger Swan in waters of the Costa Smeralda. “People always told me I needed to go to Sardinia to race so I thought between Rolex and Swan, it was time to do this event for the first time.”
The fourth class in action this week brings together the Classic boats including designs by the company’s first designers – Sparkman & Stephens – who produced 15 of the first Swan models, including 800 of the first 1,000 Swan built. The seven Sparkman & Stephens designs in action this week are living proof of the Swan’s durability. Sparkman & Stephens, from New York, designed the very first yacht to come from the famous Finnish production – the Swan 36-001 Tarantella – a boat that is still in perfect sailing condition, almost a half century after her launch.
Some things though have evolved during this gentle passage of time. Ferragamo acquired Nautor’s Swan in 1998 and has made a distinctive mark. “I think Leonardo Ferragamo brought in a more open-minded view of what is a Swan,” explains Mani Frers. “He really stands by the Swan brand and what it means. He is a guardian of the past and the future projects. He makes sure we keep along the right lines although is not afraid of coming up with new ideas and to accelerate the evolution process.”
It was an approach Ferragamo remains careful to nurture. “As a Swan owner, I was passionate about the values found in Swan. The decision to acquire the company in 1998 came after a long process. I was full of respect for what Swan was. I did not enter with aggressiveness, I was very humble, and wanted to preserve its values while pushing it forward in gradual way.”
First launched in 1980, and sponsored by Rolex since 1984, the Rolex Swan Cup continues to entice and delight. “Seeing the boats static is normal as I’ve viewed them so many times,” explains Mani Frers. “However, actually watching the boats in action and fulfilling their role inspires you.” The designers, like Swan owners, are extremely attached to their yachts but remain impartial. “They are like your children – you don’t say which is your favourite!” jokes Frers Sr.
The final word belongs to Ferragamo regarding the pleasure he draws at seeing the Nautor’s Swan family united – a genuine sense of belonging in the sailing world: “The atmosphere is friendly and sporting; people like being here together, racing their boats and sharing their experiences.” A sentiment shared by title sponsor Rolex. In an ever-changing world: prestige, elegance and enduring quality remain values that define a brand.