It was like being a kid in a candy store. First of all I was lucky enough to be onboard a lovely 48meter Perini Navi, Helios. The owners were gracious and very interesting to talk with on a variety of subjects from sailing to the economy in Michigan to national political campaigns. I am always grateful that my chosen sport of sailing allows me to interact and get to know a huge variety of people, from the knuckleheads who are my dear friends, to the elite of the elite in worldwide business who own these boats. Truth be told, I am always a tiny bit nervous when I meet a new owner as I am on their vessel. That makes it even better when they turn out to be really cool people.
On the third night I was invited aboard The Maltese Falcon for dinner. The new owner who had evidently only owned her for about 10 days hosted a few meals where she was getting to know some of the owners and sailors from neighboring yachts. Dinner was delicious, the guest entertaining and the boat spectacular. We had sushi, rack of lamb WITH mint sauce as well as a grilled salmon. I sat next to a friend of the owner’s who claimed that English was the absolute worst of the 6 languages he spoke, so we settled on French. It was great to be able to practice but I sincerely wonder if he regretted it at some point with my horrid accent. C’est la vie J!
The woman who owns the Falcon and her son gave me a great tour of all of the accommodations onboard. It is pretty spectacular and it was fun to see them still discovering new push buttons which operate everything and at one point a head they didn’t even know was there. Everything inside is curved and fluid and the very coolest part is the way the masts are incorporated into the interior design. The 3 or 4 floors around the center mast have glass windows in them so it looks a little like the elevator in Lost in Space or like multi-layered windows in an aquarium. Very cool. Oh and everyone onboard, crew, guest and owner were absolutely lovely.
Team Perini was impressive on the organizational and technical side and the last night of after dinner fireworks confirmed their social and event planning prowess. On our practice day we ended up with a couple of boat problems. The ‘ex boat captain’ in me kicked into gear as I closely observed the current professionals start solving problems. Hutch who was sailing with us was invaluable but so was Bruce from Perini’s ‘on-call rolodex’ that they had in this town. Mechanics from Caterpillar? They will be here by 2. Electricians to assess the electrical controls on the engine? Sure – 15 minutes. Oh there is a problem with the B&G – management and technician are a 3 minute walk away. One thing that I didn’t have time for was to get more of a tour and understanding of the mechanics below the decks. I would have loved to get dirty in the engine room but with all of the experts I figured my experience working on 65hp engines would probably just get in the way 🙂
Shoe horned into the dock
A couple of interesting tidbits. Helios is one of only 2 boats that was there which has a single screw. Can you imagine! Double screws on a sailboat? And then there is the anchor protocol. The boats generally med-moor. This entails dropping an anchor off the bow and backing up to the quay where they put a pacerell or gang plank down. The boats are packed in with only a fender’s with between them. Granted the fenders are the size of a small Vespa, but when they want to get out they don’t squeeze out while trying to pull up the anchor. They send a diver out who has a float bag. He attaches the float bag to the anchor, deploys it, the anchor floats up off of the bottom and the windlass pulls her in and up.
It is then out to the open ocean for a regatta. In the end the Mistral came in and reduced us to one 29 mile course. I was the tactician and to say it was a learning experience would be an understatement.
We had some drama as we were hoisting the main, one of the battens started to escape out the back of the sail. We had to stop everything and get two people out to the back of the boom. The fact that the boom is a deep V shape into which the roller reefing main sits made it less scary than it sounds. The fact that it was already blowing 32 knots and that the boys were about 10 feet off the deck which puts them a good 30 feet above the water made it more scary.
we are the boat to leeward
Got that sorted, had enough time to hoist, roll out the jib and do a ‘one-tack for the line timed run to the modified pursuit start’. Not the most accurate start but for sure not the worst either. Top and bottom marks were islands and tacking angles about 120 degrees. We had her heeled over – leeward rail plus stations in the water while Hank steered until his fingers blistered – seriously – and we were able to close in on our competition. Down the run we reeled in some more boats and at the leeward mark we were able to slip inside of 2 boats. Unfortunately our particular sail plan requires the jib to be completely rolled up in the middle of the tack so that eliminated some of our tactical options. We finished solidly mid fleet in 9th. Maltese Falcon won the race and event. They had some power down the run hitting solid 19 knots and surging to 21. We were also quite happy with our 14 knots. As PRO Peter Craig observed… you all are pushing a lot of furniture around the race course!
At the other end of the spectrum – the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup – The fact that the Rolex Maxi Regatta teams had rolled up to the other side of the dock to get ready for their regatta starting 2 days later just added to the excitement and to the number of old friends that I was able to catch up with. The boats were dwarfed by the size of the Perinis but they were sexy in their own way.
Room 138 – Cervo Hotel
Further around the harbor, Room 138 at the Cervo Hotel was a great one. Friday afternoon, Cat a friend who is practically local, took me to the Grand Hotel to swim. I did a few laps and thoroughly enjoyed the pool and then made my way to the shade of the bar for a drink and once my eyes adjusted I saw half of Valencia including Blood and Brookie, Ram and Beau Geste boys etc. etc.
On Saturday Cat insisted that we needed to have Bellini’s where they were invented. Frothed fresh peaches and a dry pro They were delicious – almost worth the $30 each! – I chalk it up to the experience and they did come with ‘snacks’.
The Clipper Bar is the place to be after dinner and since I was just there for a sprint – I took full advantage. Tony Reaper, Ed Danby, Howard Gibbons, Emma Westmacott, Denise Wilson, Bernard Labro, Ben Ainslie, Rodney, Alec, Capey, Suma, Peters Harken, Grimm and Craig and many many more. Tomac and Toppa were supposedly there but must have been for the early bird special J. Bubs, Billy, Doogie, Tommy B, Rob and friends were also sighted on the docks.
The final dinner finished off with an amazing fireworks show set to music including beautiful Italian opera and Annie Lennox’s Sweet Dreams (are made of these). Overall it was an amazing ‘extended weekend’ in one of Italy’s most exclusive towns with, great winds, crazy fun people and spectacular scenery both day and night. I KNOW I’m spoiled.
Thank you to Rolex and phenomenal photog – Carlos Borlenghi for most of these photos.
More photos at: Scuttlebutt Article