As they do in every odd-numbered year, the cream of the yacht-racing world will converge on the English seaport town of Cowes this summer for the start of the Rolex Fastnet. The biannual offshore sailboat race is only a little more than 600 nautical miles in length, but the challenging conditions regularly test the world’s most fearless sailors.
Organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, this year’s race begins Aug. 11 off the coast of Cowes, located on the Isle of Wight. From there, the competitors head to Fastnet, off the coast of southwestern Ireland, around Fastnet Rock and back to Plymouth in the U.K. The race, which is limited to 300 boats, attracts high-profile names from both the world of sailing and the world of business. Skype founder Niklas Zennström’s 72-foot maxi yacht, Rán 2, won the last two Fastnet races. Sir Charles Dunstone, founder of U.K. mobile phone retailer The Carphone Warehouse, took first place in 2003 with the 76-foot Nokia Connecting People.
While Fastnet revels in its reputation for danger, the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta projects a more genteel image. The regatta takes place in June off Sardinia’s Porto Cervo, the resort built by Prince Karim Aga Khan in the 1960s for the global jet set. Over the four-day event, owners get to test their multimillion-dollar yachts on the deep blue of the Mediterranean while gliding by the rugged, sun-drenched cliffs of northern Sardinia.
The boats entered in Fastnet are built for speed, but the super-yachts at Porto Cervo are characterized more by their beauty and luxury. A good example is Unfurled, the 112-foot yacht owned by New York real estate developer Harry Macklowe. Unfurled, which raced Porto Cervo in 2011, not only has room for racing crew, but can also accommodate six guests in three air-conditioned suites. For some entrants, what happens once the boats are moored is as important as what happens during the race. After sunset, boat owners hit the Porto Cervo marina, where they discuss the day’s sailing over good food and fine wines.
Just north of Sardinia is France’s Saint Tropez, the quintessential summer hangout for the rich and famous. It hosts Les Voiles de Saint Tropez, a regatta that takes place at the end of summer. The race, organized by the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, includes both modern yachts and traditional rigs, which compete on the majestic Gulf de Saint Tropez. The setting is as beautiful as the boats, which include a number of Wally yachts. Introduced in 1994 by Italian businessman Luca Bassani, Wallys are known for their sleek look, minimalist design and superior performance. The boats, which are manufactured in Monaco, are so unique that they get to sail in a category of their own.
Here are The Financialist’s picks for the best regattas happening around the world this summer.
Photos courtesy of Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta, Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi, Thomas Barrat / Shutterstock.com, Martinez Studio/Copa del Rey Audi Mapfre, aspen rock / Shutterstock.com, Gilles Martin-Raget/Les Voiles de Saint Tropez