Saturday 11 July 1953 at 14:00, 22 yachts - 14 French, 7 Italian and one English - set off on the Cannes-Giraglia-Sanremo route of around 196 miles. The Mistral at about 25 knots welcomes the fleet of that first epic edition.
High-level entries lined up for a race already known as “the Mediterranean Fastnet”: well-proven boats such as Miranda IV, an outstanding Baglietto-built design by Jack Laurent Giles, Italo Monzino’s Mait, designed and built by Baglietto, Chiar di Luna of the Italian Navy, Mistral of the French Navy, and Samuel Pepys, the famous 24-foot Royal Naval Sailing Association, a Laurent Giles project, with a sail plan conceived by her skipper, John Illingworth.
Amongst the new boats, great expectations for EA, a mighty project by Vittorio Baglietto for Filippo Cameli and Guido Giovanelli, a boat conceived to be fast regardless of rating, and Bellon’s Enchanteur. In Class-2 Jalina is noted, designed by Eugéne Cornu for Jacques Barbu; in Class-3, great uncertainty among Chiar di Luna, Mistral and Samuel Pepys, not to mention Swallow (like Chiar di Luna, designed and built by Sangermani), made ready for the Cannes Start just a few days after launching and, therefore, a bit of a question mark. Aboard Swallow is Colonel Gianni Pera, a Navy Engineer already well known for his contribution to Italian Sailing, who would then go down in history for promoting the first Italian entry at the Admiral’s Cup in 1969.
A brisk Mistral at the Start quickly takes the boats close to Giraglia, where the wind abates; this goes well for the smaller boats which, initially left behind, can now catch up with their larger opponents. In this inaugural edition of the Giraglia race, the Time-on-Distance method has been adopted (as opposed to the more popular Time-on-Time) to avoid that, in Mediterranean light winds, smaller boats be unduly advantaged over larger ones, when everyone is becalmed. About fifteen hours into the race, EA and Amity lead the group at the Giraglia rounding, and will keep duelling until the Sanremo Finish, followed by Mait and Enchanteur. On the final leg, South-Westerly winds in excess of 30 knots will force all boats to reef their sails; heavy rain squalls will also significantly reduce visibility.
In Class-3, Swallow will lose its line honours, and probably a victory in corrected time, due to low-visibility: closing onshore, Colonel Pera won’t blindly push towards the Finish Line and would rather wait for better visibility tacking along the coast with his main down. This allows his direct competitors, who had kept offshore, to catch up on Swallow without risking running aground.
To avoid taking undue risks in strengthening winds, Mait, which had already been limping for some time due to a damaged rudder, eventually retires with approximately 20 miles to go, EA and Amity cross the Finish Line so close to each other, the Race Committee cannot establish who is ahead: the two boats are, therefore, declared winners ex-aequo (Real Time: 30 hours, 26 minutes and 15 seconds). Winners Enchanteur II in Class-1, Jalina (fastest Overall Corrected Time) in Class-2, Samuel Pepys in Class-3.
A disappointing result for the Italian sailors at this inaugural Giraglia race but they will make up for that in future editions!