Racing between the giant schooners concluded on Saturday in Capri with the first round of the Schooner Cup Series. For 2019 this comprises single races here in Capri and at September's Monaco Classic Week and Les Voiles de St Tropez where the winner will be awarded the Schooner of the Year Trophy. This and Capri Classica have been created by the International Schooner Association in conjunction with the International Maxi Association.
For their final day of racing, the four schooners, ranging in size from 85ft Orianda to 138ft Mariette of 1915, once again started in the Gulf of Naples bound for a turning mark off Punta Campanella, at the tip of the Sorrento Peninsula. They then headed on to a finish line off the Faraglioni, the famous rocks off Capri's southeast shore. The significant difference today was the pursuit race format, with staggered starts: Orianda leaving at 1210, followed ten minutes later by Puritan, Mariette of 1915 at 1247 and finally Naema at 1250.
Naema ghosts towards the Faraglioni to take second in the opening round of the Schooner Cup Series. Photo ©: Gianfranco Forza
In the event Mariette of 1915 first dug into the Sorrento Peninsula and, having learned her lesson from Friday, chose a generous layline into the Punta Campanella turning mark. Seeming to find her own personal breeze enabled her to overtake all three of her rivals and lead around the turning mark, just ahead of Orianda, with Puritan and Naema still some way astern.
Sadly the wind died on the approach to the finish, leaving crews time to contemplate the towering Faraglioni stacks, hewn over millennia by wind and waves. Eventually, Mariette of 1915 ghosted over the line at 14:48:04 followed by Naema at 15:09:38, then Orianda at 15:23:47 and Puritan at 15:42:48.
"We are very happy to have got a good result today because yesterday wasn't our best day. It was great to finish the regatta on a high," said Charlie Wroe, Captain of Mariette of 1915. "The course today was pretty much right, although it seemed to take two hours to cover the last half a mile as we clawed our way around the Faraglioni Rocks, but it is a stunning setting.
Mariette of 1915 closes on the Faraglioni prior to claiming round one of the Schooner Cup Series. Photo: Gianfranco Forza
"This first Capri Classica has been really good – a lot of fun ashore, like-minded people, a small private event which has been really pleasant, in the evenings as much as on the water. Racing like-for-like with similar boats is more fun than a mixed fleet."
While Mariette of 1915 claimed first honours in the Schooner Cup Series, winner of Capri Classica after three days of racing over Wednesday-Friday was Naema, with whom she had spent the entire event match racing. The outcome of this competition was decided in Friday's race when Naema planted a penalty on her rival in a port-starboard incident at the top mark.
"It is the first time Naema has won a regatta," said a jubilant Florian Franke, Captain of Naema, "We have had several day wins but never won a regatta before. It is especially great because we beat Mariette, which has been our goal since 2016."
Florian Franke receives the trophy on behalf of Naema for winning the inaugural Capri Classica. Photo: Gianfranco Forza
As to why success has come now, Franke explained: "The key thing is training, continuity and management. You make big improvements during the first 80% which is where we still are. The most difficult part will be to get the last 20%. We have a permanent crew of 7-8 and a race crew of 26 and more than half have been with us since the beginning. It's a great family of people who really understand schooners."
Naema's competition with Mariette of 1915 was especially good since it was a straight match race coming down, as always, to starting well, going the right way around the course as well as schooner-specific things like choosing the right sails at the right times and manoeuvring – especially labour-intensive when you can fly eight sails simultaneously - in the most efficient manner.
Simon Pandolfi, captain of Puritan and Vice-President of the International Schooner Association was pleased with the event: "It was incredible – much more than what I expected. We have been working hard all winter and now we see people who are smiling, who are in Capri, which is beautiful. The races have been gorgeous and everyone has enjoyed the events ashore. Everyone is looking forward greatly to coming back. I could not be more satisfied."
The schooners resplendent at anchor off Capri's Marina Piccola. Photo ©: Gianfranco Forza
Once this circuit is established Pandolfi believes that around ten schooners might regularly compete including other famous examples such as Atlantic, Adix, Creole and Shenandoah. "We are also thinking about another invitation class for modern schooners," he adds.
At the prizegiving at Torre Saracena, at Marina Piccola on Capri's south coast, Florian Franke, accepted the trophy on behalf of Naema for winning Capri Classica, while his crew were presented with Extrema Ratio knives for winning the traditional schooner crafts and skills competition between the four boats. Mariette of 1915's Charlie Wroe picked up the first Schooner Cup Series trophy, to applause followed by the singing of a traditional sea shanty.
Tomas de Vargas Machuca, President of the International Schooner Association, whose company, The Classic Yacht Experience, owns and runs Puritan and Orianda, hosted the prize-giving. He added: "We didn't know how it was going to pan out, but it is clearly the beginning of something cool for our wonderful International Schooner Association. We have 150 people here and everyone is smiling and has had a great time - I can say that because I came last every day, but I'm still beaming. It has been amazing to see such close fought racing."
Andrew McIrvine, Secretary General of the International Maxi Association, which supported the event, added: "The IMA was delighted to support this very successful first event. The international interest has been astonishing. We hope and trust that this format will fire up the interest and enthusiasm of all schooner owners and allow this fleet to develop as an important division of maxi racing long-term."
Racing for the schooners has been organised this week by the Circolo Remo e Vela Italia and the Yacht Club Capri.
Mariette of 1915 –138ft 1915 Nathanael Herreshoff schooner
Naema – 128ft built in 2012, inspired by the 1938 Alfred Mylne design Panda
Orianda –85ft 1937 Dahlstrom staysail schooner
Puritan –126ft 1930 Alden gaff schooner
Find out more about the schooners here: Five Super Schooners to Compete at the Inaugural Capri Classica.