When Leonardo Ferragamo acquired Nautor Swan back in 1998 he did so with a clear vision of the journey he wanted the Finnish firm to embark on. Though already a long-standing Swan 51 owner, the potential contribution of the successful Italian fashion entrepreneur was not perhaps immediately apparent. It was soon to become so.
With an instinctive understanding of the critical importance of bringing branding, marketing, customer engagement and quality products together on an international platform, Ferragamo’s success in rebuilding and reinvigorating the Swan brand is now self-evident.
In recent years a significant component of that platform has been ClubSwan Racing which has played a central role in the evolution of the Swan family and community — a fact most recently demonstrated at the conclusion of the highly successful 2023 season.
Racing sailors from 25 countries came together in Scarlino for a double finale in the form of the Swan One Design Worlds and the first ever Swan Med Regatta – The Tuscany Challenge for Rating yachts, the two events held in tandem in mid-October 2023.
It proved a suitably enthralling end to a highly successful 2023 season that had begun back in April at the Swan Croatia Challenge, with the ClubSwan 36 fleet blowing off the winter cobwebs in the sparkling waters off Split. Giangiacomo Serena di Lapigio’s Monaco-flagged G Spot put down an early marker that she might prove to be one of the boats to beat with a win at the season opener.
May saw a gathering of the full ClubSwan Racing clan with the radical 36s joined by the innovative ClubSwan 50s — both testament to the impact of designer Juan Kouyoumdjian on the Swan line — and the ClubSwan 42 class in Villasimius on Sardinia’s dramatic southeast coast.
The same dynamic one-design trio of classes reunited again in Sardinia the following month, this time at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo, for The Nations Trophy. Strong breezes around the archipelago saw some spectacular sailing conditions, with Italy claiming the title thanks to the performance of two of the ClubSwan 50s — Andrea Lacorte’s Vitamina and Cuordileone helmed by Leonardo Ferragamo.
Palma was the next stop at the end of July for the classic Copa del Rey MAPFRE regatta with the ClubSwan 50s and ClubSwan 42s each having their own class while a large contingent of Swan’s performance cruisers opted for the Rating fleets. It says a lot for the inherent pace and versatility of Swan’s production line yachts that ClubSwan 42s won the ORC 1 and ORC 2 classes, with Javier Sanz and Christian Plump’s Palibex-Elena Nova claiming victory ahead of the TP52 Aifos skippered by Spain’s King Don Felipe in ORC 1.
ClubSwan Racing then displayed its versatility by holding two new European championships at different venues. The ClubSwan 50s were hosted by the Club Maritimo de Mahon at a brand-new venue for ClubSwan Racing on the east coast of the island of Menorca, while the ClubSwan 36s had returned to Sardinia for racing next to the extraordinary Tavolara Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area on the pristine northeast coast, there hosted by the state-of-the-art Marina di Puntaldia.
And so to Scarlino and the conclusion of the 2023 season — for many no doubt also its highlight — at the Swan One Design Worlds and the inaugural Swan Med Regatta – The Tuscany Challenge, with the season-long The Nations League 2023 also set to be decided.
Venue selection has always been a key part of the ClubSwan Racing manifesto and Tuscany fulfilled its part in technicolour. While the coastal vista was open to all, with three coastal races on their race programme the Rating fleet was perhaps best placed to get up close and personal with the beautiful Bandite di Scarlino Natural Park, enough for the race teams to smell the pine, laurel and holm oak forest dotted with myrtle and rosemary.
Meanwhile the islands of Cerboli off Elba’s east coast and the rugged Sparviero, complete with its medieval tower, served as racing marks, with the legendary island of Montecristo a constant feature in the background.
Ashore in the impressive Marina di Scarlino, the owners, their families, guests and crews were also able to explore the immersive Nautor Swan Experience which brought together the latest models for a “pop-up” style boatshow and a series of highly social events designed to highlight the Swan community in every sense of the term. It was also an opportunity for ClubSwan Racing’s prized primary partners Rolex, Randstad, Ferragamo, Porsche and Banor, to be shown full appreciation.
Events got underway starting with the Opening Ceremony at the Marina di Scarlino heralded by the Accademia Navale di Livorno marching band, the first in a series of social events that encompassed daily prizegivings awarded by Garmin Marine, Quantum Sails, Gottifredi e Maffioli and Randstad, with special prizes from B&G and Banor Capital, the Tassoni Crew Party, and the Swan Experience Gala Dinner and ClubSwan Charity Auction for the Oceans presented by Christie’s in support of Marevivo and Mission Blue. As ever, all part of the ClubSwan Racing experience.
Out on the racecourse it proved to be a close-fought contest, and it was indicative of the level of competition in Scarlino that three of the four one-design classes went into the final race decider with the leaders tied on points.
In the ClubSwan 36 class G Spot lived up to her early season promise and edged ahead of Lorenzo Mondo’s Far Star (ITA) overall in a highly tactical final race which saw the single race discard come into play. The match-race between G Spot and Far Star allowed Edoardo and Vanni Pavesio’s Fra Martina (ITA) to claim her second win of the regatta — the only yacht in class to do so — and secure the last place on the podium.
A delighted Serena di Lapigio said: ‘It was very nice to win. The last race is always really important, and we made it and we are happy — and the organisation was fantastic.’ Similarly, the ClubSwan 42 class was ultimately decided by a single point with Andrea Rossi’s Mela (ITA) edging in front of Adriano Majolino’s Canopo (ITA), as was the Swan 45 contest with Luca Locatelli’s Thetis (ITA) just ahead of Claudio Terrieri’s Blue Sky (ITA).
Rossi said: ‘It was a difficult world championship, and I am very happy thanks to the crew and our tactician who helped us to this win.’
The exception to those nail-biting playoffs was in the large ClubSwan 50 class where Cuordileone , helmed by Leonardo Ferragamo, had flown out of the blocks in defence of her World title won last year in Valencia with back-to-back race victories on the opening day.
With top-three results in every other outing Cuordileone had secured the 2023 world title with a race to spare, a full 16 points clear of Raquel and Graeme Peterson’s Moonlight (MON) which took the runner-up spot by a point from Marcus Brennecke’s Hatari.
‘I have a mixture of many lovely feelings,’ said Ferragamo, Nautor Swan’s chairman. ‘I definitely had a great crew, we were very synchronised and we bonded well together. We took it very seriously and we could not be happier with the performance. We are very proud to have had a fantastic One Design Worlds here with the 36s, the 50s, the 45s and the 42s, these classes mean a lot to the sailing world.
‘People here were really having fun, out on the water and ashore, and this is really important for the spirit of Swan that prevails in all of the things that we do together, and this event has been no exception.’
Cuordileone’s performance, along with Far Star, saw Italy top the Best Placed Nation table in Scarlino, and also finish ahead of Germany in the overall Nations League 2023 standings, with Monaco taking third place.
In the One Design overall season standings Pedro Vaquer Comas’ Nadir (ESP) was confirmed as the 2023 winner in the ClubSwan 42 class, G Spot prevailed in the ClubSwan 36 contest, and Hatari clinched victory in the ClubSwan 50s.
Hatari’s owner Marcus Brennecke said: ‘Winning the season is great and I am happy. I think everyone has caught up and there is very, very close racing. Of course everyone can win, which is great fun, and congratulations to Leonardo and his team — they sailed spectacularly this week, they really deserved it.’
Meanwhile the performance cruisers in the nine-strong rating fleet provided a perfect illustration of the durability and evolution of the Swan brand — and another single point decider. The final results saw two of the new Swan 48 models — Giulio Gatti’s Anya (SUI) in first place and Ole Eirik Leroy’s Ananda (NOR) in third — sandwiching Kay-Johannes and Susann Eggers Wrede’s venerable and well-travelled Swan 441R MOD Best Buddies (GER). It was a classic case of the old meeting the new, with the old winning the final race to get within a point of Anya.
With the World Champions, Rating class and Nations League winners warmly applauded at the prizegiving on the Tarantella Terrace in the Marina di Scarlino, Nautor Swan CEO Giovanni Pomati took a moment to reflect on the season: ‘This has been a ClubSwan Racing season to be treasured and remembered for the friendly competition we have seen across seven racing events, and the strong camaraderie that has grown between the owners and crews across the Swan range.
‘We set out to deliver something special for Swan owners and sailors, and with the steadfast support of our primary partners, along with our many technical partners and venues, we have succeeded. ClubSwan Racing is all set to go from strength to strength once again in 2024.’