It’s been a successful year for the Skorpios, the winning yacht of Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev. To top it off, the yacht’s team was awarded the “Team of the Year” award over the weekend by the PROyachting project, at a gala event on November 27th attended by more than 400 people in Moscow.
That Rybolovlev’s sailing team, the Skorpios would snatch the top prize this year surely comes as no surprise to keen observers of the sport. After all, with Rybolovlev at the helm, the yacht won the ClubSwan 50 World Championship at The Nations Trophy competition in October. The young Skorpiosteam became the only ClubSwan 50 to win two races.
Despite the relative youth of the Rybolovlev’s team – it was formed less than two years ago – the crew have managed to complete the training process from scratch to become world champions in the ClubSwan 50 class. The boat is named after the legendary Greek island Skorpios, which belongs to the Rybolovlev family trusts and was bought in 2013 from the daughter of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Even more impressive is the fact that competition in this class has never been stiffer: the World Championships this year drew a record eighteen yacht monotypes to the starting line. King Harald of Norway, as well as the Aifos 500 belonging to the Spanish navy and a frequent host to King Felipe VI were also in the running for the top prize.
Of the eighteen vessels flying out of the blocks last month, Ross Warburton's British entry Perhonen seemed to be in the strongest position. By day two, the crew were quietly confident, crediting “a little bit of luck and going the right way” for their early success. Skorpios, by contrast, was in fifteenth place on day two in the yacht racing tournament.
A fresher breeze on the third day and a series of quick-fire races ultimately proved to be the turning point for the crew. They pulled an unmatched run together, scoring two bullets and a third on day three. Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion Fernando Echávarri, however, was wary of early celebrations- even with a four-point gap going into the final day.
“Nothing is done yet. We need to concentrate, keep working and see what happens," he said.
When Skorpios crossed the finish line, she led the rest of the ClubSwan 50 fleet by an astonishing 12 points. Sailing pundits have been keen to note that the quality of competition across the ClubSwan 50 class has reached exceptional levels. With talented crews supporting passionate owners, all guided by internationally renowned tacticians, that Skorpios was able to claim two races speaks volumes about her team- and the yacht they command.
“The class has just gone straight up, so far as learning curve," hailed celebrated yachtsman Ken Read, "the owners are having a blast, the crews are highly competitive, it is just a wonderful mix of everything that is good about sailboat racing."
The Skorpios’ ClubSwan50 design is deservedly renowned for delivering competitive, evenly matched grand prix racing requiring only the most experienced of owners, drivers and crews. Extraordinarily light at only 8.5 tonnes, this sophisticated vessel is fast but highly susceptible to wind and currents. Only highly experienced and talented navigators can really tame this craft.
Nautor’s Swan, the Finnish-Italian company behind the ClubSwan50, has always been on the edge of innovation, and has been building lightweight carbon flyers for more than a decade. For its fiftieth anniversary, the firm wanted to produce a “spectacular” yacht; industry veterans and spectators alike would agree that Nautor’s Swan has surely built what it set out to achieve.
Moreover, Rybolovlev was a mastermind in getting Echávarri on the Skorpios team. At the Monaco Swan One Design race earlier this year, the 2005 Rolex World Sailor of the Year showed a bounty of skill, and more, when he guided his crewmates around the initial windward mark in first place. Rarely threatened throughout the race, Skorpios led the pack from start to finish.
“It was tricky racing," said Echávarri of his team’s performance, "We thought the course was favoured on the left, but by the end it was even paying on the right side."
In one-design racing, getting away cleanly is a crucial: “Getting to the top mark first is half of the race,” explained Echávarri, “We were fast downwind, and kept the lead. It looks easy sometimes, but a couple of the crosses with other boats were pretty tight. We were always in the right position and, in the end, were able to keep the other two guys behind."
Even then, the Nations Trophy isn’t Skorpios’first victory. The yacht also won the ORC Division in the offshore race at the Rolex Giraglia in both 2018 and 2019. This in itself was another remarkable achievement, and speaks volumes about the future of this team given the multiple accolades gained thus far.Published 13 Dec 2019, 12:03 IST