Between May 30 and June 3, the French town of Antibes plays host to a fleet of some of 80 vintage sailing craft for Les Voiles d’Antibes, the first round of the 2018 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge Mediterranean Circuit. This is the 14th consecutive year that the leading international series for these Grandes Dames of the Sea has been sponsored by the Florentine luxury sports watch maker.
The Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge season opens in Antibes with a very special guest, Guillaume Néry, the French free diving champion appointed a Panerai brand ambassador just this year. On his wrist, Guillaume has chosen to wear the Luminor Submersible 1950 Amagnetic 3 Days Automatic Titanio PAM1389, a model from Panerai’s Divers Professional watch collection, water-resistant to a depth of 300 metres. This two-year partnership also reinforces Panerai’s deep and abiding connection to the sea.
The world’s most beautiful and admired wooden sailing yachts will be doing battle over four regattas between June and September – two in Italy and two in France – to decide the winners of the coveted season trophies in the Big Boats (over 30 metres), Vintage (launched pre-1950) and Classic (launched 1950-1975) categories. Antibes will also be hosting the Spirit of Tradition category, which comprises more recently-built craft whose lines and characteristics are inspired by designs of the past, and the Tofinou category. The latter 9.5-metre cruiser-racer one design penned by architects Joubert-Nivelt is particularly popular in France, in fact.
On Wednesday, May 30, the fleet will gather in the old port at Antibes with racing beginning on Thursday, May 31. Four races are scheduled in all – one per day, spread over a combination of coastal and triangular courses depending on weather conditions. The prize-giving ceremony takes place after the final race on Sunday, June 3. The public will have access to the docksides each day to admire the yachts moored in the port.
Also at Antibes will be the 1936 ketch designed and built by the William Fife Shipyard, Eilean, restored by Panerai and used since 2009 to promote both its own brand and the classic sailing culture.
The Antibes fleet will span the spectrum from the 9-metre Brynhilde splashed in 1958 to Cambria, the 40-metre Bermudan cutter designed and launched by the hugely influential Scottish naval architectural Fife dynasty in 1928. By coincidence, all of the Big Boats entered at Antibes this year were built by the Fife Shipyard. These include Moonbeam IV (1914), winner of no less than four season titles, Mariska, Moonbeam of Fife, Prince Albert of Monaco’s Tuiga and Hallowe’en (1926), attempting to retain the category trophy she won for the first time in 2017.
Next step of the circuit, Argentario Sailing Week, from 13th to 17th June.
Founded in Florence in 1860 as a workshop, shop and school of watch-making, for many decades Officine Panerai supplied the Italian Navy in general, and its specialist diving corps in particular, with precision instruments. The designs developed by Panerai in that time, including the Luminor and Radiomir, were covered by the Military Secrets Act for many years and were launched on the international market only after the brand was acquired by the Richemont Group in 1997. Today Officine Panerai develops and crafts its movements and watches at its Neuchâtel manufacture. The latter are a seamless melding of Italian design flair and history with Swiss horological expertise. Panerai watches are sold across the world through an exclusive network of distributors and Panerai boutiques.
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