Thrills and Spills at the Loro Piana Giraglia Yacht Race

a group of people on a sailboat
Thrills and Spills at the Loro Piana GiragliaCarlo Borlenghi

The Giraglia is a small, uninhabited lump of rock just off the northern tip of the French mediterranean island of Corsica, with nothing much to recommend it but a lighthouse. For sailors however, it’s a significant waypoint in a significant race—also called the Giraglia—that takes place every year between Saint Tropez in France and the historic mariner’s seaport of Genova.

While the starting point has varied over time, the end has always been Genova, and the distance has remained fairly fixed at 240 nautical miles and change. The race is unusual in sailing in that it unites professional and amateur sailors, and boats of different sizes and classes, with contenders composed of privately-owned yachts helmed by their owners. On the water, of course, the amateur part quickly disappears, with each class going hard for line honors. The main race is preceded by several days of inshore regattas off Saint Tropez (the racing serving as a head-clearing antidote to late nights in the fashionable port’s restaurants and clubs).

loro piana giraglia flag
Stefano Trovati

In 2024, for the 71st sedition of the Giraglia, luxury brand Loro Piana became the title sponsor for the first time, adding some Italian glamor to the affair. On hand was Loro Piana’s Deputy Chairman Pier Luigi Loro Piana, himself a passionate racing sailor who has long been a fixture as such events. His own 80-foot boat, My Song, raced in the maxi class. As a brand, Loro Piana has long been active in sailing clothing too—and with a distinctly luxurious vibe. The Windmate bomber, launched in 2003, features the brand's famous and revolutionary Storm System cashmere. Twenty years in development, Storm System coats cashmere fibers with a waterproofing cocktail without (and here’s the really nifty bit) sacrificing any of the luxurious feel and look of the noble fiber. A second membrane treatment on the inside of the Windmate makes it windproof and breathable, too.

a loro piana bomber jacket
Stefano Trovati

Conditions for the inshore regatta were mostly excellent for sailing, which is to say that they were not remotely excellent for sunbathing. Strong winds, four-meter swells, and grizzly skies gave competitors and spectators plenty to contend with on the courses. Which is, ideally, what it’s all about.

Though many of the yachts function as luxury cruisers too, there’s no mistaking their racy demeanor, with the usual comforts stripped out. Even on a 100-footer, crews shed unnecessary weight—like cellphones and shoes—at the dock before boarding. Everything is devoted to ensuring maximum speed under sail. Even the casual observer can see this from the shore. The sails of the boats, made from the latest carbon fiber, are almost universally black. Apparently, dyeing them just makes them heavier.

a large boat on the water
Stefano Gattini

In the main race, from Saint Tropez to Genova via the Giraglia, the sun came out, but the conditions remained challenging. The overall winner was one of the smallest boats out there—an 11 meter prototype Lann Ael 3, crewed by the French duo Didier Gaudoux and Erwan Tabarly (whose surname is about the most famous name in European competitive sailing). They completed the 241-mile course in just shy of 25 hours. Their sail, naturally, was black.

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