Rolex has forged a privileged relationship with yachting through the sport’s influential yacht clubs and today partners some 15 major international sailing races and regattas around the world.
Rolex’s association with yachting began in the late 1950s when the leading Swiss watchmaker formed an alliance with the New York Yacht Club (NYYC), a founding father of the America’s Cup along with the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) in the United Kingdom. The seminal partnership with the NYYC, and later the RYS, provides a lasting bond with historic and pioneering influences on the sport of yachting and its rules.
For over 60 years, Rolex has harnessed the passion for yachting and its popularity by establishing deep-rooted ties with influential yacht clubs across the globe, where sailing enthusiasts rub shoulders with hardcore racers and elite skippers. As a result, these prestigious partnerships also extend to major races and regattas in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Pacific basin.
PARTNERSHIPS: RACES AND REGATTAS
The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia every year, and the Rolex Fastnet Race, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club every two years, are at the forefront of the leading offshore races.
Fiercely challenging and frequently subject to extreme weather conditions off the coasts of Australia and the British Isles respectively, these races bring a huge sense of personal achievement to those that complete them. They attract large and varied fleets as well as a combination of professional sailing talent and Corinthian amateurs who share the same competitive edge. Rolex has partnered the Rolex Fastnet Race since 2001 and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race since 2002. In a similar vein, the Rolex TP52 World Championship attracts the best sailors from around the world in the highest-level Grand Prix competition organised for yacht owners and their teams. The rules guarantee similar yachts, allowing the skill of the crews to make the difference.
Rolex has partnered the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup since 1985. Organised by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo, Italy, the regatta is one of the highlights of the Mediterranean yachting season. Against the backdrop of the luxurious Costa Smeralda, a sizeable fleet of top-quality Maxi yachts gathers each September for a week of intense competition off Sardinia. The regatta brings together the best skippers and crews with the most modern and powerful yachts of the moment. The Rolex Swan Cup is also organised by the YCCS, with regattas held off the club’s marinas in Porto Cervo and the British Virgin Islands in alternate years, showcasing generations of high-performance yachts made by Nautor’s Swan. Rolex has partnered the regatta since 1984.
The Rolex Giraglia is the Mediterranean’s oldest offshore race and enjoys a fine heritage. Organised by the Yacht Club Italiano in conjunction with the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, the competition takes place between the exclusive setting of Saint-Tropez, France, the Giraglia rock off northern Corsica and the Italian port of Genoa. Rolex has been associated with the race since 1998. Rolex also partners a host of other yacht races around the world including the Rolex Middle Sea Race (partners since 2002), Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez (since 2006), Rolex China Sea Race, from Hong Kong to the Philippines (since 2008), Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup (since 2011), Rolex Big Boat Series in San Francisco (since 2011) and Rolex Circuito Atlántico Sur from Argentina to Uruguay (since 2008).
In 2019, Rolex has partnered with SailGP as the Official Timepiece for the inaugural season, which involves six national teams representing Australia, China, France, Great Britain, Japan and the United States, each comprising five onboard crew. Racing takes place in stadium-style sailing venues in five of the world’s most famous harbours: Sydney, San Francisco, New York, Cowes and Marseille. Utilising short, inshore racecourses, each grand prix event includes two competition days featuring five fleet races for the six identical F50 wingsailed foiling catamarans and climaxes with a final match race between the two leaders. Points will be accumulated in each race throughout the season, culminating with a final match race between the top two teams for the SailGP Championship.
The yacht clubs that organise these prestigious races and regattas are at the forefront of the sport. Each club is defined by its distinctive location and tradition, while sharing common values of professionalism and fair play, and nurturing a sailing community. The New York Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron remain key partners. Founded in 1844, the prestigious New York Yacht Club was a co-founder of the America’s Cup in 1851 and hosted the first-ever transatlantic race in 1866. It also had an influential role to play in establishing rules for yachting as a sport.
Rolex’s seminal partnership with the club, since 1958, is the brand’s oldest in yachting. Today, the club hosts major one-design regattas and has two imposing clubhouses, in New York City, opened in 1901, and on the water in Newport, Rhode Island. Rolex has been a partner of the Royal Yacht Squadron (RYS) since the 1980s. Founded in 1815 in London by owners of big yachts, the club swiftly became associated with the British royal family. By the 1830s it had created the first ocean race and, in 1851, staged the trophy that later became known as the America’s Cup.
This historic club selects an exclusive membership from the sport and its clubhouse, The Castle in Cowes, is a backdrop for the start of many great yacht races. Rolex has been a partner of the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) since 1985. Founded in 1967 by the Aga Khan, the YCCS stands at the forefront of yachting excellence. Nautical influence is felt throughout the stylish, modern clubhouse and the marina in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, often accommodates some of the world’s most splendid yachts.
In 2012, the YCCS extended its influence to the Caribbean, opening a luxurious clubhouse and marina in the British Virgin Islands. Rolex is associated with many other clubs worldwide including the Royal Malta Yacht Club (since 2002), Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (since 2007), Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez (since 2006), Yacht Club Italiano (since 1998) and Yacht Club de Monaco (since 2013).
WORLD SAILING AND TESTIMONEES
Off the water, Rolex participates in the development of yachting through its support of World Sailing, the sport’s governing body, and the annual Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards, recognising male and female sailors who have distinguished themselves over the course of a year.
Rolex counts sailors of extraordinary ability and stature among its Testimonees. The outstanding success enjoyed by Sir Ben Ainslie, Paul Cayard and Robert Scheidt is a reflection of the values they embody. Their constant drive for excellence, the passion they have for their sport and their determination to always rise to the occasion bestow further prestige on the many titles they have won. With five medals, four of them gold, Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor in history. Since retiring as an Olympian in 2012, the Brit has worked tirelessly to become a driving force within the elite world of America’s Cup competition. A Cup winner with a United States team in 2013, the four-time Rolex World Sailor of the Year now leads a British one in the quest for the holy grail of yachting.
Cayard has competed at the highest level in sailing for decades and is also a multiple Olympian and America’s Cup competitor. Arguably the American’s greatest achievement was in the discipline of offshore racing, winning the Whitbread Round the World Race at his first attempt. Scheidt represented Brazil at six successive Olympic Games, winning medals at five, including two golds and a silver in the Laser class and silver and bronze in the Star. With 12 world championship titles and two Rolex World Sailor of the Year awards, Scheidt remains an inspiration within the sport.
In recent years, all three have competed at several Rolex-partnered events throughout the world including the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and Rolex TP52 World Championship. The Rolex Middle Sea Race is the one race all these Testimonees have in common.
ROLEX AND ACHIEVEMENT
The roots of Rolex’s affinity for sports and human achievement can be traced back to the pioneering origins of the company. When founder Hans Wilsdorf set up his watchmaking firm, he was influenced by the swift changes sweeping through society at the beginning of the 20th century. In an era when wristwatches were still regarded as fragile items of apparel, he was determined to create a wristwatch that would be robust, precise and reliable, adapted to ever more active and sporting lifestyles.
After Rolex pioneering the quest for precision in wristwatches, in 1926 it invented the world’s first waterproof wristwatch, the Rolex Oyster, thanks to a case equipped with an ingenious patented system consisting of a screw-down bezel, case back and winding crown. To prove his invention, Wilsdorf equipped a young English swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze, with an Oyster when she swam the English Channel a year later in 1927. The Rolex watch emerged from more than 10 hours in the water in perfect working condition and Gleitze effectively became the first Rolex Testimonee – a witness to the watch’s uncompromised performance.
Rolex continued to use the world as a real-life proving ground for the Oyster, demonstrating time and again its reliability and performance in the most extreme conditions, on land, in the air, in the depths of the ocean or on the tallest peaks. These exploits helped to develop Rolex Professional watches, such as the Oyster Perpetual Explorer and Explorer II, the Cosmograph Daytona, the Submariner, the Yacht-Master and Yacht-Master II. This commitment to superior performance extended to the realm of sporting excellence, where Rolex is a leading and trusted partner. The original article appears in Yacht Style, Issue 47. Email [email protected] for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at: www.magzter.com/SG/Lux-Inc-Media/Yacht-Style/Fashion/