A Passion for the Sea -August 2014

The Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, of which the Nantucket Opera House Cup is a part, has become the leading international circuit for classic sailing races. Now celebrating its 10th year, Officine Panerai, the Italian luxury watchmaker that has sponsored the circuit, is marking the milestone with a “10 Years of Passion” campaign.

“Panerai is historically linked to the sea,” said Angelo Bonati, CEO of Officine Panerai. “Everyone agrees that classic yachts are exceptional pieces of art, but for us they embody Panerai’s most important values, such as design, love for authenticity, craftsmanship, timeless beauty and passion for the sea, and this is exactly the same mix that a piece of haute horlogerie (watchmaking), according to us, should hold.”

As part of the 10-year anniversary, Panerai is releasing limited-edition watches including the Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Titanio, with just 50 models being made with the “10 Years of Passion” logo on the case-back, and the Luminor 1950 Regatta 3 Days Chrono Flyback Titanio.

The 2014 Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge began with the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in April, and in June the Mediterranean leg kicked off with the first stop in Antibes. The sailing then moved to the port of San Stefano in Italy on the western side of Mount Argentario for Argentario Sailing Week. The racing stayed in Italy this year for the third stop on the Mediterranean Circuit – a new one, the Le Vele d’Epoca a Napoli – taking place in Naples with its famous bay providing a panoramic backdrop for the race.

The stage then shifted to England, specifically the historic port of Cowes on the Isle of Wight for the Cowes Panerai British Classic Week, before moving across the pond for the North American leg of the Challenge beginning with the Marblehead Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta in Marblehead, Mass.

In mid-August, it’s Nantucket’s time to shine at the Opera House Cup, the oldest wooden sailboat regatta on the East Coast, and one of the premier wooden-boat races in the country. The crown jewel of the nine-day Nantucket Race Week partnered with Panerai in 2006 and was added to the Challenge circuit.

“The Opera House Cup has such a charming history, dating back to 1973,” Bonati said. “Many years later it still has the same camaraderie and spirit, just a lot more beautiful classic boats. We’re proud to be a part of this history and to support those individuals and sailors who share our passion and values.”

The Opera House Cup and Nantucket are synonymous with the imagery of classic luxury that Panerai represents, and the fact that Race Week and the Opera House Cup benefits an entity like Nantucket Community Sailing only made it more appealing, Bonati said.

“People from all over the world appreciate the history, beauty and casual elegance of Nantucket Island and we are among this group of admirers. We also appreciate and respect Nantucket Community Sailing, the nonprofit organization for which our sponsorship of the Opera House Cup (in part) supports, since we believe sailing should be made available to as many people as want to learn to sail.”

Officine Panerai’s history with the sea began shortly after Giovanni Panerai founded the company in Florence, Italy in 1860. At the turn of the century it became the exclusive supplier of diving instruments and watches to the Royal Italian Navy. Its Radiomir watch, created in the mid-1930s with the Navy in mind, was used exclusively by frogmen of the First Submarine Group of the Royal Italian Navy during World War II. These Panerai watches, built during the first half of the 20th century in small numbers, have become serious collector’s items, fetching sky-high prices at auction.

In 1995 the company left the military world and returned to the civilian market. Still based in Florence, the local watchmaking company released a series of limited-edition watches that were inspired by the historic watches made for the submarine commandos during World War II. The launch was a hit and quickly caught the eye of the Richemont Group (then known as the Vendome Group), which acquired Panerai in 1997.

The Richemont Group, founded in 1988 by South African businessman Johann Rupert, is the second-largest luxury-goods company in the world and the Panerai brand hit the international stage shortly thereafter. It’s this rich military and naval heritage that led to Panerai hosting the Classic Yachts Challenge starting in 2005. Since beginning 10 years ago, the series has now grown to include 11 stops broken up into the Mediterranean and North American circuits and joined by a pair of independent regattas, the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and Panerai British Classic Week.

After the Opera House Cup on Nantucket, the Challenge makes a stop in Spain for the Mahon XI Copa Del Ray De Barcos De Época, held on scenic Balearic Island. The ninth stop, at the end of August, is the last on the American circuit, the Newport Museum of Yachting Classic Yacht Regatta. The series wraps up in September with the Velle D’Epoca Di Imperia in Italy and the Cannes Regates Royales in France.

“In these first 10 years the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge has grown a lot. Ten years ago our circuit counted only five important classic regattas in the Mediterranean and now there are more than 10 all over the world, starting from the Caribbean, Antigua, to the United States back to the Mediterranean and, of course, to the Isle of Wight, where the America’s Cup was born,” Bonati said.

Panerai is also the founding sponsor of Sailing Heals, a nonprofit centered in New England that takes people with serious injuries or illness out on the water for a healing day of rest and relaxation aboard a beautiful sailboat. The organization was officially launched in August 2011 during Nantucket Race Week, and now works with patients up and down the East Coast. On Nantucket, Sailing Heals works closely with Nantucket Cottage Hospital and Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket to channel the healing power of the sea to those in need. ///

Dean Geddes is a staff writer for The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.

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