Since 1966, the craftsmen at Nautor’s Swan have toiled, mostly in the cold and dark at Jakobstad, which is above the Arctic Circle in their native Finland, to produce just on 2000 of their iconic vessels.
On a sunny Friday at the end of March, after a dreary and wet Summer, something like 0.5% of this total came to swan about on Sydney’s magnificent harbour. However, when you consider our geographic location, literally at the dichotomous end of the globe and also the size of our population, relative to that of the whole world, this small percentage was more than a significant achievement.
As a testament to the high standards of these craft, which epitomise the zenith of build quality, the 10 vessels that came along for the Nautor’s Swan Australia Rally ranged in age from 1974 to 2004. As such, they also spanned all of the designers who have applied their typical visual cues to each and every one of the Swans. Firstly there was Sparkman and Stephens, briefly Ron Holland, then German Frers and most recently, his son, Mani.
When you buy a Swan, you aspire to many things in life. There is both an unofficial and real club that goes along with ownership. Part of that is a camaraderie and sense of joie de vivre. Certainly the owner of the Swan 90, Die Swaene, was very happy to be out and about with all his fellow sailors. Stuart Gibson is a jovial Scot and seemed to have not only had a great time, but quite literally the best he’s ever had across many avenues of activity. Such were the laughs from all present as he recounted his day, that you almost did not notice just how ramped he was – and Stuart did not even drive. That particular duty he happily passed on to Simon Le Bon, the very same 80s icon who is no stranger to yachts. Simon too shared in the enthusiasm surrounding the rally and was delighted to not only be involved, but also talk with fellow guests and have his picture taken. Alas, word of his seaward adventures had escaped, for there was a growing armada following Stuart’s impressive vessel, as they made their way around the harbour an under the other icon of 80 – the Sydney Harbour Bridge itself.
Now the day certainly started well, with Veuve Clicquot opening proceedings. So it is more than fitting that it also ended exceptionally well, with all owners receiving wonderful neckties and scarves from Swan’s owner, Ferragamo. There were also four lucky sailors who won bottles of Champagne and magazine subscriptions from a second chance lucky draw. Some did not even know that other crewmembers had entered them and so their delights were visible and real, as gifts of this nature would certainly provide.
A course out East to Shark Island from Rushcutters Bay, back under the Bridge to Goat Island and then up to and around Clark Island, in the very mild and mainly 8 knot Sou’easter, was the go. For the very large and very fast, a slightly longer version towards the Heads was part of the action. Now action it was, for all got a chance to get some kites up and also work a little, all the while not only enjoying themselves, but proudly displaying to the multitude of harbour visitors, just what being a Swan is all about.
Definitely seeing dedicated racers, like Leslie Green and his Swan 601, Ginger, is impressive. However, what was also truly delightful was witnessing many sailors enjoying both the pulpit and pushpit seating that vessels such as these afford. If the avian swan is all about grace and style, then on the day, their nautical cousins certainly optimised these qualities as well.
So whilst there was a huge disparity in age, length, mass and overall pace, there was one thing that was completely uniform out on the harbour and at the quay both before and after the main event. And that was all the smiles and visible enjoyment that the lucky sailors had at the Swan rally.
“This will be fantastic and certainly grow from here”, said Nautor’s Swan Australia’s Ian Treleaven. “It will be an annual occurrence and the feedback from owners and sailor’s alike was simply tremendous. Some had not used the boats in such a long time and began to wonder what they had them for. They certainly all know now and were delighted to have had not only so much fun themselves, but also watch their family and friends take away something truly unique and special. We had an overwhelming response to it all, which is just magnificent. When you consider they do not get too many more appear for Antigua and that there are around 26 in the greater region, we know it is something that will be even more popular from now on. Add to that the new owners already talking with us about vessels currently under construction and we could set some records.”
So if you aspire to a Swan, even if it is going to be in a few boats time, then you can access all the information at http://www.australia.nautorswan.com/ or call +61 2 9327 2088.