We are in a period of telling contrasts. Last week on the Med at Porto Cervo the massive supermaxis had their annual big-swinging-dick contest. They made an impressive spectacle – 120-foot monsters with carbon sails the area of Arizona all crossing tacks in pleasant breezes on an azure sea. A billionaire’s sailing wet dream.

Among those titans, the J-boats stood out for sheer beauty. There is a timeless grace to their towering rigs, low freeboard, long overhangs and sweet sheer line. It would be difficult to imagine a more impressive, heart-lifting sight on water.

Contrast those scenes with what was happening just up the road at Saint Tropez. The SailGP circus was in town. Ten ostensibly identical foiling cats were all trying to stay on their foils and out of the water. The races were usually done and dusted in less than 10 minutes, the timespan of three pop songs.

To underline the fragility of those 50-foot float-planes the New Zealand entry took a gentle nose-dive after the third race, at which point their entire, impossibly flimsy 95-foot wing mast folded and fell over the side. Not a pretty sight.

Meanwhile, further down the coast in Spain, the America’s Cup hopefuls were all thrashing their AC40 test boats back and forth to see how much more technology, engineering and computer power they could cram into a swing-foiling monomaran. Any connection with the fundamentals of sailing seemed largely coincidental. 

But back North in Genoa they’d just finished the International 8 Metre World Cup. The metre rule was established in 1906 and has produced some of the most beautiful yachts to ever sail. The older “classic” 8 metres raced alongside more modern interpretations of the rule. This was pure, simple sailing where the hulls stay in the water and any form of powered assistance is forbidden. A true test of tactics and skill. 

What a contrast. Photo ©Jack Taylor

 – anarchist David