Costa Smeralda, Porto Cervo 1976When the Costa Smeralda first came into being in 1962, most of the island of Sardinia was still completely wild and unspoilt, bathed in Mediterranean light and silence. Its coastline was still an undiscovered world when the first visitors arrived by sea. They were the first outsiders to witness this miracle of nature, and quickly realised that this area of Gallura was possibly the most exotic corner of the Old Continent. They were the vanguard of a dream. When Porto Cervo was still but a magnificent untouched inlet, the first boats that anchored in the crystalline waters of its natural harbour carried men with the vision to see that it could become a paradise to live and to sail in. Those men were His Highness the Aga Khan, Parisian lawyer André Ardoin and the entrepreneur Giuseppe Kerry Mentasti.
Official opening ceremony for the Marina Nuova on 15th July 1977An architectural committee was quickly established toplan and design buildings that would blend as naturally with the local landscape as possible. It included, amongst others, Jacques Couëlle, Luigi Vietti and Giancarlo Busiri Vici. Vietti coined the “Smeralda” moniker both to evoke the gemlike colour of the shallow waters lapping the bay and as a nod to young Esmeralda Mentasti who even at that time was a very keen diver. As the first residences and Porto Cervo’s first jetty took shape, members of the European aristocracy and haute bourgeoisie flocked to discover this new Mediterranean destination for themselves. Beautifully soft, rounded architecture that nestled into and melded with the Mediterranean scrub, granite rock formations and a wonderfully varied, welcoming sea made Porto Cervo the international yachting fraternity’s most exclusive and coveted meeting point.
Setting up the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in 1967 seemed a completely natural step. On 12th May that year, His Highness the Aga Khan, André Ardoin, Giuseppe Kerry Mentasti and Luigi Vietti established it as “a non-profit-making sporting association for fellow sailing enthusiasts with a view to promoting nautical sports and related activities.” Affiliated since 1968 with the Italian Sailing Federation (FIV) and since 1978 with the Italian Powerboating Federation, the Club soon began organising regattas in partnership with leading Italian yacht clubs. The first Settimana delle Bocche was held in 1972 and went on to become a Mediterranean classic.
Sardinia Cup 1978In 1973, the Club launched the famous One Ton Cup and soon became the leading organiser of competitive offshore sailing events in Italy and the Mediterranean. The Club’s present burgee was adopted in 1975 and features a four-pointed lozenge with concave sides, edged in white on a blue background. The first edition of the Sardinia Cup was staged in 1978 and was the first major team event for IOR classes in the Mediterranean. Until 2012, the Sardinia Cup was held every second year alternating with the famous Admiral’s Cup in the Solent. The prestige of the events it staged won the Club an increasingly central role in international sailing. To nurture this legacy, it required an individual capable of implementing and coordinating its sporting activities.
Commander Gianfranco Alberini was appointed Commodore in 1975 and for the next 33 years made a substantial contribution to the development of the YCCS’ nautical activities. The Maxi Yacht World Championship, reserved for Maxi Yachts belonging to the ICAYA, was launched in 1980. Aside from drawing a fleet of megayachts to Porto Cervo, that event has helped the development of these large yachts and the Class. In fact, the YCCS has hosted the Mediterranean headquarters and general secretary’s office of the International Maxi Association since 1986. Another major sailing event was launched in 1980: the Swan World Cup, a biennial rally for boats built by the Nautor yard in Finland. The same year also brought the first Costa Smeralda Offshore Grand Prix, one of the leading events on the international offshore powerboat calendar.
Azzurra launchThe Club launched a boat all of its own in 1981 too: Smeralda Prima was an IOR Class IIthat competed in a raft of national and international regattas and finished second in the class World Championship. The Veteran Boat Rally also debuted in 1981, providing the Mediterranean with its first vintage and classic boat regatta, and attracting some of the world’s most beautiful historic yachts to Porto Cervo for several years.
1982 brought the launch of Azzurra which flew the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda burgee as the first Italian America’s Cup challenger. In 1983, the International 12 Metre Class took a brilliant third place in the qualifying rounds at Newport in the US. Azzurra thus became of one of the great icons of top level competitive sailing and earned the admiration of millions of Italians. Following her success, Porto Cervo played host to the first International 12 Metre Class World Championships in 1984. In the same year, the YCCS was appointed Challenger of Record for the 1987 America’s Cup at the Royal Perth Yacht Club. As such it was responsible for preparing and coordinating all of the challenger activities for the Cup as well as organising the qualifying rounds for the America’s Cup in Australia. Azzurra ’87 raced in the selections under the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda burgee too.
In 1992, a new one-deisgn yacht beacame part of the Club’s busy sporting life, the Smeralda 888 designed by German Frers.
Destriero 1992On 9th August of that same year, another new challenge saw the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda grab international headlines. The 67.7-metre aluminium motoryacht Destriero powered by huge waterjets set a new Atlantic crossing record with the Club’s burgee fluttering on her stern. She overed the 3,106 nautical miles from New York to the Scilly Isles off England in 58 hours, 54 minutes and 50 seconds at an average speed of 53.09 knots. A historic achievement that earned her the Columbus Atlantic and Virgin Atlantic Challenge Trophies.
Azzurra, 52 Super Series Settimana delle Bocche 2015The last three decades have been a period of enormous development for the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda as its prestige has gone from strength to strength. Twinned with the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Yacht Squadron of Cowes, the Yacht Club Monaco and the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, the Club now organises a very extensive programme of events that spans the entire year. Its incredibly busy racing calendar gets underway each March at the Virgin Gorda clubhouse and continues until the end of September in Porto Cervo. All its events are attracting growing numbers of entries, be they superyacht regattas or world and European championships for various different classes such as the Transpac 52, Farr 40, International 12 Metre, Melges 32, Melges 24, RC 44, Nautor’s Swan, Maxi and Mini Maxi. The YCCS also organises the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in Porto Cervo and the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta & Rendezvous in Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. Since 2015, the Club has hosted the final stages of the Champions League in Porto Cervo involving major international yacht clubs.
The YCCS has also had its own Sports Centre since 1993 complete with mooring and laying up areas for members’ and guests’ boats. Built in 1982 as an International 12 Metre Class base, it is now used as a headquarters for the Smeralda 888 and the J70. It is from here too that all the support boats for the races and regattas organised by the Club cast off. The sailing courses the YCCS runs, principally for young people, are also very much part of the fabric of club life. They are a priority as far as the YCCS is concerned as they produce the sailors of the future: if a passion for the sea and sailing is sparked in childhood or adolescence, it tends to become a lifelong devotion. The sailing school, which is recognised by the Italian Sailing Federation (FIV), is run by an expert, highly qualified staff with theory lessons held at the Clubhouse. The school’s fleet comprises both dinghies and cabin cruisers and is constantly growing. Dinghy courses set off from the Giglio beach within Porto Cervo bay.
Many factors have contributed to building the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda’s identity, not least the graphic design of its symbols.
At the start of the 1980s, the American studio John Lees & Associates designed the Club burgee and that simple, instantly impactful and timeless logo is still used in all its competitions.