Grant Dalton is planning on racing his brand new Volvo 60 in the Giraglia Rolex Cup this week. The king of round-the-world racing saw his as yet unnamed vessel launched last Thursday, so it will be an impressive achievement if the Nautor Challenge team can have their silver and red boat race ready in time for the Giraglia Race.

This is the 243-mile offshore classic which, in its 49th year, sees a record fleet of over 120 yachts racing from Saint-Tropez on France’s Cote d’Azur to the north Italian port of Genoa, via the Giraglia Rock off the coast of Corsica.

It could prove a good shakedown for Dalton’s crew, which includes other Whitbread veterans Bouwe Bekking and Roger Nilsson. But only if the wind has abated. A Mistral breeze of over 40 knots has been buffeting Saint-Tropez all day, and is not forecast to drop. The series of inshore races off Saint-Tropez that preview the main event of the Giraglia Rolex Cup is scheduled to begin today, but the teams from 10 different countries may have to wait another day for competition.

Leonardo Ferragamo, the owner of the Nautor Group which manufactures Swan yachts in Finland, has other interests in the Giraglia Rolex Cup other than the Volvo 60, which has yet to be confirmed as an entrant in the offshore race, which begins on Thursday, 21st June. “We hope to have an answer tomorrow as to whether she will be racing, and perhaps we will have a name for the boat too,” he said.

Meanwhile Ferragamo has brought top match racer and former America’s Cup helmsman Chris Law out of retirement to helm his Swan 82-foot cruiser/racer Solleone in the Giraglia Rolex Cup. Law, who has barely raced since the Admiral’s Cup two years ago, flew out of London earlier today and was reacquainting himself with the competitive sailing world.

“I met Mr Ferragamo at the Laureus Sports Awards last month and he asked me to helm his boat at this event, so here I am,” he said. But he hasn’t fully committed to jumping right back into the sport quite yet. “I burned myself out, and I’ve taken some time out. I’m looking forward to doing some racing again this week.”

Solleone is rated as the fastest boat in the fleet on handicap, but other big boats in the fleet are going for an all-out attempt on the course record for the Giraglia Race, set three years ago by the Open 60 Riviera di Rimini. Lorenzo Bressani is racing aboard American owner Jim Dolan’s Maxi yacht, Sagamore, which is planning on using asymmetric spinnakers in her bid to be first into Genoa on Friday.

Idea, a 25-metre Reichel-Pugh design, is largely an unknown quantity as she was only launched in May, but owner Raffaele Raviola has employed European match racing champion Nicola Celon as his tactician, so she is likely to be competitive.

With the Rolex Giraglia Cup included as part of the inaugural Mediterranean Big Boat Series, there will also be an intriguing race within a race between two Maxis, Rrose Selavy and My Song, who have been trading blows in the early stages of the Series. As well as racing for glory in the Giraglia Rolex Cup, they will also be looking to make life as hard for each other as possible. The Big Boat Series reaches its climax at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup at the end of the Mediterranean season in Porto Cervo this September.

Rrose Selavy’s helmsman, former America’s Cup helm Mauro Pelaschier, is a past winner of the Giraglia Rolex Cup so experience might give him the upper hand over My Song this week.

A fleet of up to 15 Mini Transat yachts had been hoping to make it in time for the beginning of the week, but the raging Mistral is holding them at bay for the time being, and they have to miss the first race while they make their way belatedly to Saint-Tropez.

As the event approaches its half-century, the 2001 Giraglia Rolex Cup looks set to be the most spectacular ever (Mistral permitting), with entries from Italy, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Britain, Portugal, Switzerland, Croatia and t