On the spirited start line at the annual Rolex TP52 World Championship, the stakes are high for the top yacht-racing teams on the planet. Crossing the line first provides a significant tactical and psychological advantage in a sport where races are decided by mere seconds and metres.
Hitting the line at speed on a powerful 52- or 72-foot yacht with around 19 professional sailors, each focused on a specific task, is complex. “Precise timing and coordination from the whole crew is required to position the boat in the best place, then to defend that spot before accelerating at the precise moment to hit the line at speed,” says Paul Cayard, a world-renowned sailor who understands the simmering pressure of the start-line countdown and the need to execute this critical moment flawlessly.
Accurate time-keeping and highly tuned teamwork are clear requirements at the core of this pressure-cooker moment. Given Rolex’s focal position in developing robust, waterproof wristwatches with the precision of a marine chronometer, it is only natural that the dynamic sport of yachting has developed an in-depth allegiance with the brand since the late 1950s.
Today, Rolex is title sponsor of 15 major international events, from the highest-level grand prix competition at the Rolex TP52 World Championship through to leading offshore races, such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
Launched in 2007, the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II reflects Rolex’s passion for the sea, appreciation of the sport and inherent understanding of the importance of the start in yacht racing. With its programmable countdown, the Yacht-Master II is a blend of innovation, technology and sporting performance much like the TP52.
In conceiving this regatta chronograph, the Swiss watchmaker devised a unique horological complication dedicated to experienced sailors and yachting enthusiasts alike: a programmable countdown with a mechanical memory and on-the-fly synchronisation designed specifically for the start sequence of races, when perfect timing is of the essence.
While inshore racing is defined by short, intense moments of action, the importance of time in offshore races like the Rolex Sydney Hobart extends well beyond the start. Plotting the correct route, maintaining the optimum speed in the prevailing conditions and time-management of resources are essential components.
Will Oxley, navigator on the triumphant TP52 Ichi Ban, the overall winner of the 2017 Rolex Sydney Hobart, explains how a critical element of his role is time management and anticipation: “The crew is continually asking me about wind direction, speed, what time a sail change will be, when we will need to change sails, tack, gybe, the location of the other boats. Everything takes time in offshore conditions so you have to allow time to make decisions, undertake manoeuvres.”
Time management requires a robust, accurate timing device that can withstand the unforgiving nature of the elements. Launched in 1992, the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master was the first professional model created by Rolex specifically for yachting. Its emblematic bezel is rotatable in both directions for fast and easy setting.
The watch’s case, waterproof to 100 metres, protects the accuracy of the chronometer-grade, self-winding mechanical movement, and also features a slightly rounded design to avoid snagging rigging or sails.
Whether it is to determine the exact moment a race starts or the eventual winner, the rotation of crew on a long race, the timing and choreography of a particular manoeuvre, changing sail or altering course, even plotting position, time runs through the sport. In its longstanding partnership with yachting, Rolex has proven it’s the ideal companion out on the waves.