Exploring Corsica, via Ferrari California T and classic yacht
It’s not without reason that Corsica is called the ‘Isle of Beauty’: the rugged cliffs, sandy beaches and turquoise sea, as well as the mountains and the characteristic smell of rampant vegetation have fascinated Europeans for thousands of years. It is particularly gratifying that Corsica – never having fallen victim to the building boom – is stunningly rural along its coastline, in stark contrast to other regions of the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the roads inland remain some of the most adventurous in Europe. Since 1956, they have played host to rally machines sliding their way through picturesque villages as part of the Tour de Corse, one of the world’s most demanding road rallies.
A coast for cruising
At the southern tip of Corsica, we now have the opportunity to test the Ferrari California T on open roads for the first time. The backdrop could hardly be more perfect: between the port city of Bonifacio and the famous beach of Roccapina, a gently curving country road winds through fragrant shrubland, the late summer sun sparkling on a turquoise sea. The drop-top T feels at ease, progressing smoothly with a sonorous roar. The gearchanges are so relaxed as to hardly be noticed - ideal for cruising through the generously long bends. Acceleration is more civilised than it was in the car's higher-revving predecessor; and there's no discernable turbo lag, even following a vigorous thrust of the throttle. For those who want to glide from Los Angeles to Palm Springs on a weekend jaunt - or from Porto-Vecchio on the south west coast of Corsica to the wonderful 18-hole golf course of Sperone - the turbocharged California T is the perfect companion.
From modern roadster to classic sailboat
We can’t spend all weekend in the Ferrari’s company, however, as we have a rendezvous with L'Oiseau de Feu – a wonderful Bermuda cutter from 1937, one of 20 classic sailing boats entered in the Corsica Classic 2014. This year, the fifth edition again benefited from the island’s pristine beauty, the route leading via seven stages from Calvi and the Revellata Peninsula past Girolata and the Scandola nature reserve, on to Porto and Les Calanches, Ajaccio and the Sanguinaires Islands, Porto Pollo and the Valinco Gulf – and finally to Bonifacio, the harbour city on the edge of a limestone cliff on the southern tip of the island. Sporting challenge aside, a relaxed atmosphere and a sense of camaraderie can be felt among the sailors, clearly buoyed by that age-old combination of sun and sea-spray.
Sailors from all four corners
It's not unusual for boat owners to travel long distances to take part in the Corsica Classic. L'Oiseau de Feu is Swiss-owned – and there was even a boat that had come all the way from the East Coast of America: the Dorade, built in 1929 by Sparkman & Stephens in New York and used in subsequent years in numerous regattas. In the end, it was this elegant boat (one that won the 2013 Transpacific Yacht Race) that prevailed in Corsica, winning the 2014 Classic.
With the boats anchored up, and the sunlight giving way to the glow of our final regatta barbecue, planning for the next stages of our Corsican dream has already begun: round to the wild Cap Corse, through the rock landscapes of Piana, and upwards through the switchbacks of Monte Cinto. We’ll be back – to both water and land.