PORTO CERVO, Italy-Sardinia saved its best for last, blasting the fleet with 20- to 30-knot winds on the final day of the 2006 Rolex Swan Cup. The breeze, and a mostly sunny sky, proved the perfect way to end the 14th edition of the biennial Swan rendezvous. A number of American boats made the trip to Italy for the regatta and a few were rewarded with top finishes. At the head of the list is Jim Swartz's Swan 601 Moneypenny, which bested a small, but talent-laden fleet of four 601s, the latest Swan one-design raceboat, and arguably the most expensive one-design ever built. Other U.S. teams taking home silver included Dick Weismann's Vixen, which took second in the 29-boat Swan 45 class, and Bill Kardash's Aura, which matched that result in the Classic Division aboard his 33-year-old Swan 44. For a while it looked like the Americans might shut out the rest of the world from the Swan 45 class podium, as the top 10 was packed with U.S. teams early in the regatta. However, Danilo Salsi's DSK Comfin showed the advantages of a long foreign campaign in the U.S. last winter and spring. The Italian boat sailed consistently and avoided any fatal mistakes in the 8-race series-two distance races and six buoy races-never finishing outside the top 10. By winning the last race, the British-flagged Fever jumped from fifth to third, knocking Doug Douglass' Goombay Smash to fourth and Alex Roeper's Plenty to fifth. The 601 regatta, which included four buoy races and three distance races, quickly turned into a match race between Moneypenny, with Dee Smith calling the shots, and Torbjorn Turquist's Artemis, with Russell Coutts acting as tactician. While Nautor president Leonardo Ferragamo's Cuor Di Leone was able to win Race 2, neither it nor Spirit of Jethou was able to grab first or second in an individual race for the remainder of the regattah. Artemis took the early lead, but Moneypenny moved into striking distance with a win in Saturday's sole buoy race, necessitating a winner-take-all showdown in the final race-though there was one little hitch, Moneypenny had to win the race or put a boat between it and Artemis. With the wind gusting upwards of 25 knots at the start, neither tactician was too keen to mix it up at the start of a 25-mile point-to-point race. Nonetheless, the opening minutes of the race proved decisive. "We had them at the start," said Smith. "They got rolled and had to tack and we dumped on them and sent them back into the fray. That was it. We were clean the whole time and they had traffic. There was a couple of times we directed them onto wrong shifts and opened up even more." Even though the Classic Division-which consisted of the older Swan designs that the Finnish boatbuilder no longer manufactures-raced point-to-point courses exclusively, Kardash said that good starts were also a key to his second-place performance. "We had great crew work," said Kardash, of his Annapolis-based team, "and no breakages to speak of. We ripped a sail, but it was just a spreader patch. We had great calls from our tactician and we had good clean starts with one exception. Downwind the boat's very quick and we were able to maximize that speed." In the Grand Prix division, which featured Swans from 56 feet to 100 feet, including Stuart and MarrGwen Townsend's new 100-foot Virago, the regatta came down to a battle between two somewhat disparate designs, an enduring and beefy Swan 56 and a more nimble and sleek Swan 70. The two boats were tied going into the final race. The 70-foot Bugia Bianca, owned by Massimo Dentice, jumped out to a strong lead on the first beat deep into Baia Sardinia and, according to tactician Tony Rey, was holding the necessary advantage as the boats turned downwind. But while changing to from a reaching spinnaker to a reaching jib, the halyard got stuck at the top of the mast. The time it took for a crewmember to get hauled up the rig and release the halyard proved to be the difference in the race as Bugia Biance finished fifth on corrected time, less than 3 minutes behind Filip Balcaen's Aqua Equinox, which won the race and the regatta.