03 May 2017

Close Encounters of the Sail Racing PalmaVela Kind

When the start signals open Sail Racing PalmaVela, the showcase 141 boat regatta which for fourteen years has lifted the curtain on the Mediterranean and European racing season, attention will be focused on two key debuts as five fleets commence racing Thursday May 4th.


It will be the first, official organised races in Europe for the exciting new, rapidly growing Club Swan 50 class which has mustered three new boats aboard which the competing teams measure their preparation and training time in hours rather than days. And in the Maxi72 fleet Race 1 of Sail Racing PalmaVela will be the first competitive outing for Dario Ferrari’s new Maxi72, the Botin Partners designed Cannonball.

The annual Spring regatta has drawn teams from 19 different nations to compete on the Bay of Palma in no fewer than 16 different classes, ranging in size from the 3.03m Hansa 303 to the 32.6m Wally circuit champion Open Season. Competition for five fleets – the 12 strong Wally class, the three very evenly matched Maxi72s, an IRC fleet of seven boats, three Club Swan 50s and six Swan 45s – starts Thursday. The other classes start Friday and race through until Sunday.

A couple of days of warm-up informal practice has underlined how close the Maxi72s are in these typical Palma conditions. Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente was reckoned to have a slight edge racing here at last summer’s Copa del Rey MAPFRE but preliminary line ups suggest that the differences are very small. Dieter Schon’s Momo, which won the Maxi 72 Class in 2015 when they last raced as a class at Palma Velea has been optimised through the winter, while Cannonball has shown well in training.

Cannonball’s owner Ferrari took over the project when it was in build at Dubai’s Premier Composites. It is the first Botin Partners boat to join the Maxi72 fleet and will be sailed by the crew which previously raced together on Robertissima. The owner has had a string of boats named Cannonball, most recently a Farr 40, but returns to grand prix racing after a five years break.

Tactician Vasco Vascotto sounds a note of caution:
“It will be our first race together and we are in a very important part of our game….learning. It is very important that we learn together and we need time. It is very different to the previous boat we sailed Robertissima together, so every single adjustment really makes the boat much faster or much slower and so we have to find the right gears. We are getting better. We are learning quickly but the goal is really to be ready at the end of the season, for Porto Cervo. And for Dario it is important to have time to come back and remember the small, subtle things that make a difference, that he has been away from for some years.”

Momo has a new keel and keel fin, six new crew this season and a new inventory of all Quantum sails.
“Bella Mente was the fastest boat last year and is still competitive but I feel we have caught up a little.” Says Markus Wieser, the Momo tactician, “Cannonball is the new boat and has room for improvements upwind and is quick downwind. These Maxi72s need a lot of time to optimise. The boats become better over the years but we maybe sail these boats 50 days a year and the rest of the time they are on their cradle between regattas, so they take time to optimise and improve.”

The Wally class racing circuit visits Porto Cervo, Sardinia twice and finishes in October in Saint Tropez but starts with Sail Racing Palma Vela regatta. Twelve Wallys are registered to race on the Bay of Palma where J One will seek to start her 20th anniversary season on the best possible note, aiming to defend the Palma Vela title they secured on the last race of the regatta one year ago. J One was launched in 1997 as Magic Carpet and has every chance of repeating their success of last year.

Top boat over the entire 2016 season and in 2015 was Open Season, Thomas Bscher’s Wally 107. Tactician Jochen Schumann considers Palma Vela was one of their best performances last season despite finishing fifth overall.

Schumann commented: “The forecast will be good for the regatta, 12-20kts for most days and we are competitive in most conditions. Last year I think we sailed our best regatta here but finished only fifth, some of the smaller boats coming in on corrected times on the last day when there was one little wind shift. But the competition is very close here. it wll be exciting racing. The only change we have made is the colour of the boat, we have changed it slightly.

The Club Swan 50 Class debuts with three boats set to race. Early Bird is chartered to Pit Finis who previously had a Ker 53 and sails with Karol Jablonski as tactician. Morten Kielland’s Mathilde races under the flag of the Yacht Club de Gstaad and Sonke Meier-Sawatzki’s Niramo crew are looking forwards to racing their new boat after taking delivery of it only weeks ago. Tactician is Jesper Bank.

Of his step up from an X50 to the hot newe Club 50 Swan class owner Meier-Sawatzki says:
“It is very exciting. The boat is a beast, very fast and it reacts fast. I had an X 50 before and this is all different. That was a lady, this is a beast. We are only at the very beginning of learning and we are here to get the experience it is very much a learning regatta. We expected five boats but have three and that is fine to get in some practice. This will be a training regatta. This is just our third day and so all the boats are about the same level.”

The regatta was officially presented at 1230hrs today at the RCNP, with a welcome to new sponsors Sail Racing, the global sailwear brand which will also be official clothing partner for Copa del Rey MAPFRE.

Friday, second day of racing, will see the incorporation of the ORC, Classic, AICO J80, Sotheby’s Dragon and Flying Fifteen. The Hansa 303 (Individual and Double) will complete the 141 boat fleet on Saturday. Racing finishes Sunday, with the oficial prize giving at 1800hrs.