The Bay of Palma offered a subtle challenge to the 127 teams which contested the first day of racing at 37 Copa del Rey MAPFRE as conflicting breezes gave the tacticians something more to ponder rather than the usual ‘go left and go fast’ maxim which is often the passport to success on the famous Balearic racing waters.
From the nine classes which opened a record breaking edition of the annual showcase summer regatta there are four teams which emerged from today’s two windward leeward races with a perfect pair of victories.
Dieter Schoen’s Vrolijk Maxi72 “Momo” leads in Mallorca Sotheby’s IRC 0, Karl Kwok’s Botin 52 “Team Beau Geste” triumphed twice in Mallorca Sotheby’s IRC 1, Nacho Montes and Oscar Chaves’ all star cast on the DK46 “Estrella Damm” heads the BMW ORC 1 class, and Kiel, Germany’s Sonke Meier scored two wins on “NiRaMo” in the ten strong, very competitive ClubSwan 50 fleet with a crew lead by Jesper Bank.
“Momo”, the Vrolijk Maxi72 which won here last year, appears to be back on winning form on the Bay of Palma. Some of their opening day success is down to smart tactics from the afterguard comprising Markus Wieser and six times America’s Cup winner Murray Jones, but also substantial upgrading to reduce weight and improve light wind performance. “Momo” has a new mast for this season and have moved their rudder forwards. Wieser affirmed today, after their two wins:
“Last year we could not match Cannonball in light winds, under 10kts say, and so today proves we can.”
“Momo” started to weather of her two rivals twice as they scrapped over the pin and left side of the course but the German flagged Maxi72 was able to control the other two adversaries, “Cannonball” and “Proteus”, winning the first race by one minute and 14 seconds over Dario Ferrari’s “Cannonball” and one minute and 13 seconds in the second contest.
“We had two good races even if the breeze was too light. We were sailing too far out of the bay and so the breeze was lighter. We started to the windward side of both boats in both races to control them and that worked quite well. The other two were fighting too much for the pin end and so we stayed a little bit out of the shit fight and so we could have a good start, with options. We could do with a few more boats here but this is about building up to Porto Cervo where we will have six boats.”
In Sotheby’s Mallorca IRC 1 class it is Karl Kwok’s “Beau Geste” which made the best start, beating Jean-Luc Petithuguenin’s “Paprec-Recyclage” in the first, light winds race, and Tina Plattner’s “The Phoenix” in the second race. With a 3,2 for the day, “The Phoenix” which has Ed Baird on tactics, lies second. “Team Beau Geste” led the first race at the top mark and extended, second race “The Phoenix” led at the top mark but “Beau Geste” split at the leeward gate and then crossed ahead
Gavin Brady, Beau Geste’s tactician recalled: “Always on that first day you are lining up to see how everyone compares and the first start was very even. When you have the Mini Maxis in front of you it is hard. They may be a mile upwind but the air is still turbulent. When we are at low heel angles the boats don’t really give you much feel.”
He added, “In these conditions one boat takes off and climbs away and stops and then it is your turn it is that kind of day. It is one of those days that when the breeze tries to build you can get a bit of the right hand shift as well as the lefties, so it was not a ‘must go left’ day but nonetheless a stock, standard Palma day. It is a real tactician’s race course with a lot of passing opportunities.”
It was a delighted Sonke Meier who returned to the RCNP dock after winning both races on his “NiRaMo”, citing their twin victories as their ‘best start ever’ to a regatta. They sailed smart and clean and showed great speed which tactician Jesper Bank attributed in part to the hard work of Noel Drennan main trimmer and America’s Cup winner Pete van Niekerk. Key to both wins was leading at the first mark both times and being able to scramble clear of the fighting pack:
Bank explains, “ We were consistent with constant competitive speed and that relaxes everyone. That allows everyone to do their job better than if you are constantly under pressure. We nailed it at both weather marks and that allowed us to get our noses out in front. After it was close, but we got out of the traffic. It was one of those days when we could also have been third, fourth or fifth but we got our nose out in front.
Second race we started on the pin because it was favoured and we did not want anyone to leeward of us. Speed is really about really hard work and focus and Noel really runs that.”
Owner-driver Meier smiled, “ It was one of the best days we have ever had. We have a great crew and the boat is very well set up. It was always the left where we found the advantages and the conditions were quite stable. We have a very good sail shape and set up and Noel (Drennan) and Pete (Van Niekerk) have the boat going fast. They make the boat fast. We have yet to win a regatta so this is a good start. But we count everything up at the end not the first day.”
HM King Felipe raced on “Aifos 500” today and they lie third behind “Earlybird.”
In the BMW ORC 1 class the DK46 “Estrella Damm” has Luís Martínez Doreste steering with Pichu Torcida calling tactics, Gonzalo Infante as navigator and round the world racer Aleix Gelabert on the bow. Of their two wins today Gelabert reported:
“We had a very good start in the first race and so went to the early left and lead at the first mark. From there it is relatively straightforward. Second race was a little bit more difficult. We were five or so boats and we stayed more in the middle. At to the top mark we were third we gybed first and got a good shift and lead to the first gate and so we lead.”
With 20 boats racing it is defending Copa del Rey MAPFRE champions “Bribon Movistar” which leads the Herbalife Nutrition J80s with a 1,3 today, in BMW ORC 2 is lead by the IMS 42 “Modul,” BMW ORC 3 sees the Sinergia 40 “L’Immens-Laplaza Assessors” on top.
Christian Plump’s defending title holders “Elena Nova” is second in the MRW Swan 45 class behind Luis Senis’ “Clínicas Dr Senís”, while Andrea Rossi’s Italian “Mela” leads the ClubSwan 42s.
Racing continues Tuesday when the Six Metres join the regatta.