The 18th edition of Mallorca’s showcase PalmaVela regatta opened with a blast of gusty northeasterly winds which produced spectacular, challenging conditions during the 28 miles coastal race which was sailed by the seven strong fleet of IRC-IMA Maxi yachts.
Revelling in the strong breezes on the Bay of Palma, the New York YC flagged Wally Cento Galateia made short work of the course, hitting boat speeds of 26 knots on the downwind leg, going on to win by 15 minutes and 32 seconds after just over two hours and 15 minutes of racing.
While Galateia took first blood in this first race of the season contested in the brisk conditions which have traditionally been their strongest suit, the Farr 100 footer Leopard 3 fought back hard after being over the start line to finish third across the finish line, correcting to second place ahead of Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones blue hulled Magic Carpet³.
“I was kind of the luckiest guy out there,” smiled Kelvin Harrap who is usually Galateia’s strategist and helm coach, “I drew the short straw to drive because the owner has work commitments and could not be here today. I don’t think we have been that fast for a while. It was a lot of fun.”
Guided by an afterguard which includes Palma’s Jordi Calafat working with Murray Jones and navigator Simon Fisher, Harrap observed, “Historically the boat has gone well in windier conditions and so that suited us today really. We hit 26 knots downwind which was pretty exciting. We had an upwind start in about 15-18 kts of wind. We did not get the best of starts but as we went around the top mark the breeze increased quickly to 25 to 30 knots very quickly. It was pretty hair raising.”
But it was not all about max power in the cross offshore breeze. Calafat and Jones worked the shifts to their advantage. Harrap recalls, “It was a little bit tricky at times with some 40 degree shifts and so we had to be on our toes with the wind going up and down between 10 and 25 knots at times. I think on the first beat Murray Jones and Jordi Calafat called a couple of good shifts and that made the difference early on. And then on the downwind, off we went.”
Winds for the next three days look set to return to lighter airs especially Friday when the Galateia team hope to find improvements in the softer airs, “I think it is going to be a lot lighter but we have some new light wind sails so hopefully we can now keep up with Magic Carpet in the lighter stuff when they have had an edge before. But we will just try and keep doing what we are doing and see how it goes,” Harrap said.
Leopard 3’s strategist Mitch Booth reported, “Today was very challenging. There was a lot of wind, we saw 35kts at one time. We did not do a very good job at the start when we were over early and in fact we then struggled to get back and get behind the start line. But after that we recovered and had a great race thereafter.”
The small but very competitive ClubSwan 42 one design class were the other fleet which shared the honour of opening the early season regatta. While the other ORC and One Design classes wait till Friday, the ClubSwan 42s raced two good windward leewards which saw Pedro Vaquer’s Nadir triumph comfortably in both races. Runners up in last summer’s Copa del Rey MAPFRE, the Nadir team have the July’s Club Swan OD World Championships in Valencia as the focal point of the season as well as going one better at August’s Copa del Rey MAPFRE.
In their corner Nadir have five times J/80 world champion Rayco Tabares as tactician. The tactician who originates from Lanzarote already has five Copa del Rey MAPFRE wins under his belt with the famous Rats on Fire team.
Tabares said “We had two very good races, sailing with very good manoeuvres and good speed and, above all, the crew work was just super good. Our set-up in the breeze is quite good and I think that was the key to the day’s success. Let’s see if we can repeat this again tomorrow with other lighter conditions. As a team it is very important for us to try and win in lighter stuff too. But this is just the very start of the season, and we are all just starting out. We have to try different things to finish in the best possible position.”
For the results, see: https://www.palmavela.com/resultados.php