Palma de Mallorca, 31 July 2017
Over the Saturday and Sunday before the Copa del Rey MAPFRE starts racing the race docks which surround the Real Club Náutico de Palma are always abuzz with activity. But this weekend they have been busier and more active than ever simply because the 36th edition of the Mediterranean summer showcase regatta is the biggest ever.
With 138 boats set to line up carrying the national flags of 26 different countries this will be the largest fleet since the first Copa del Rey in 1982. Officials say the club’s own dock and shoreside infrastructure is at full capacity for a fun, safe, acceptably busy regatta.
There is a quiet determination that the event does not grow too large and become too big and impersonal, that the unique ambience is retained on site and it does not metamorphose into just another giant, faceless regatta housed in temporary structures.
This 36th Copa del Rey MAPFRE draws yachts and crews from all corners of the world. Indeed of the 138 entries for this historic edition 49 are Spanish and 89 from outside Spain. Among the enduring elements which contribute to the magnetic appeal of the regatta are the Bay of Palma’s reliable afternoon sea breeze conditions, the warm Balearic island sunshine – temperatures over the coming week are due to top 40 deg C (104 F), the ease of access to the city’s excellent accommodation and restaurants, the level of competition and race management, and the post sailing ambience around the RCNP.
S.M. King Felipe VI sailed in practice today as helmsman of the Farr 45 Aifos of the Spanish Navy, the last training on the bay of Palma before competition begins Monday.
The Maxi72 fleet return this year as the premier grand prix class and come directly from the inaugural Corfu Challenge regatta where George Sakellaris’ Proteus won. A fleet of three Maxi72s raced on the Bay of Palma in May at Sail Racing PalmaVela when Dario Ferrari’s newly launched Botin Partners design Cannonball won on her debut. Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente are here as the defending champions. Four Maxi72s are entered, Bella Mente, Cannonball – which has just been fitted with a new keel fin and rudder and is reported to have a new mainsail, Dieter Schön’s Momo which lead into the final day at the spring Palma event, and Proteus which raced in the Caribbean in the Spring, wining Les Voiles de St Barths for the second year in a row.
“I think this time this regatta is quite open. In the light to medium winds I still think Bella Mente has a little edge, Cannonball is good in this breeze here, and in the stronger wind then Cannonball is faster. And we fit somewhere in between. We can improve our starts a little bit, we were not so good in Corfu. I think that I rank the ability to start well here as crucial. With these four boats the lanes are quite open and you can carry it right to the layline. That is gold.” Explains Palma’s Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup winner Jordi Calafat, sail designer and coach to Momo.
Tommaso Chieffi, tactician on Proteus concurs, “It will be much more open than Corfu. All the boats are pretty much on par. It will be tough for us to repeat what we did in Corfu. Bella Mente are strong here, Momo also was doing well in Corfu. There it was breezier and we had good starts. You had to win the pin there. And here there is enough variety across the course areas.”
The steadily growing ClubSwan 50 fleet has doubled in size since debuting on these same waters at Sail Racing PalmaVela. There are six entries, two representing Italy Leonardo Ferragamo’s Cuordileone and Andrea Masi’s Ulika, two representing Germany Henrik Brandis’ EarlyBird – multiple winners in the Swan 45 class at Copa del Rey MAPFRE – and Sonke Meier Sawatzki’s Niramo, one boat from Russia in the shape of Andrey Konogorov’s Skorpios and the Swiss Mathilde of Morten H Kielland which won on countback in May’s Palma Vela regatta.
Early Bird, with Jochen Schuemann won on Early Bird’s debut at the Rolex Giraglia. Gavin Brady is tactician on Cuordileone, Russian Olympic Yngling and Match Racer Ekaterina Skudina is tactician on Skorpios, triple Olympic medallist Jesper Bank is on Niramo and French double 49er Olympian Stephane Christidis guides Mathilde.
The sixteen strong Mallorca Sotheby’s IRC Class 1 has attracted ten TP52s of differing ages and vintages. The most recent builds include Andy Soriano’s 2015 Alegre, the 2014 launched Phoenix which sails now in the colours of Hasso Plattner and will have America’s Cup winner and multiple TP52 champion Ed Baird as tactician. Last year’s champions Azzurra are not racing this time as many of the core crew race on Cannonball. Alegre’s Soriano has won at the Copa del Rey MAPFRE in 2012 and 2013 in his MiniMaxi of the same name.
“I think there are three or four different boats which could win but it will almost certainly be a TP52 and not necessarily one of the newest ones. We were third last year and we really enjoy this regatta, hopefully we can do better this time.” Stéphane Neve, skipper of the French TP52 Paprec Recyclage commented.
Eight teams compete in the MRW Swan 45, including Germany's Elena Nova of Christian Plump, which finished third in 2016 and won spring’s Sail Racing PalmaVela. The Swan 42 premieres as a class with 12 crews competing representing five nationalities. Newcomer to the class is Red Eléctrica de España which is owned and skippered by the RCNP’s president Javier Sanz who won the last two editions of the Copa del Rey MAPFRE in the X-35 one design.
BMW ORC 1 is the biggest class of the event with 33 teams, sailing under 11 nationalities. Defending champions are Álvaro Irala's DK46 Maserati which has Spanish round the world racer Guillermo Altadill on board, Rafael Carbonell’s Swan 45 Rats on Fire has won their class four times at Copa del Rey MAPFRE and has recently crowned J/80 world champion Rayco Tabares in the crew. Aifos races in this fleet.
BMW ORC 2 comprises 22 teams from eight countries compete. The most successful skipper in the history of the regatta Galician Pedro Campos will look to his ninth title with the same boat, a modified Rodman 42 sailed by the same team. BMW ORC 3 is a new division with nine teams including the Ceres Group of Javier Banderas, racing a Dufour 34 after three consecutive podiums in the X-35 over the last three editions.
Twenty crews race in the Herbalife J80 class from seven different countries. Champions are the Les Roches Jeunesse Marbella Team of Pepequín Orbaneja and the second and third boats from last year are back, Ono M & G Tressis (winner 2015) and HM Hotels.
A Full Week
The competition program aims at a maximum of 20 races for the GC32, 12 for the MRW Swan 45 and Herbalife J80, and 11 for the other classes. The first start is scheduled for 1300hrs CET tomorrow, Monday, for all classes except for the GC32, who will be competing for an official training regatta on Tuesday and will start racing Wednesday, August 2nd.
"Tomorrow we will open with windward-leewards for all classes," explains regatta chief Gaspar Morey. "On Wednesday the Maxi 72, Mallorca Sotheby's IRC and ClubSwan 50 will compete oon their coastal format, and on Friday the MRW Swan 45, Swan 42 and all BMW ORC will do theirs on Friday."
36 Copa del Rey MAPFRE
Alejandro Varela +34 609 800 218
Javier Sobrino +34 629 893 637
Neus Jordi +34 627 885 051
Helena Paz +34 659 293 291
Clara Giraldo +34 661 346 534
Andi Robertson (English)
Jose Luis Miró +34 606 444 861
Carmen Hidalgo +34 646 344 274
Rocío Gutiérrez +34 609 118 071
Helena de la Gándara +34 609 481 394