© María Muiña/Copa del Rey MAPFRE
© María Muiña/Copa del Rey MAPFRE
  • As the 35 Copa del Rey MAPFRE started with near perfect conditions on the Bay of Palma it is always worth recalling that it is a six-day regatta which requires successful teams to pace themselves over the demanding race schedule, the proverbial ‘marathon not a sprint’. Hot sunshine, a few late nights and testing, tricky breezes require an element of stamina and strategic planning.

Palma de Mallorca – As the bay welcomed 116 boats racing in seven different classes today, the race courses offered plenty of variety and opportunity for the afterguards to really apply their brainpower to. The offshore gradient breeze took some time to be replaced by the usual sea breeze. When it did come in there the initial geographic left side advantages were often replaced by the trending right shift and additional stronger wind pressure. Conditions were much trickier and harder to read than the usual Palma one way, one sided race track but with 12-15kts of wind blowing through the afternoon, the action was sparkling in all of the race divisions.

Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente leads the very even, very competitive Montblanc Maxi72 class which is fully primed for their Maxi World Championships next month in Sardinia. All four boats are pretty much configured as they will race at the worlds and, as well as the prestige of winning the 35 Copa del Rey MAPFRE, this week is seen as great preparation.

Bella Mente sailed to second in the first windward-leeward and won the second to lead overall by one point from George Sakellaris’ Proteus which scored the first winning gun of the Maxi72’s regatta.

Proteus lead at the first mark of the first race and could not be caught after winning the left early on. Bella Mente started at the starboard end of the start line for the second race. This time Alex Schaerer’s Caol Ila had the lead at the first windward mark but Bella Mente managed to pass them on the first run.

Adrian Stead, Bella Mente’s strategist recalled:

“It was interesting, quite a dynamic day. The breeze was spotty at times. There was the geographic shift but the breeze was trending right.”

Stead adds:

“ It is all very close. All the first crosses were within two boat lengths. But on the one way track. We sailed on the starboard off the line. We had a tight lane and Hap (Fauth, owner-driver) did a great job of driving the boat, getting us nicely to the corner.”

“ We are going well downwind. We know the boat really well and are working it very hard. There was a little seaway on both gybes. We are getting every ounce from Bella Mente. That just gives us the nod against what are effectively three new boats.”

“ It is very tight. It is brilliant racing. We love this regatta. It is a great set up with four Maxi72s and a great warm up for the Maxi Worlds and everyone his here in the best configuration they will have for the worlds. Having four brilliant boats is great.”

Azzurra, winners of the Copa del Rey MAPFRE in 2009 as Matador, hold the early lead overall in the Singular Kitchen IRC 1 class. The Roemmers’ family TP52 won the first race and took second after a close race with Alegre, Andy Soriano’s TP52. Soriano’s crew had a poor opening race and lie fourth overall. TP52s hold all top four places. The French TP52 of Jean Luc Petithuguenin, Paprec, rates slightly better under IRC and lies second overall after finishing second to Azzurra in Race 1. It was only on the final run that Azzurra managed to extend enough to save their time.

Trimmer on Azzurra Mariano Parada reported:

“ It was tough. The first race was shifty and streaky. We won the pin and the left was good. We were not sure how  good we were until we got to the lay line. From there we extended and it was straightforward.”

“For us it is good to mix up with other boats and enjoy different scenarios. We always enjoy being here.”

Racing on the Bravo race course, the furthest to the west, the breeze was more unsettled for the MRW Swan 45 and BMW ORC 1 fleet. The wind was particularly hard to read and the usual rules did not seem to apply. But it is EarlyBird, the German team lead by owner Henrik Brandis that sits at the top of the class leaderboard after two windward-leeward races. Their tactician, three times Olympic champion Jochen Schümann had to make concerted comebacks in both races to earn the two second places which ensure they lead the 12 boat fleet.

The first race was won by Ben Kolf’s Gaastra which has Holland’s 2008 Olympic silver medallist Lobke

Berkhout as tactician. Early Bird rounded fifth and made successive gains. In the second race it was Esthec, which has Bouwe Bekking calling tactics, which lead across the finish line. They lie three points behind Early Bird.

Schümann said:

“It was tricky. We had the northerly fighting against the sea breeze but after the delay the sea breeze kicked in. It was a late swing and it was not clear how it would come in. It came in much more left than expected. It did not stay there and went quite right. So that made it difficult. Normally you sail to the left and the boats to the right often had a very strong comeback because often the breeze came in strong from the right. It was an unusual day.”

“The class is very competitive. The class is one design and great fun.”

In the BMW ORC 1 class only one point separates the top two boats after their first two races. The Swan 45 of Luis Senís scored a second but then tied in the second race, correcting out on the same time as Edward Leask’s British crew on Magical Mystery Tour, the Club Swan 42. The GBR boat is second.

Luis Senís of “Dr. Luis Senis GC”, the class leader, commented: “It is a difficult class because there are 14 boats which are similar plus the two DKs. So we are not going to win races but need to be regular and consistent. This is a long week. It is an endurance test, you need to keep a cool head and stay strong until the end of the week comes.”

BMW ORC 2 finds the Rodman 42 Fyord-Maverta steered by Jose Ballester leading the class. Pedro Campos, the regatta’s most regular winner, lies third.

In the Herbalife J80 class “ONO Tressis M & G, the team which won last year, leads after the first day of racing, scoring a first and second. Daniel de la Pedraja from the top boat summed up:

” We are the same team last year, we have a strong, good team spirit, and we have done well. Here are five or six boats with real possibilities of winning. And the week is very long. ”

So too the Air Europa X-35 has the team which won last year, lead by the RCNP President Javier Sanz, establishing a good lead after their first day of racing. David Madrazo said: “Although we have not made a good start in the first race we managed to get back into it, to read the conditions and the crew has done a great job to win. In the second race, the start was very good and from there were good.”