The Bay of Palma was filled with sails on the first day of The Superyacht Cup Ulysse Nardin.
The fifty-two entries make up the largest fleet of sailing superyachts ever assembled for this three day rally.
The majestic three masted 88.6m (288ft) schooner Maltese Falcon built by Perini Navi of Italy led the fleet away on a long starboard tack to the east at 13.00 with little fuss as the 15 sails and the three masts are all remotely controlled. The only crew seen on deck were perched high on the bow enjoying the spectacle and keeping an eye out for smaller vessels ahead.
The ease of handling the free-standing rotating carbon rigs make this technological masterpiece a major attraction where ever and when ever she sails.
The Baltic 26.5m (87ft) Anny, the smallest yacht in the fleet, started just over six mintues later and tacked up the middle of the Bay making good progess to round the windward New Zealand mark first off the Isla de Sec just ahead of the Reichel Pugh designed 30m (98ft) ultralight sled Wild Oats IX which features a canting keel. Wild Oats displaces 28.6 tonnes compared with the 1,200 tonnes of Maltese Falcon.
According to Ralph Lehner, the helmsman on Anny which went on to win Division 1 of the Fortis Rally, a little local knowledge helped in the relatively light airs.
After the finish Lehner confided that in light conditions it is better to work the middle of the course than the edges of the Bay of Palma. The forecast is for more wind on the second and third days and so it will be interesting to see how many other tacticans follow Anny’s lead.
The Superyacht Cup utilises a pursuit-style timed starting system designed to give all those aboard a great view of the fleet as some of the faster yachts pass by and hopefully, if the handicappers' have done their homework, bring all the yachts to the finish line at the same time.
Each day the starting times are adjusted to reflect the elapsed time of the previous day so by the third and final day of the event the fleet should theoretically all be finshing together. In addition the points are weighted more heavily each day to deter any potential 'sand-bagging' to gain a more favourable starting time.
Wild Oats IX and her near sistership Alfa Romeo were the last to start 55 minutes after Maltese Falcon in the pursuit and soon made rapid progress through the fleet by tacking up the middle of the Bay. Wild Oats was second round the windward mark with a comfortable nine minute lead over Alfa Romeo and sprinted through the fleet to take line honours overall and a win in Division 2. Alfa Romeo closed to less than a minute at the finish to take second place in Division 2 with the 36.5m (120ft) Wally Y3K third.
Another friendly match within the fleet was between the two J Class yachts, Velsheda, a Charles Nicholson design of 1933 and Ranger, a 2003-built replica of the classic Olin Stephens design that successfully defended the America’s Cup in 1937 against Endeavour II.
The handicappers gave Velsheda a 25 second advantage at the start but she was caught in the wind shadow of the 47m (154ft) schooner Windrose that had started just ahead allowing Ranger to tack away and build up an unnassailable lead. The penalty that Ranger pays for her victory is that she has to give Velsheda a two minute 20 second advantage on the second day of the event.
All the starting times are adjusted for the second days sailing supported by Astilleros de Mallorca with the starting order in reverse of the first days elapsed time. This means that over an hour and 24 minutes were added to Anny’s start time making her last away in Division 1 and over 30 minutes were added to Wild Oats and Alfa Romeo’s start giving them a later time of 1 hour 36 minutes after the first boat away.
Even though there are similar friendly rivalries throughout the fleet, most very rarely participate in rallies like The Superyacht Cup as the yachts are primarily designed for comfortable cruising.
However there is a growing number of owner’s who enjoy the fun of gathering together in events like The Superyacht Cup and one by one you can see them upgrading the performance of their current yachts and starting to build more performance orientated sailing superyachts.
The main reason such a large fleet has gathered in Palma for 2007 can be found in the nearby America's Cup in Valencia on the Spanish mainland. Traditionally a so-called ’demi-tasse’ has taken place for supporter and spectators sailing yachts in the two to three week hiatus between the end of the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger selection series and the start of the America’s Cup.
The enterprising orgainisers of The Superyacht Cup in Palma, led by former sailmaker Patrick Whetter, a long time resident of Palma de Mallorca, decided to move the 12th running of their annual event, normally held in October to coincide with the current America’s Cup series.
In addition they gathered the support of New Zealand’s marine industry and included the third edition of the NZ Millenium Cup for the final day’s racing and the NZ Millenium Cup Ball and prizegiving.
The resulting event now sees an unprecedented gathering of sailing superyachts from builders and designers all over the world. Laid bow to stern the fleet measures over two kilometres.
Results Fortis Rally Sunday 17th June
1. Anny 26.5m (87ft) Baltic Yachts designed by Judel/Vrokijk
2. Hetairos 42.8m (140ft) Abeking & Rasmussen designed by Bruce King
3. Patient Falcon 30m (98ft) Abel Marine designed by Nelson/Marek
1. Wild Oats IX 30m (98ft) McConaghy designed by Reichel/Pugh
2. Alfa Romeo 30m (98ft) McConaghy designed by Reichel/Pugh
3. Y3K 36.5m (120ft) Wally designed by German Frers
Full results at www.thesuperyachtcup.com
For more images from the Super Yacht Cup see: www.sail-world.com/indexs.cfm?nid=34698