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Cyclops Marine 2023 November - LEADERBOARD

Diverse PalmaVela fleet to kick off 2023 IMA Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge

by James Boyd / International Maxi Association 3 May 2023 11:58 PDT 4-7 May 2023
Galateia speeds her way to victory at PalmaVela 2022 © Nico Martinez

Nine maxis will open the racing tomorrow at the Real Club Náutico de Palma's Mediterranean season opener, PalmaVela.

This is appropriate given PalmaVela originated solely for maxis: Palma was always popular with the world's largest racing yachts and so the internationally renowned RCNP introduced this event back in 2004 as Maxi Race Week. Today it has been rechristened and maxis race alongside smaller handicap, one design or box rule classes, but PalmaVela remains the opening event of the annual Mediterranean Maxi Inshore Challenge (MMIC) run by the International Maxi Association (IMA), the body officially tasked by World Sailing to oversee and develop maxi racing.

The IMA's annual sister series, the Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge (MMOC) kicked off last weekend with PalmaVela's offshore event, La Larga. In this the maxi class raced 240 miles with the course starting and finishing in Palma taking in Mallorca, Menorca and Cabrera and was won by the VO70 I Love Poland.

Never before has the PalmaVela IRC maxi fleet been so diverse. This week the fastest is the Wallycento Galateia with an IRC TCC of 1.787, while the slowest is the legendary offshore racer Stormvogel, launched in 1961 for Dutch plywood pioneer Kees Bruynzeel. Built to the maximum limit of the rule of the day, Bruynzeel enthusiastically campaigned her as far afield as the Transpac, China Sea Race and Sydney-Hobart. Her IRC TCC is a more modest 1.181, similar to a modern 40ft racer.

Galateia starts PalmaVela tomorrow not just as the fastest maxi but favourite for the overall prize too, after winning here with straight bullets from six races last year. Repeating this seems unlikely, as Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones' sistership Magic Carpet Cubed comes to the regatta anticipating a more forceful start to their season.

"I think Magic Carpet are pretty strong in light air and it looks fairly light for the week, so we will have a battle," says Kelvin Harrap, Galateia's tactician, who with co-owner David M. Leuschen steering, has American Anthony Kotoun and Pablo Arrarte in the afterguard. "Last year we were fortunate as it was quite windy - we have always been a bit better in the breeze. We have some new reaching sails to keep us in touch with them on the coastal races."

Meanwhile Magic Carpet Cubed hopes to hit the ground running, with the same crew that knows their blue 100 footer inside out and has been in situ here longer than most. Her captain Danny Gallichan explains: "It is all good with the same team and over the winter we have been just doing the usual stuff. Conditions look nice this week and we are likely to see a sea breeze. We know Galateia, but we don't know much about Morgana, only that she is another Reichel/Pugh..." The San Diego yacht designers are behind the four of the fastest maxis here including Francesco de Santis' Southern Wind 100 Morgana, which although the same length as her rivals is more than 10 tonnes heavier, but comes with a lower rating of 1.673.

Also in the higher rated Maxi class is Andrés Varela Entercanales' Vismara-Mills 68 Pelotari.Project, a previous winner of La Larga and Miguel Galuccio's Vera, a Reichel-Pugh design launched by Cooksons in New Zealand in 1999, originally as My Song.

During Galuccio's tenure Vera had a supremely successful 2019, winning the IMA's Mediterranean Maxi Offshore Challenge and coming close to claiming its Inshore Challenge too. This is the first season since then that Vera has returned to the race course and for this Galuccio has had an entirely new team assembled by skipper Nico Gonzalez, (who previously ran Argentinian Juan Ball's maxi campaigns for 15 years). Of the new look Vera crew, at least half are from Galuccio's native Argentina, including three from another famous Argentinean Maxi/TP52 team, Alexia (Matador/Azzurra).

"It is important to have a good crew to sail these boats safely and you need to have good communication. Miguel is South American, like me, so now the language on board is Spanish," explains Gonzalez, who has been overseeing a five month refit of Vera at King Marine, including a full repaint.

Completing the higher rated maxi class is Sven Wackerhagen's Wally 80 Rose. This fledgling team is still finding its feet says their tactician, Danish match racer Jesper Radich. "The owner is good at spotting young talent, people in their 20s. It means we have to be quite basic with how we sail the boat but they bring a sharpness..."

Another three are racing in the lower-rated Maxi class - all classics or 'modern classics' such as the 22m Anima II launched by Spirit Yachts in 2021 and the Andre Hoek-designed Truly Classic 90 Atalante, whose French owner only acquired her last July, with last autumn's Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez his first regatta in her. "He loved racing her in St Tropez so we did a big refit over the winter, because the boat needed some love, and we upgraded the interior," explained skipper Romain Mouchel.

But star of this class is certainly Stormvogel, the Rambler 88/Comanche equivalent of the early 1960s and whose present Italian owner treats her with the respect of a museum piece while at the same time still races her hard. "We looked at a few early events this year to see how to get the crew back up to scratch and La Larga was good offshore training for the Fastnet," explains the boat's racing manager, Tom Ripard, of the famous Maltese sailing dynasty. "I love Palma. When the sea breeze is on - it is hard to beat. This week it looks like it will be hot with regular sea breeze conditions, which could be 15-16 knots. Although we prefer 35 knots, 15 would be nice."

The maxi fleets start racing tomorrow with a first warning signal at 1300 with their competition comprising a mix of coastal and windward-leeward course concluding on Sunday.

For more information about PalmaVela visit www.palmavela.com.

For more information on the International Maxi Association visit www.internationalmaxiassociation.com.

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