Sail Racing PalmaVela, organised by the Real Club Nautico de Palma, is the first, big multi-class regatta of the Mediterranean season and, as such, is a highly competitive affair carrying great kudos. Some 134 entries and over 1,500 crew from 26 nations contested the 2018 event. For the Swan One Design contingent of 17 yachts, the 15th edition of this spring tradition formed the second event in The Nations Trophy Mediterranean League 2018.
The time of year may be associated with new life, but it was some perennial performers that stamped their mark on the event. European Champions, Earlybird, secured ClubSwan 50 and Christian Plump’s Swan 45 Elena Nova won here for the sixth time. Massimo de Campo’s ClubSwan 42 Selene Alifax bucked the trend, more in keeping with the season, by winning a first major Swan One Design contest. In the battle for top nation, Germany were the clear winners with Earlybird and Elena Nova proving a formidable combination.
The next event for Swan One Design classes competing for The Nations Trophy Mediterranean League is the three-day inshore series at the Rolex Giraglia in Saint-Tropez, from 9 to 12 June.
Brandis and Earlybird led the class from start to finish. It was an authoritative performance. Only a minor dip in consistency allowed Swiss contender Mathilde to run them close; two points separating the two boats at the end of the eight-race series, which included one coastal race. Arguably Morten Kielland’s Mathilde deserved better after a burst of three wins in four races so comprehensively reduced the nine-point halfway deficit.
Four of the seven ClubSwan 50s scored wins during the four days of racing, and only one failed to post a top three result confirming the close-fought nature of the competition. Cameron Dunn, tactician on Onegroup (Germany, third overall), was enthusiastic, “The class is awesome. The boats seem really even. That is what you want. The racing is even, the boats are cool.”
The Earlybird crew maintained control adhering to a strategy of sailing solid, simple and safely to ensure high average results. They led by six points going into the final race and looked good to retain the PalmaVela title they won in 2017. A fifth place in the last race had the crew sweating. Majorcan Manu Weiller, deputising for Jochen Schümann as tactician, was aware of the slim margin at the end: “It was such a challenging way to finish. We had to sail very safely and not be last, which in this fleet is not that easy. The only way to do that is to attack and sail well.”
Brandis was delighted with his victory and is looking forward to the remainder of the season: “It feels great to have won. The sailing here was a bit wet as the weather conditions were very unexpected! It was tricky, shifty and light. We are glad to have made it through winning the event. The key to this type of event is about having fun; enjoying the week regardless of winning or not. In my experience, if you have fun the likelihood of winning is much higher.” Brandis’ next target in The Nations Trophy Mediterranean League is back in Palma for the Copa del Rey Mapfre in July and his season will close in Sardinia with the Rolex Swan Cup and the first ever ClubSwan 50 World Championship.
The weather was unsettled and changeable throughout this year’s PalmaVela. With sublime conditions mixing on occasion with rain and flukey winds, sometimes on the same day. The Swan 45 class completed an exceptional nine-race series.
Four boats were in contention going into the final day. Elena Nova was in command throughout the regatta, but had led by a mere single point after two days extending to four points as the event reached its crescendo. Consistency was proving difficult in the prevailing conditions. World Champions, Luís Senís Segarra and Porrón IX (Spain, second, overall) were fighting hard, and so too were David Collins’ T’ala (United Kingdom, third overall) and Jan de Kraker’s K-Force (Netherlands, fourth). All four yachts proved capable of winning races, but they all were equally capable of posting fifth places in the five-boat fleet.
This may have been their sixth time winning, but Elena Nova’s owner-driver Christian Plump acknowledged this win was one of the toughest: “It always feels good to win, especially when the competition is so close and fierce. It is such competitive racing in this class so it was a hard week of hard racing and it wasn’t over till the very last race.”
For Plump the secret to success is no secret: “It’s not improvisation! We’ve been in the Swan 45 Class for many years now. We come to events very well prepared, with a good crew, sails and boat. We enjoy the sailing, being together and having a good time. We keep fighting and when we have some downs we always fight back.”
The Elena Nova Team is ambitious with eyes on repeating this victory at the Copa del Rey, which they have won once before, and at the Rolex Swan Cup, where the Swan 45 Class will also be competing for its world championship.
In contrast to the 50s and 45s, Massimo de Campo’s Italian crew on Selene Alifax had virtually secured the ClubSwan 42 title by the midway point. Three wins on the first day, were followed by a second in the coastal race, squeezing most of the resistance out of the opposition. It was still close-racing with four of the five competing yachts taking bullets over the nine races. Selene, though, maintained a level of consistency that others could not match. José Maria Meseguer’s Pez d’Abril (Spain) came closest finishing in second, some eight-points adrift. European Champion, Pedro Vaquer’s Nadir (Spain) was unable to replicate her performance at The Nations Trophy 2017, ending in fourth with Pit Finis’ Dralion (Germany) taking third.
De Campo was very satisfied with the win: “We are really happy to have won this very nice competition. The place, the people and the One Design races are the best with competitors who never give up. The fleet was strong and, even if we only have five boats, it was not easy to win.”
Again, de Campo made the point that winning was not a matter of improvisation: “This is a long story, starting 11 years ago. A large part of the crew many of whom were friends started racing together then. It has been a long process of growing, a long, planned and developed process.”