The second edition of The Nations Trophy kicked off today; all four classes ticking off one race from the scheduled nine. Racing started three hours late and, while it was long, it was a worthwhile wait. When the fickle breeze in the Bay of Palma stabilized sufficiently, the Real Club Nautico de Palma race team, led by Ariane Mainemare, was swift in laying the course and getting the 41-boat fleet away.
Cream of the crop were: Ross Warburton’s Perhonen (ClubSwan 50, GBR), Javier Padron’s Michelle (Swan 45, ESP), Andrea Rossi’s Mela (ClubSwan 42, ITA) and Riccardo Ferragamo’s Thirty-Six (ClubSwan 36, ITA). With two boats placing first in the only race of the day, Italy take an early lead in The Nations Trophy, with Spain in second.
According to Leonardo Ferragamo, President of Nautor’s Swan:
“The Nations Trophy was born with a lot of impetus from Swan owners.”
The fundamental idea was to provide a global stage dedicated to Swan One Design, typified by fair racing and a gentleman-like spirit.
“On top of this, there was the desire to bring back something that had been abandoned, the confrontation between different countries,”
Mr. Ferragamo adds.
“And here we are with The Nations Trophy, a biennial event. In the years in between, we have The Nations Trophy Leagues in northern and southern Europe, and maybe somewhere else in the world to come. We are really interested in providing sailors who enjoy racing with something different in terms of competition. The Nations Trophy has the ambition to be a credible circuit, well organized, with clear rules and to be a point of reference for good racing.”
Talking to the crews as they stepped ashore, the event is well on its way to achieving its aims.
For much of the race, it looked like a two-way tussle between Leonardo Ferragamo’s Cuordileone (ITA) and Dmitri Rybolovlev’s Skorpios (RUS). Perhonen was never far away, but it took a bold move on the final leg to secure the victory.
Perhonen’s tactician, Ian Budgen, had a very broad grin post-race and received some heavyweight praise from his peers, including Ken Read (Cuordileone’s tactician), for getting it so right with the last roll of the dice. “We were in third place at the last upwind mark and, then, heading downwind, extended further out to the right-hand corner picking up a little bit of a shift before we gybed back,” explained Budgen. “The average (wind angle) had been around 200, but after we gybed it went to about 215/220, and we got about 10/15 degrees on the two boats ahead – Skorpios and Cuordileone – that had gybed early.”
It was a risk, but a calculated one according to Budgen: “I thought the leaders had gybed too early. We had seen better angles on the previous upwind leg and took the decision that we were not going to win a three-boat race to the line. So, we left the other two to their race and hoped for a bit of luck. We had sufficient separation from the boats behind, which made the decision less risky.”
Ross Warburton was understandably thrilled with the result: “We had a difficult practice race yesterday, pretty much right at the back and it was a struggle. Hopefully, we put all our big mistakes behind us. Today was as well as we have ever sailed on Perhonen.”
Even with a year of experience under their belts, the Perhonen crew is new to one design racing and is feeling the heat in the calibre of fleet gathered in Palma. “This is step up in terms of competition from the beginning of the season and even the Copa de Rey when there were 14 boats,” commented Warburton. “The start line feels even more crowded and the racecourse too. Getting into clean air and getting into the right position on the track was really important today. I don’t know whether we’ll be able to do that every day, but we’ll try.”
Budgen brings considerable experience to the British crew, but even he is impressed with the way The Nations Trophy has taken off. “It is amazing to be here with 18 ClubSwan 50s: all 50-footers, all identical,” he exclaims. “It is fantastic racing and you can see that it is by the quality of sailors walking up and down the dock. It’s a great concept, attracting the very best.”
Looking ahead, both Warbuton and Budgen are circumspect. “There are lots of very good people in the fleet,” advises Budgen. “You need to sail away from the bunches, sail in clear air. The regatta has only just started, but at least it has started well. Cuordileone is probably the top boat here and it is great to be competing with her and to pass her on the course.” For Warburton: “This is the toughest racing I’ve done. It is a high level and just to win a race is extraordinary. There are a load of good sailors and a load of good boats. It’s nice to show we can beat them at least once!”
The Swan 45 fleet also had a surprise winner. Javier Padron’s Michelle is racing at a Swan One Design regatta for the first time. “It was tough because of the conditions with light wind and some chop on the racecourse,” said Padron. “We are new to the class, so we need to be super-focused on the boat to keep it running smoothly. For me, as skipper, it is a hard job, but the guys especially our tactician, Toni Rivas, did a super job. We were always in the right place and went on to win.”
The Michelle crew are experienced sailors, a group of friends that have raced on and off together on boats ranging from J/80s to TP52s, but they are impressed by the level of competition. “It is a strong fleet and this was a big surprise,” remarked Padron. “The fleet is all together, which makes the races fun and super competitive.”
The crew are also really happy with the way things have started, even if they have not had much time to make the most of the regatta atmosphere. “We arrived two days ago and had a lot of work to do,” explained Padron. “We can feel that the people are nice, natural and what we like. Today we will have a bit more time to get to know our competitors and the class.” One thing is for certain, the racing format is one they appreciate and whatever comes in the next few days they will remember their baptism in the fleet. “We prefer real time racing, the simplicity of knowing where you are, being in control. It was a good way to start, we know it’s going to get harder and we do not know what will happen tomorrow. But we are sure the racing is going to be fun.”
Andrea Rossi’s Mela came into The Nations Trophy having raced only one of the Mediterranean League events this season. That would have given Rossi some confidence, finishing second overall. It also meant he was well aware of the competition he faces. “I’m really happy,” said Rossi. “Today was really difficult with the light wind, jumping about a lot. This is only the first day and we can only hope to do as well tomorrow. It is a big fleet and really good competition all around us.”
Aside from his delight at winning, Rossi was quick to express his appreciation for the event: “I would like to offer my congratulations to the organisation. I have never raced in an event quite like this. I really want to congratulate everyone involved. I really like the fact that everyone is so professional, especially on the racecourse.”
Mela’s tactician Enrico Zennaro was also surprised how well they had done today: “It is not so easy to race in the light. Very quickly you can lose a lot of boats and then it is very difficult to overtake.” Key to Mela’s victory was a clean start and reaching the first windward mark with a good lead. “We made a very good start and took the opportunity to go left. Then, with one tack we laid the mark and found we were in front by more than a minute. It was unbelievable,” said Zennaro. “We had clear air for the rest of the race. It was the tactician’s dream. A big margin over second place and no choices to make except how to stay between the fleet and the next mark. It was not easy, but we did it.”
The newest boat in the Swan One Design stable, the ClubSwan 36 class is the smallest here. The competition is no less fierce and the significance of winning the first race for the new design was not lost on the crew of Thirty-Six, as Riccardo Ferragamo explained: “It was super fun today. The first impression is the one that counts the most, so to win the first ever race for a ClubSwan 36 is great. It gives us some real motivation and self-confidence for the next races.”
The potential for exhilarating racing was also plain. “We only started training on Tuesday, so not that much time together,” added Ferragamo. “But the boat is great. It is like going back to sailing a 420 dinghy. I’m really excited because tomorrow there should be a bit more wind, manoeuvres will be a bit more aggressive and it will be even more fun.”
Today’s post-race aperitif was provided courtesy of Quantum Sails, one of the event’s main partners. Ed Reynolds, the president of Quantum, was very pleased to have to opportunity to make a contribution to the atmosphere.
“At Quantum, our main goal is to equip the sailors of the world with exactly what they need to meet their challenges,” said Reynolds. “To do this, we not only use our state-of-the-art iQ Technology® and our team’s deep knowledge, but we also collaborate with like-minded companies such as Nautor’s Swan. We will do whatever we need to in order to find the right solution for every sailor whether you are racing for the coveted Nations Trophy, teaching your child to sail, or simply enjoying a sunset cruise. We are proud to work closely with Nautor’s Swan to evolve and elevate the sailing experience and make high-performance accessible to all levels of sailing.”