Palma of Mallorca – The wind conditions on the Bay of Palma were more akin today to a mischievous nymph than a grand prix race track. Just as the Real Club Náutico de Palma Race Committee thought it had things under control, the wind would go off on a sudden frolic, demanding course changes and eventually leading to the abandonment of racing for all but the ClubSwan 50 World Championship fleet and the ClubSwan 36.
Aifos 500 (Jaime Rodriguez Toubes/SM Felipe de Borbon, ESP) pulled off a remarkable win in the ClubSwan 50 class, which was the cause of much celebration. Perhonen’s impressive second-place sees her retain pole position in the overall standings. The Croation Go Racing scored a first victory in the ClubSwan 36 and heads the leaderboard in this class after two races. With no races completed, there was no change in position in the Swan 45 and ClubSwan 42 classes. Italy leads The Nations Trophy, with United Kingdom and Russia tied in second only five points behind.
After an aborted first attempt around midday to get a race away, the crews endured a near three hour wait for the situation to improve. Just before three o’clock, the course was set once again and the 18 ClubSwan 50s were swiftly into action in a light breeze. What looked a fairly straight-forward start, was anything but for two of the boats, Aifos 500 and Stella Maris (August Schram, AUT), both over early.
For Stella Maris it turned into a tough day at the office. Late to return after getting stuck in traffic off the line they left themselves a mountain to climb. Recovering to 14th was a pretty good effort. By contrast, Aifos 500’s eventual result was truly stellar.
“This happens only very few times in a sailor’s life, but it does happen, so we have to celebrate,” laughed a very relieved Antonio ‘Talpi’ Piris, the tactician on Aifos 500. “Of course, you must be very lucky and we have to be truthful about what happened. Our only option after we were over the line was to risk everything on one corner (of the course). It was the right corner with a very big shift to the right and that put us in second place at the first windward mark.”
What pleased Piris the most, though, was his crewmates’ perseverance at this point. Recognising their good fortune, they sought to press home the advantage presented to them by the vagaries of the wind. “I am very happy that once we were in second we were able to get past the leader, Fram (HM King Harald V, NOR)” continued Piris. “I think they were changing their jib during the downwind leg and maybe lost some concentration. The approach manoeuvre to the gate seemed to come too early for them and they went into a light patch. We were able to move past from second to first. There were then two more changes of course and it was a little bit tricky, but we were able to hold our own and finish in first.”
Despite only two races so far, Piris is enjoying The Nations Trophy: “A big fleet is always very interesting and very challenging, we are all having good fun. The level is right up there, everyone knows the rules and there is a good vibe in the fleet. You can be last, you can be first; it is very balanced and everyone seems to be enjoying it even if the weather has not been very helpful so far.”
Meanwhile, Ross Warburton and the crew of Perhonen continue to march on out in front. They have a six-point lead over second placed Mathilde (Morten Kielland, SUI) and further four points to third placed Regina 2.0 (Jacob Wallenberg / Gutta Johansson, SWE).
With two days to go there is plenty still to play for. Perhonen’s navigator, Nacho Postigo, feels the crew have been both good and fortunate so far, commenting: “We have been good in our choices and a bit lucky too. In neither of the two races have we had very good starts, but after that we’ve been taking command and making decisions about where we want to be. We are also sailing the boat well, with very good speed in the light air thanks to a good set up and good sails. In combination with some luck, that means we should be in the top group.”
None of the crews competing in this class have had much experience with their boat coming into The Nations Trophy. It does not show as they throw their innovative craft around the racetrack. Today’s winners, Go Racing, owned by ACI from Croatia put in a masterful performance. Kristijan Pavić, CEO at ACI, remarked, “We are very happy to be here among great sailors and yachtsmen in Palma de Mallorca. Today’s racing was very challenging. In the only race, we took a bullet. Great team work in demanding conditions with light wind paid off.”
Combined with a second place yesterday, Go Racing is leading the class by two points from Italian entry, Thirty-Six. Ivan Kljakovic Gaspic is the tactician on Go Racing. He explained that the conditions during racing are very different from the two days of training they had before the regatta, in 12-14 knots. “It has not been easy to get all the tips and tricks we need for light winds,” said Gaspic. “We learnt a couple of important things today which worked really well for us. They were not super smart, but when to use the C-foil, tension on the shrouds – lowers, uppers and runners.”
“It’s a completely new boat and it needs to be trimmed a lot more differently to a, let’s say, ‘normal boat’,” he continued. “It is a very active boat. A lot of trimming, a lot of activity, lot of crew and weight positioning. As little as two knots can mean a big re-trim. It is not easy to find the right setting, but we are learning fast. It may look easy but it was really tough. The other three boats are high level sailors. To make proper calls you need to gamble a bit!”
The ClubSwan 50 and ClubSwan 36 designer, Juan Kouyoumdjian, is in attendance this week, thoroughly engrossed in the proceedings. “The Nations Trophy is a very interesting and extraordinary event,” Kouyoumdjian commented. “It is the culmination of a lot of effort in both design and the organisation. It is an event where you can see a lot of design and construction effort come together and go sailing. Which is what the boats are supposed to do and the way to measure the success of this is the smiles on the faces of the sailors.”
Other interested lookers-on, include the Quantum Sails team. Ed Reynolds, President of Quantum, remarked: “With the new ClubSwan 36, you no longer need to be an America’s Cup level sailor to experience this level of extreme performance. It was an honour to be part of such an exciting programme from its inception. Quantum Sails is all about total performance and design. Our data-driven approach to sail design and desire to continually push boundaries and make sailing more accessible fit perfectly into the Nautor’s Swan philosophy on this project.”
Kristijan Pavić and ACI, also have a strong interest in the overall success of the ClubSwan 36, not just from The Nations Trophy perspective, as Pavić explains: “The Nations Trophy is also a great opportunity to promote our strong partnership with Nautor’s Swan, in particular the first, exclusive ACI Sail ClubSwan 36 training centre based in Split. We have believed in project ClubSwan 36 from the start and this is just the beginning of a beautiful partnership. I would like to invite all Swan owners and their guests to sail in Croatia one of the most beautiful parts of the Mediterranean.”
This evening’s prize giving and crew party were both courtesy of ACI Sail.
Racing at The Nations Trophy 2019 continues on Friday, 11 October and runs through until Saturday, 12 October. A maximum of nine races will be sailed with no discard. The participating nations are Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. The inaugural Nations Trophy, held in 2017, was won by Spain through the efforts of Swan 45 Porron IX and ClubSwan 42 Nadir. Both are here again, but will have their work cut out to defend the title.