Open Season stretches away but we enjoy a great day out with Mike Sanderson on Mari Cha 111

A long slow day on the water saw the smaller lighter yachts Open Season (Frers/Wally) and Black Pearl (Tripp/Baltic) do a horizon job on the rest of the fleet in race two of the Horus Superyacht Cup Palma, leaving Thomas Bscher’s Open Season leading yacht as the fleet limbers up for the final encounter on the Bay of Palma today.

Horizon jobs are not the intention in pursuit races like this but predicting just how fast a wide variety of superyachts go in varying conditions – particularly the light conditions experienced so far – can make the job of the race officer an unenviable one.

Contrary to what some competitors believe, pursuit races can be shortened once the predictions for conditions and course length have been set and Jim Teeters the Bucket rating guru admitted to me this morning that they should and could have shortened the 22.25nm course. As it was there was barely time to freshen up for the yacht hops and paella being served back at the popular event village last night. But that, as they say, is yacht racing and the party went with its customary swing anyway.

We weren’t too bothered about the conditions aboard the mighty ketch Mari Cha 111 and we did a lot of catching up on the last two legs, but an extra five to 10 knots of true would have had her really motoring. Robert Miller’s 1997, Philippe Briand designed, all carbon 146-footer is still a machine to be reckoned with and with America’s Cup Team Origin manager Mike ‘Moose’ Sanderson running the show alongside long-time Mari Cha programme manager Jef d’Etivaud, you could just about guarantee a great day out on the water. The picture shows why we like to go superyachting – to sail with Mike (steering), of course!

Like Tenaz, which I sailed on day one, Mari Cha 111 had just returned from the Pacific, the only difference being Tenaz had been shipped from Brisbane on Dock Express while Mari Cha 111 had sailed back in 40-something days and was looking like a new pin. Some of Jef’s cohorts have been with his various programmes for almost 30 years and if you want to see how a well-oiled sailing machine works look no further than MC111.

Much hanging around for our start which happened almost two hours after the first yacht got away gave the 34-strong crew time to get to know each other and among them were some of Mike’s Origin match racing personnel including bowman Matt ‘cat flap’ Cornwell and top trimmer Christian Kemp. What is superyacht racing coming to I thought?

In these light conditions the big ketch slowly eased up the beat before we started mixing in with the likes of Windrose and the previous day’s winner Antara at the top mark Isle del Sech.

As we started the long run back into the bay with the wind dying we decided to gybe out and off the stern of Windrose. It cost us because Jonathan Money on Windrose continued on the same gybe picking up the fresher puffs which we had found on the beat. By the time we came back to her we had lost out and on top of that Sojana had gybed inside us and got away too. Hey ho!

In wonderful late afternoon light we moved into the bay, peeled from a big A sail to a Code and then to a jib. Gybing this thing is quite a procedure because apart from dealing with the sails up front you have to furl, detach and then re-set the massive mizzen staysail every time you go through the manoeuvre.

With the breeze just holding we started hunting down more boats as we pitched into the light penultimate leg which proved to be hard on the wind. We put away Windrose in short order but struggled to get to Gliss and Sojana, both very well sailed yachts, and only overtaking Simon Lambert’s remarkably slippery Nimrod (fresh from the Caribbean RORC 600) after she had to do a big dip to clear Hyperion coming up the beat.

But in true Bucket fashion we had a very close tussle with Gliss right up to the line with just 28sec separating us – not bad after well over two hours of light weather racing.

En route back to the dock Mike Sanderson chatted about Team Origin, prospects for the America’s Cup and Sir Keith Mills’ even greater determination to win the thing when normal AC service is resumed?but that’s another story. See my blog in a day or two.

For full Horus Superyacht Cup results see