A supersailing yacht race from Antigua to Europe via the Azores 15/1/07

Plans for a transatlantic superyacht race have been revealed by the organisers of the Superyacht Cup. The new race is scheduled to start in May 2008 following Antigua Sailing Week, which traditionally closes the season in that part of the Caribbean.

According to Kate Branagh of the Superyacht Cup, which also runs events in Palma and Antigua, there has been a lot of support for an event for yachts that make the delivery passage for the Med charter season.
She says the first part of the race will involve a fleet start off Antigua, followed by a pursuit race after a re-start in the Azores, so everyone finishes at roughly the same time at a port on mainland Europe.
“We hope that owners who may not have time to do the whole race might join in at the Azores for the 1,000-mile leg to Europe, where they can take part in the prizegiving celebrations,” says Branagh.

The move reflects the growing interest in the sport of racing superyachts over 30m LOA. Further evidence of this can be seen in the early uptake of places for the Superyacht Cup Palma on 16-19 June. The event coincides with America’s Cup activities in Valencia. Many of those taking part in the Superyacht Cup will make their way to Valencia for the America’s Cup Match (final), which starts on 23 June.

Superyachts in Palma
In total, 24 yachts – in terms of quality, the cream of the world fleet – have already paid up for the Superyacht Cup Palma. Organisers aim to reach at least 50 entrants and expect a final total of around 70.

Add in the possibility of King Juan Carlos of Spain taking part and the Superyacht Cup Palma is beginning to gather momentum. Organisers Patrick Whetter and Spike Thompson recently appointed Andy Treadwell as commercial manager and one-time Monaco Yacht Show staffer Will Morris as financial director.

A Notice of Race will shortly be issued and the race organisation will be overhauled by a newly appointed race officer. While the light-hearted nature of previous events has been popular – not to mention successful – this event is now so large a more formal approach to the racing seems sensible.

Branagh also stresses that safety will be paramount at marks, where policing is necessary to prevent spectators from getting too close to the big yachts. “Yachts like Maltese Falcon need much more room than one would imagine to get round these marks successfully,” she says.

Early entry to the event is being encouraged for practical reasons too. Until the organisers decide how much beam they have to accommodate at the stern-to mooring area at Dique del Oeste, in the south-west part of the Port of Palma, they can’t allocate berths.

A lot of work is still required to turn this part of the port into the smart quayside facility requisite for an event like this, but things are happening thanks to the support of local authorities, including the local Chamber of Commerce, Govern de les Illes Balears and Palma Town Council. Security is assured at the Cup base because the event is being run as a private function rather than a public event and the Castillo de San Carlos, a 17th Century fort next to the Cup dock, will provide a superb vantage point for race spectators.

Palma Bay has two big advantages for this type of racing, in which courses follow a largely circular route around the perimeter of the bay. First, spectators get good views of the yachts from promontories around the bay. And in mid-summer the sea breeze, set up as an inland plain heats up, develops brisk onshore wind conditions for the fleet.

As in previous superyacht cups run from Palma, the racing will be a pursuit format, with yachts starting individually at set times according to ratings issued by the event organisers. This avoids the threat of start-line collisions, but the possibility that 50 yachts could finish at the same time means the race officer may have to look at ways to manage finishes.

Although the Cup is a fairly short event – four days, with three days of racing, the last of which will be the New Zealand Millennium Cup race day – many yachts will have already taken part in the Huisman Rendezvous and the Dubois Cup, for yachts built by the former or designed by the latter. These run in the week before the Superyacht Cup.
No doubt about it, Mallorca is the place to be this June.