An eclectic mix of superyachts, which includes four J Class, should ensure a prize Superyacht Cup Palma, writes Toby Hodges

While it may have been a slightly subdued 25th anniversary last year for the Superyacht Cup Palma, held during socially distanced times, organisers are confident the Mediterranean’s longest running superyacht regatta will be back to its spectacular best this year. And when you have four yachts from the world’s most revered sailing class lining up, that’s all but guaranteed.

The return of the mighty J Class yachts is a huge draw for an event which was put back a week especially to accommodate them (from 22 June to 29 June start). Ranger is back to her best and Svea, the newest J recently under new ownership, is Palma-bound.

Her entry will make it four Js. “To have Ranger and Svea both with new owners is great,” enthuses event director Kate Branagh. “I think it will put some new life into the class, which could soon even get back up to five or six boats – it’s nice to have a change of dynamics.”

Blue skies and fantastic breeze makes for some great racing. Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

The Superyacht Cup has always welcomed an eclectic mix of classes. From a regular band of modern classics such as the Hoek Truly Classic fleet, to five Js in 2013 and 2014, and an unrivalled collection of seven schooners for an exhibition race to help celebrate the event’s 20th anniversary in 2016, this event has always showcased the beauty and skills of big yacht racing at its best.

Location and reliable weather help enormously. During the long, late June days Palma is typically bathed in blue skies. As clouds build over the mountains to the north, a metronomic-like afternoon breeze begins to build at a socially acceptable post-lunch hour, and ideal windspeeds in the mid to late teens typically materialise over the flat, deep blue water of the expansive bay.

For the competitors it’s a short motor out from the city’s protected marinas, and holding it within walking distance of the atmospheric old town and its lively apres sailing tapas bars will always get the seal of approval from the participants.

Branagh, who has guided the growth of the regatta over two decades, confirms that all bar one of the main Superyacht Cup Palma sponsors have returned this year. The event also welcomes a new official timekeeper sponsor in Jaquet Droz, the first yachting endeavour for this Swiss watchmaker founded in the 18th Century.

Rockstar crews on the J Class. Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

J Class at the Superyacht Cup Palma

The regatta has long been run over three days of 20-30 mile courses, using a staggered start, pursuit racing format. The Js will have a slightly different racing format this year. While they’ve always had an extra day before the other superyachts to make it a four day series, this year they’ll have their own fleet start before the rest of the superyachts set off in the normal sequential intervals. The idea is that they’ll effectively be sailing the same course as the other yachts.

The first day of J racing will be for its own trophy, but the following three days will form part of the Superyacht Cup, hence a J can win the overall trophy, Branagh explains. “I like the idea of incorporating them, which we can do as a matter of points while still using the J Class rating.”

Quite how that will play out will depend on the class breaks, which are only decided shortly before the event. Branagh predicts there will be an A and B fleet as well as the Js, the former for the performance yachts such as Win Win and Kiboko Tres, and the latter for the larger, higher displacement boats including the 20-year old 43m Dubois La Belle.

Stunning Palma provides the perfect backdrop. Photo: Nico Martinez/Martinez Studio

Both these superyacht classes will race as usual under the ORC SY handicap format. There are other options for class breaks too, including Performance and Corinthian divisions. “For me it’s much more important for the owners to be happy with what class they’re in,” thinks Branagh, who says she’s also had pressure recently to include multihulls too.

The move from the event’s decade-long base in STP/Moll Vell to the Real Club Náutico de Palma (RCNP) is being repeated following its success last year.

RCNP has been responsible for the professional race management for the Superyacht Cup Palma for over 10 years. Its yacht club in the heart of Palma can fit five or six entrants on its fuel dock. The remaining yachts will either return to their own docks or be berthed in the surrounding Palma marinas that are a short dinghy ride away.

“It’s a shame not having everyone together because you lose some of the spectacle,” Branagh concedes, “but the boats have got bigger and deeper and the marinas haven’t! The Js in particular used to struggle with depth issues on the dock at Moll Vell.”

Superyacht Cup excitement

With this in mind, the social programme has been kept simple – collective post-race drinks in the yacht club before crews head to their own team dinners in the city.

The exception will be the owner’s barbecue on the penultimate night in the exclusive venue of preferred hotel partner St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort. The Saturday night prizegiving will also be held at the RCNP yacht club. “It’s the first time of having a proper Superyacht Cup and clubhouse and being back to having sponsors and an event programme,” says Branagh. “It’s all the excitement around the event that we couldn’t do last year. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Superyacht Cup Palma entries

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

Archelon 37.6m/123ft Sloop
Design: Humphreys Yacht Design
Build: Oyster/Pendennis 2019

This project began life at Oyster on the banks of Lee-on-Solent as the first 1225 and was later fitted out by superyacht specialists Pendennis in Falmouth, Cornwall. This will be the first regatta for the boat and owner, but the predominantly British crew is led by the experienced skipper James Micklem. Archelon is a modern, powerful 155 tonne twin rudder design, but her form is unknown – expect a cautious outing.

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

Ganesha 46m/151ft Sloop
Design: Dubois/McKeon
Build: Vitters 2014

Ganesha is well versed in superyacht regattas, but after a break from racing (cruising around the world), she returned last year, with the owner saying it would be his last event. After coming 2nd in class… they are back again this year! Easy to spot in a fleet thanks to her bright orange spinnaker with Hindu deity motif, she is always well sailed. Crewed largely by sailors who reside in Mallorca, under the direction of long term skipper Alex Pamment, Ganesha makes a safe bet for more silverware.

Photo: Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy/Southern Wind

Kiboko Tres 32m/105ft Sloop

Design: Farr Yacht Design
Build: Southern Wind Shipyard

The third and largest Southern Wind for this owner, Kiboko Tres is a carbon performance machine. Palma is her home and she is well sailed by an experienced Spanish skipper and crew. The owner raced his previous SW94 here in 2015 and 2016, but this latest model is a much more powerful contender. Kiboko, Swahili for hippopotamus, was a name chosen to reflect speed and power – certainly two of the most dominant impressions I had when I was lucky enough to helm her in 2019.

Expect a ruthless hunt for home spoils.

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

La Belle 42.9m/140ft Sloop

Design: Dubois Naval Architects
Build: Vitters Shipyard 2002

Built in aluminium for bluewater cruising, this Dubois design competed many times under her former names including Koo and Red Dragon. She was sold two years ago to a new owner who has yet to race her which, together with a new crew and Greek captain, makes her form a little unknown. However, with Doyle Sails’ MD David Duff putting together the race crew, expect a competent showing in the higher displacement class.

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

Pattoo 33m/108ft Sloop

Design: Malcolm McKeon
Build: Vitters Shipyard 2016

Formerly called Missy, this striking McKeon design was conceived for cruising, complete with a formidable glazed decksaloon, but her owner quickly got the bug for racing. A bowsprit and suit of racing sails were soon added and she has competed many times on both sides of the Atlantic since. She came 2nd in class last year, but her original skipper Matt McKeon has now left so we are yet to know crew details. No doubt Pattoo’s owner will be going for gold this year.

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

Ranger J5 41.6m/137ft Sloop

Design: Burgess/Stephens/Studio Scanu/Reichel Pugh
Build: Danish Yachts 2003

The first of the modern generation of replica Js, Ranger is the heaviest, the only one built in steel (subsequent models are aluminium). She is easily identified by her snub nose and spoon bow and has always been fast in flat water. Following the passing of long term owner John Williams four years ago, she has a new American owner and has undergone an extensive refit. She showed real potential at the St Barths Bucket in March, beating Hanuman and Velsheda. Her crew includes an afterguard of John Kostecki, Jordi Calafat and Jules Salter. A joy to see one of the stalwarts of the modern J generation competing again.

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

Rose 24.0m/80ft Sloop

Design: Farr Yacht Design/Luca Bassani
Build: Wally Yachts 2006

Hull number five of the successful Wally 80 line, Rose may be the smallest entrant this year but lacks little in potency. She has a strong, light pre-preg carbon build, and was the first cruiser racer to feature a full-width main saloon glass ceiling. Under her former owner and name, Tango, she raced heavily. New skipper Ben Potter says her current owner, who bought her two years ago, races with keen friends and plans on doing lots of regattas including the Maxi Worlds this year.  

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

Savannah 27.4m/90ft Sloop

Design: David Pedrick
Build: Concordia 1996

Shorter but arguably as pretty as the Js with her flush teak deck and skylights, sweeping sheer and elegant, long overhangs that are reminiscent of classic yachts from a century ago. However, Savannah is a modern classic in that she is built in carbon, kevlar and glassfibre composite by Concordia in the US in the mid 1990s to a David Pedrick design and has a fin keel and tall fractional carbon rig. Flying the white ensign and RYS insignia, this UK-owned and crewed yacht is normally based and raced out of St Tropez.

Photo: Jesus Renedo/Sailing Energy

Svea JS1 43.6m/143ft Sloop

Design: Tore Holm/Hoek Design
Build: Bloemsma/Vitters 2017

The most modern of the J Class fleet, Svea was modified by Andre Hoek from an original 1930s Tore Holm design that was never built. She is an ultra clean beauty, with a low, single doghouse and vast diameter wheel. Svea was heavily campaigned around the America’s Cup J Class regatta in Bermuda 2017 but hasn’t raced since her collision with Topaz two years ago. Still skippered by Paul ‘PK’ Kelly, she has since had a huge refit at STP in Palma and is now under new Swedish syndicate ownership. Her race crew will include the tremendously experienced Bouwe Bekking. A tantalising prospect.

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

Topaz J8 42.7m/140ft Sloop

Design: Frank Paine/Hoek Design
Build: Bloemsma/Holland Jachtbouw 2015

Topaz succeeded Ranger as the biggest J afloat on launch, with the longest LWL and smallest wetted area at the time. She has kept a very consistent team under skipper-helm Peter Holmberg, the Olympic and America’s Cup veteran from the US Virgin Islands, and made steady incremental gains each season. The supreme Francesco de Angelis is calling tactics in Palma with local legend Nacho Postigo as navigator – what a combination!

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

Velsheda JK7 39.2m/129ft Sloop

Design: CE Nicholson/Dykstra
Build: Camper & Nicholsons 1933

The most regularly campaigned J in the modern generation and the only original one actively racing. Identified by her iconic dark blue hull, sharp bow and comparatively busy deck layout – as well as her classic blue, white and red kite. Her Dutch owner-driver is in his third decade of hard racing and cruising Velsheda and retains a loyal long term crew, led by affable skipper Barney Henshaw-Depledge. Her skilled helmsman and experienced crew work (including a wily afterguard back to full force) always make her the one to beat, whether amongst Js or superyachts – indeed they were overall SY Cup winners in 2018.

Photo: Sailing Energy/SYC

Win Win 33m/108ft Sloop

Design: Javier Jaudenes
Build: Baltic Yachts 2014

Designed by Mallorcan local Jaudenes, this black and electric green carbon Baltic rocket competes most years and has lived up to her name by winning the SY Cup overall twice, including in 2019. Always well sailed, she is now in the hands of skipper Will Glenn, son of Yachting World’s former editor David Glenn. Can she be the first in 25 years to lift the trophy three times?

Superyacht Cup Palma 2022 calendar of events

Wednesday 29 June

Superyacht registration and J Class races 1 and 2

Thursday 30 June

Pantaenius Race Day & J Class Race 3
North Sails & Southern Spars Happy Hour RCNP terrace

Friday 1 July

New Zealand Race Day & J Class Race 4
North Sails Happy Hour & prizegiving RCNP
Paddleboard Challenge
Owner’s barbecue at St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort

Saturday 2 July

St. Regis Race Day & J Class Race 5
Prize giving RCNP  terrace

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