ACC helmsman Karol Jablonski chats to Sue Pelling about his transition from ACC to Wally mode 28/4/06

Last weekend’s Hublot Palmavela regatta in Majorca hosted by the Real Club Nautico de Palma, marked the opening of the Mediterranean Wally class racing season. Six of the most competitive Wally class yachts including Alexia, last year’s Maxi World Cup winner Y3K, Gibian, J One, Tiketitan, and Nariida raced an intense three-day series including one offshore race in fresh conditions off Palma. Although racing within the Maxi class, and enjoying good inter-fleet rivalry with the likes of Neville Crichton’s Alfa Romeo who walked away with the overall Maxi Racer class prize, competition within the Wally fleet was as tough as you could imagine.

Having said that however, there was one boat – Claus Peter Offen’s Y3K – that really did set the pace for the four-day regatta and was virtually untouchable. The team, including Offen at the helm, Karol Jablonski (Spanish America’s Cup helmsman) calling the shots, Thomas Jungblat on tactics, and a host of other fine yachtsmen within the 20-strong crew, really did show their true colours and managed to notch up five straight wins. In second place was Luca Basasani’s Tiketitan.

Chatting about his role as advisor aboard Offen’s 94ft stunning-looking, three-year-old Wally, it’s obvious that Jablonski is as passionate about this as he is with his ACC campaign, commenting: “We are a racing team not cruising team so we come to every event with a goal to win the crew and trimmers do a great job keeping the boat in the groove and the tactician Thomas Jungblat makes good calls on the sail changes, we just concentrate on keeping the boat driving fast.”

But what is it like stepping from an America’s Cup boat to a 94ft Wally? “Actually because they are both incredibly hi-tech there are many similarities but I do miss the roach on the main of the ACC boat and the Wally also a lot heavier and wider. But I like to sail on these big maxi yachts, I like the size, I find it fascinating how people are able to handle the big sails and every thing that’s big. Our crew here have been sailing together for six years so we know each other and the boat very well and we have a big respect for the size of this boat, even if the weather is perfect you never forget that one mistake can cost you a lot and the key is to really plan ahead.”

Desafío Español the team in which Jablonski holds a key role as helmsman is progressing well but although they have a new boat (ESP 88) Jablonski says it’s unlikely they will be racing it in Valencia in June. Commenting Jablonski said: “We’ve made a big progress we’ve been working very hard in the last year and we’ve continued working very hard since February this year after a winter break. It’s great progress we are getting there but against the biggest teams like Team New Zealand, Prada and BMW Oracle we are still a little bit behind because of the time factor.

“Those three syndicates have launched their new boats in March and they’ve had enough time to test them so I’m pretty sure they will be sailing the new boats during the acts. But we are going to go with the rest of the challengers, with our old boats, so the gap will be bigger than it was last year. We are getting there, we are one of the best teams knocking on the door of the top four but it’s hard work to get there and stay there.”

But the key to a successful team on both the Wally and the America’s Cup boat, concludes Jablonski, is good teamwork and a happy working atmosphere: “We have a good team working together which is one of the most important things in the America’s Cup project. It’s important to keep a good atmosphere and good relationship with the team and that’s what we have now.”