Well over 200 entries arrive in Palma for big Med regatta. Sue Pelling reports 20/4/06

If the entry list is anything to go by, the Hublot PalmaVela Regatta (20-23 April) is lining itself up to become one of the most important events on the Mediterranean circuit.

Among the 240 entries there’s a quality fleet of TP52s and a big fleet of Maxis including six Wally yachts that have already been battling it out in today’s first race.

But it won’t just be the big glamorous machines that’ll be stealing the show on the startline in the Bay of Palma tomorrow it’ll be the smaller boats including J/80s, Flying 15s and even One Metre keelboats who’ll be really making up the big numbers in their opening races.

This event, organised by the Real Club Nautico and dubbed as the Majorcan equivalent of Cowes Week, is now in its third year. Starting off as a Med season opener for Maxis, the PalmaVela has grown into not only an important event on the big boat racing calendar with many using the regatta as a warm-up for the Mediterranean big boat series, but as a fun, competitive racing event for smaller boats too.

British helmsman Stuart Robinson who owns Stay Calm, a brand-new TP52 has been seriously campaigning this year including competing at Key West. He then went on to win his class at the recent BVI Spring Regatta and now in Palma Robinson is keen to up the competition in preparation for the forthcoming Med Cup. Chatting after today’s training Robinson said: “For us this is the warm up regatta for the Med Cup and the remaining races in the seven-race Med series. It will be interesting to line the boat up against some of the other new boats such as Mean Machine, Platoon and the new Bambakou and see how she performs against them.”

With the likes of Adrian Stead, Chris Mason, James Stagg, Lisa McDonald and Mo Gray aboard, Robinson has every chance of notching up some really impressive results. But they are hoping for slightly more settled conditions.

Today’s weather out in the bay was, according to most competitors, a nightmare. Claus Peter Offen, owner/driver of the Wally Y3K, and who won the event last year, confirmed that although they won their class, in one of the two races sailed today, it was fairly frustrating. “I think the maximum wind speed out there today was about 12kts. We have a fairly all round design though so we were able to keep the speed up even in the wind holes.”

The weather forecast for tomorrow is looking slightly more settled as the frontal system which bugged today’s racing is pushing through leaving a stronger, more consistent breeze in the Bay of Palma.