I am just back from racing the J Class yacht TOPAZ at the Superyacht Cup Palma. This event is one of the longest running Superyacht events in the world, and is held each summer in Palma, Majorca, the biggest of the Spanish Balearic islands in the Mediterranean. Palma has become the European base for a majority of racing boats so it is conveniently located and also offers some of the most reliable winds in the Med, making it a good place for racing.
This was our first event of the year on TOPAZ and we had made several changes to the boat over the off-season, plus a few new crew, so several big challenges to insure the yacht was fully prepared and all systems working properly, plus then getting a crew of 30 all back in sync and working smoothly. And up against us was a very competitive field of other J boats: SVEA who was recently purchased by a Swedish group and is now raced by a highly skilled team that had just spent many days training there; RANGER that had won the most recent J Class event in St. Barths and is led by an all-star crew; and VELSHEDA which is the longest running team and the fastest boat on the water. SVEA is the most recent built J Class and has always looked to have the potential to be special. They recently moved their headstay 1 meter aft to improve their balance, and this may have given them what they needed to better sail their boat to its full potential. Because at this event, even when they made mistakes on the course, they always managed to get back into the leading pack. In a good sign of how close it all was, it all came down to the final race of the series after 2 windward/leeward races on day 1, and 3 coastal races over the next 3 days. In the end it was SVEA 1st, TOPAZ 2nd, RANGER 3rd, and VELSHEDA 4th. SVEA is now a very fast J, but their team deserves full credit for sailing smart and fast.
I am also fully satisfied with our 2nd place finish. We did some things really well. And we made some mistakes. And seeing them is the great opportunity to learn, and the challenge to improve at our next event.
I also come away from this event with a reminder and awareness of how great this TOPAZ yacht and team are. These two components is what makes this campaign one of the most enjoyable programs I’ve ever been involved with.
Why do I love this boat so much? It is a J Class yacht, a new-build of a 1930 Americas Cup design. Beautiful and traditional lines, combined with the latest carbon and computer technology, resulting is a magical balance in our ever-advancing sport (and world!!). It is possibly the most difficult boat in the world to sail; to steer, sail it safely, coordinate 30 crew through each maneuver, and find optimum performance, sail trim ,and balance in such a huge boat. Trying to get this “right”, is a wonderful challenge, process, and reward.
And what is it about this team that I enjoy so much. It starts with the owners, two of the most wonderful and trusting people I have ever worked with. They have allowed us to help them create a healthy, fun, and rewarding race program for the boat. Together with them and my good friend Timmy, we have assembled a team of good people first and foremost, who also have the talents needed to perform. All of this has allowed us to build a wonderful team culture over the past 5 years together. It is first about working together as a team, enjoying the racing and the sport. And then it is about performing our best, and achieving the best result possible against our competitors. And it is all of this that makes this project so enjoyable, and ultimately, reasonably successful in competition.
We now have several weeks to prepare and make some changes before our next event, which is the Rolex Maxi Cup in Sardinia. We all still call this event the Maxi Worlds, because it is the biggest show-down of the year where all the top teams assemble at the end of the Med summer.
Following this regatta I will hop over to Ibiza (another of the Spanish Balearic Islands) for another event while I am in Europe. I will be sailing on HYPERION which is a 130ft Frers design that I really enjoy racing with. It is the first design that the father/son team of German and Manny Frers collaborated on, and they did a really nice job of building a cruising yacht, with a performance DNA, making it quite enjoyable to race. And on top of this, a great owner, captain, and team make for good racing no matter the result.