October 11, 2017: PALMA DE MALLORCA, SPAIN - The inaugural Nations Trophy got under way yesterday. 28 crews have gathered at the Real Club Náutico de Palma for four days of intense Swan One Design racing. There are some serious trophies on the table for the best prepared, most committed crews: the ClubSwan 50 European Championship, the Swan 45 World Championship and the ClubSwan 42 European Championship. Finally, and most importantly, there is The Nations Trophy itself. Created by Milanese silversmiths, Buccellati, this magnificent cup will be awarded to the top performing country.
"Onboard Club Swan 50 Spectre during the race" - photo credit © Nautor's Swan | Carlo Borlenghi
The final day of preparation for any major championship regatta is a tense, packed affair. Last minute measurement matters to be resolved, crew weighing and registration, and equipment checks take up most of the time. For the well-organized, the RCNP race team led by Vivi Mainemare, put on a practice race in the afternoon with 8 – 12 knots from the south-west on the racecourse.
Eleven nations are represented by the competing yachts: Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom. Beyond that statistic, the individual crew are mix of professional and amateur sailors drawn from some 22 countries making the dock a real melting pot of languages, expressions and culture.
Leonardo Ferragamo, Chairman of the Nautor’s Swan, is rightly proud of getting this new event across the starting-line after many months of planning: “Personally, I am very excited but also full of anxiety! Excited because this competition is finally taking place. We had at the heart the need to bring back to the world of sailing a confrontation between different countries. Excited also because it is happening with Swan One Design yachts, and when we started promoting the concept we had a lot of interest from our owners in the 42s, the 45s and the new ClubSwan 50. I also have some anxiety because I’m racing my ClubSwan 50 Cuordileone and I don’t want to let anybody down!”
"L-R Javier Sanz, President RCNP; Leonardo Ferragamo, Chairman Nautor's Swan; Pilar Carbonell, Illes Balears Goverment" - photo credit © Nautor's Swan | Carlo Borlenghi
Picking possible winning teams from within the 11-boat ClubSwan 50, 9-boat Swan 45 and 8-boat ClubSwan 42 championship fleets is understandably tricky. The most recent form guide is Copa del Rey Mapfre held here in late July. The German ClubSwan 50, Earlybird, and Swan 45, Elena Nova, both won their classes; Earlybird by some margin, and Elena Nova by a single point. In the ClubSwan 42s, the Spanish teams Pez de Abril and Nadir were separated by six-points. That might suggest the Germans and Spanish have what it takes to lift The Nations Trophy. The winner of The Nations Trophy will be determined by taking the two best-placed yachts from each country and combining their place-positions. Yachts may be in the same class.
Hendrik Brandis, owner of Earlybird, marks an upbeat mood about The Nations Trophy and came in from the water sporting a big smile, despite a less than perfect time in the practice race: “This is a fantastic format and we are really looking forward to it. Here we are in mid-October sailing in 25 degrees and 13 knots of breeze, it doesn’t get any better. The Copa del Rey went very well for us, and we hope that we can continue like that. We had a fantastic practice start today but, in the race, I hope we collected all the mistakes for the rest of the week!”
According to Christian Plump, owner of Elena Nova, he was happy with his boat speed and it was a good day for practice despite some noticeable wind shifts complicating the beat: “We expect good winds throughout the week and are looking forward to a great event. We had this [type of] team event with the Admiral’s Cup and the Baltic Offshore Nations Cup, and I think it’s a very interesting concept especially since we are only Swan One Design yachts.”
Pez de Abril’s owner, José Maria Meseguer, is equally enamoured of the national element of the contest as much as the quality of competition: “We are very proud of being here. The important thing is that there are a number of boats here which have a very high level that we have seen on the practice day. I think it is something new for us; we are not professional sportsmen so for us to run for our flag is very nice.”
The weather prospects look good for some solid competition over the next four days. A large high pressure system should mean warm and dry weather for the entire regatta period. The breeze is expected to fill in each day around noon from the southerly quadrant and slowly build to the 10-12 knot range, with potential for higher gusts especially later in the afternoon. Conditions look favourable for the development of Palma’s famous thermal sea breeze; if so, this could push the breeze strength into the upper teens.
The opening day was rounded out this evening with the Skippers Briefing for all crews and an official Opening Ceremony where Leonardo Ferragamo and Javier Sanz, President of the RCNP, welcomed the participants and declared The Nations Trophy open.