While it was the new owners and crew of Svea that took first blood, winning the first J Class race of the 2022 Superyacht Cup Palma today, it is Topaz which are the early overall leaders. Although they conceded the first race lead to Svea - the Swedish flagged team which has Bouwe Bekking as tactician - Topaz finished second after sailing a clean, tidy race. They then won the second race by a slender 30 seconds to lead the four-day long Bay of Palma showcase regatta by two points.
The first of the two windward leeward races were contested in a streaky 6-8kts of SW'ly breeze and smart starting and using the best wind pressure seemed key. Ranger claimed the pin end of the start line but were over early and had to recross. Topaz then held the key left side of the first beat and were able to lead Svea round the mark. On the downwind Topaz gybed off early and Svea took the lead to cross the finish line first, giving the new Swedish owners a pleasant, rewarding induction to the J Class.
And while the Svea core crew may not be exactly rookies, neither to grand prix sailing nor the J Class, a victory on their maiden race outing together was a fitting reward for the new owners and all the hard work that the crew have put in since the boat arrived from the USA and this last week of hard training drills with the exacting Bekking setting a high standard.
"We are very happy, the owners are happy. It is a good day's sailing with some good crew work," Bekking smiled. "We are being very conservative, staying away and not fighting for the pin for example, trying to make easy approaches always on starboard. The whole thing for us in this event is sail clean and just get around the course. We did not ever set ourselves up to get into a situation. I think we have good pace and for the little bit of sailing we have done I think we are up to par with manoeuvres maybe even better than some it is all very promising."
With the sea breeze building into double figures, Topaz then got the best timed, best positioned start on the second race. Ranger's safer, more conservative choice starting in clear air at the boat end of the line - allowed them to jump out just ahead of Svea which at the same time had Topaz squeezing from below.
Velsheda, nearest the pin, were then able to work the left side, which yielded the expected early dividend. But while they ran out first across the finish line they dropped to second on corrected time to Topaz. Highlighting just how close the racing is, Velsheda in second were ten seconds up on Ranger on corrected time who in turn were ten seconds up on Svea which recorded first and fourth for the days races.
The first race may have gone to the 'newcomers' but the day belongs to Topaz, the team which chose not to race at March's Saint Barth's Bucket. Helm Peter Holmberg admitted to some nervousness not having lined up against the other Js for some time.
"We are really happy, naturally we are. But it could have been anyone's day out there today. It was that close," said Holmberg. "It is a complicated place to race but we got good starts. I give credit to Nacho Postigo (navigator) and Mike on the bow and the three of us talking together works for the starts. And Francesco de Angelis (tactician) and Nacho did a really nice job playing the bay."
Holmberg observes how close the fleet is. "There is not much to give, the boats are all so close you can't give anything away. My job today was getting the starts we wanted and then learning our boatspeed and our modes, that is the first time we have lined up with anyone for a while. We have some new headsails and they are a different shape with a new control system with some grunt.
We are competitive upwind and downwind but in this pack if we did not get off the line like we did then I am not sure we would have been able to get back into them."
The J Class continue to race as a stand-alone fleet over the next three days but follow a schedule of coastal courses on the Bay of Palma, a very different challenge to the contained action on the windward-leeward tracks of today.
J Class at the Superyacht Cup Palma 2022
Standings after two races
1 Topaz 2,1, 3pts
2 Svea 1,4 5pts
3 Velsheda 4,2 6pts
4 Ranger 3,3 6pts